Kerman – Wednesday, April 14
The morning’s excitement was when Moghadam discovered that he had forgotten his beloved mobile phone and we had to dash back to the hotel to get it. This put him in a foul mood and for a while he passed everything in sight. Finally when we got into the desert he slowed down a little. He was still a little too fond of speed for my comfort. In particular, he seemed to delight in seeing how close he could come to the trucks he was passing. I learned a lot more about the rear of Iranian trucks than I cared to know.
After an hour or so we stopped at a caravanserai. These were the “truck stops” of their day, offering a safe place for the caravans to rest with rooms for animal, cargo and people. This one stood out in stark relief against the blue sky and the barren desert. After my little tour, and while Moghadam was having his chay, I took a short walk into the desert. I was delighted to see that the recent rains had caused many tiny flowers to bloom. I found white, yellow and blue ones – I picked a few to dry and put in my journal.
Soon we rounded the end of a chain of ragged mountains and entered Kerman. It was a little before noon and I wanted to follow the same program as yesterday: see some sights before everything closed and check into the hotel during the 1-4:30 down time. Moghadam balked: when I said, “Jama, bazaar,” he said, “Closed now.” I kept repeating “Jama, bazaar,” so he drove into town and stopped. When we got out he led me into a little museum – hey, I wanted to see the mosque – so we got back into the car and then drove by the bazaar, but didn’t stop. I was real unhappy. We continued on to the hotel, checked in and had lunch. Moghadam sort of apologized, using the hotel clerk to translate. He said again that the bazaar was closed, but when we drove past I could see it was still open.
I was now sulking. I decided to simply head out on my own. I grabbed my daypack and headed into the street. I walked several blocks but I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going. As I walked I started to cool off a little. I could see it was time to have a little talk with myself.
I figured I had two options: I could continue battling with Moghadam and I could probably get about half of what I wanted but be angry about the rest. Or I could take the easy route and simply let Moghadam do his thing and see what happened. Either way it would only be two more days. I headed back to the hotel resolved to relax and let events unfold.
I sat in the lobby for a while talking to other travelers and the hotel owners. This was a great hotel. Not only did it have everything a traveler wants – post cards, maps and mineral water – but the owners were incredibly friendly, coming around with a tray of tea and cookies at regular intervals to keep the guests fed and happy.
About 4: 00 Moghadam reappeared, had a cup of tea and nodded toward the car, asking if I wanted to go. We drove to the bazaar and walked through it on our way to the Jame Mosque. After visiting it we stopped at a bookstore that sold religious items and books. I bought a couple of pictures, one of the Ayatollah Khomeini and one of the current president of Iran, Khatami.
Next we visited a shrine for what Moghadam said was a “dervish.” This dervish I took to be the same as the whirling dervish of Turkey, but my travel book had nothing to say about the shrine, so it’s still a mystery to me. The place had an unusual feel to it: it was very peaceful and there was a man kneeling in front of a picture of the dervish, chanting. There was a flower filled garden in the back.
We then walked through the bazaar again and stopped for tea in what had been a Turkish bath, but had been converted into a fashionable teahouse. Its ceiling was made of brick arches and there was a fish-filled pool in the center. It was quite pleasant.
Back in the car we drove out to a building called “Stone Mountain.” It looked something like a Byzantine church: it was covered with a large brick dome. My guidebook says the original use of the building is unknown. As I walked around, Moghadam sat in the grass and talked on his mobile phone.
Next we stopped at a graveyard for martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war. As I looked at the graves, each with a picture of the deceased, I kept thinking of the account I had read of the waves of Iranian youths who charged into the Iraqi mine fields. Iranians simply call it The War – it has left a scar on their psyche.
We cooled our heels in the lobby of the hotel for a while, drinking more tea and eating more cookies. Moghadam talked to other driver/guides and I talked to other travelers. It was here that I met the first and only other American I saw in Iran – Barbara from New York. I wasn’t alone after all.
About 8:00 Moghadam nodded toward the car again. This time we drove back to a commercial area near the bazaar and got out for a short walk. The streets were full of families out doing their evening shopping. Then Moghadam drove slowly though the various neighborhoods of Kerman so I could see what they looked like. I had the feeling that Moghadam was trying to make up after this morning’s altercation.