Monday, January 24, 2011

Along the Mountain Track

I have the tendency to choose the mountain when I go travelling. Perhaps this is because of my camping interest which when I was younger, tend to be at the mountain, or perhaps also the humidity of the sea always give me the rashes not to mention, takut melengut.

But I am young no more. So the work to have the best view of the mountain leave me lots of non-existent muscle pain. I didn't learn my lesson when I went to Taman Negara did I? Nor the steep hike that I had to take with flimsy slippers at Wadi Bani Khalid, Oman.

In Iran we hiked up a small mountain or a tall hill to reach Castle Roudkhan of what seemingly never ending steps.

iran iran

Iran iran

Castle Roudkhan 4

I think I lost loads of kilos just going up and down the hill but happily gained back due to the delicious food in Iran.

Also, as if not learning our lesson that driving up and down the mountain and cutting across it will cause stomach to be tied into a knot, we did again what we did in Oman. Knot in the stomach.

But then we saw these




So we will probably do it again.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chauffeured in Iran

We toyed with the idea of driving ourselves to Iran. We can drive to Fujairah in UAE. Take a ferry via Fujairah all the way to Bandar Abbas in Iran. It would be an adventure I think. But alas we did not do it.

And I am glad we did not.

iranDriving in Iran is crazy! I think by far this is the worse place for a foreigner to drive in. I thought Saudi was the worse, but Iran top them all. I heard Cairo is even worse. I cannot imagine.

In Tehran, people drive by mm away from each other and there seem to be no rule except that people should not take the two middle lanes of the road. Those are for buses.

Despite the my-heart-will-pop-out incident, so far i did not witness any accidents among them. They must have good brakes. The car may look like a scene out of Roger Moore's James Bond movie, faded and rustic, but I suspect teh brakes must be good.

On the highway, people don't like driving in their lanes. They like that the road lines to be in between them. At normal times these drive me crazy. If my lover the one who is driving, I would have nagged and nagged and perhaps pull the steering.

Oh the other thing was we could not access any satellite signal on our GPS which was frustrating. But yeah, I am glad we took a driver.

Anyway we asked for a driver and a car. We had three of them. Mr Rezai who drove us from tehran to tabriz, Mr Jafari drove us from Tabriz to Kandovan and back to Tabriz and Mr Rostam who drove us aaround Esfahan and all the way back to Tehran.

Of them three, only Mr Rezai can speak reasonably good english. And when he runs out of english word he would speak arabic. He is an arabic teacher. Yes he has two jobs. Generally everyone has two jobs because, well, time is hard. Mr Rezai said, "Teacher pay is little. Driver pay is alot."

Anyway, it was really nice to speak arabic to a foreigner. It feels sometimes that I know more arabic than english. When he is trying to say that there was an earthquake which destroyed part of a castle, he had to use zalzalah because he doesnt know the word earthquake in english. sometimes he asked me questions in arabic too.

I understand why our travel agent prefer that we take tour guides with us because most of the drivers cannot speak english which was really hard. So we tried using as much farsi word we learnt and a lot of sign languages or in the end polite laughs because we could not understand him and neither can him, we. I used pictures that I took using the phone and words in the guidebook. Otherwise I would hentam an arabic word just in case or perhaps even a malay word.

By the way we share words with Iran like Bandar which means port in farsi, anggur, takhta which is actually an arabic word and salam which means hello.

After travelling to some countries (Baru sikit aje), I must say Malaysian drivers are not so bad. But perhaps we are the only one with the most rage. Eh wait, the italians are the same. They curse alot.

In the middle east and Iran, people don't get so angry if people cut queueu ke apa. In middle east they would beam you and horn you but rarely people glare at you.

And I suspect no one carries a baseball bat under their seat also.

Mr Rezai laughing at us after the more than one hour huffing and puffing climbing up the mountain to view castle roudkhen. Most Iranians are very fit and slim.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Domestic Flight


We took one domestic flight in Iran via Iran Air, from Tabriz all the way to Esfahan.

So naturally I am having a bit of jitters when I heard the news of Iran Air crashing near the Orumiyeh City. Orumiyeh is to the west of the big lake (Lake Orumiyeh)at the North west of Iran, in the Azerbaijan province. Near what I marked as Tabriz.

My heartfelt condolence goes to Iran especially to the family of the victims. May Allah have mercy on their souls.

It made me think. You know when I was there very eager to play the real deal fresh snow, everyone said, this year was different. Too little snow. Not much snow. Qadr Allah. We were not disappointed though. Any snow is good enough.

Picture is the winding road along the mountains. Picture taken when in the car.

But as we drove up on the winding road climbing slowly up the mountain for hours, I asked our driver, "If it snows heavily, would this be dangerous?" and he replied, "Very!" And I believed him.

And the air crash currently are blaming the sanction on Iran and the very bad weather. Iran snowed heavily after we left. the tell tale was there on our last day in tehran. It snowed heavily such that the rescuers could not get to the crash site quickly enough increasing the number of death.

Praises are to Allah that He had kept us safe throughout this journey.

Taking the domestic flight though, had allowed us to get among the best view of the mountainous scape of the Northern Iran. I am limited to small camera. But trust me, it is definitely a Subhanallah moment! We cannot stop gawking at them.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Drinking tea in Iran

Tea is the way to drink in Iran. We drink tea in the morning, afternoon, for tea and dinner and in between.

I read that there is Iranian coffee something like Turkish coffee they said, but never found it in any shop. When I ordered coffee, my driver said, "This is Iran. We drink tea,". tea hea hea.

There are infact tea houses in Iran. Just like our kopitiam. So I suppose no one makes the coffee-shop joke in Iran.

Do you know that Iran plants tea? On our way north to the Caspian sea, tea is planted at every corner of someone's house. It's either paddy or tea or both.

I find the tea a bit bitter. I had to put 3-4 sugar cube to sweeten it. And also I was worried about sembelit, looking at the colour of the tea, I diluted it.

Until I found the right way to drink it. You are suppose to put the sugar cube in between your front teeth and sip the hot tea through it. The sugar cube is not like the gula batu, hard and rocky, rather it is sugar being compacted.

So as you sip your tea, the sugar would dilute with it. If you can time yourself well enough, you just need one sugar cube for the whole cup.

And after that, I find myself liking the drink.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Eating in Iran

Breakfast food

What I can say. The food in Iran is just for me. Even the thought of the food makes me drool.

First of all, whoever runs a hotel or similar service which provides breakfast in Iran have it the easiest compared to those from malaysia for instance. The breakfast we had everyday was most importantly bread. The nan bread not the gardenia kind of bread. Also honey, cheese, butter and jam. Usually carrot jam or sour cherry jam. We would be served telur mata lembu with runny yolks.

No assortment of nasi lemak, mee goreng, waffle, pancake, creal, roti canai and so forth.

Jackjack was just in love with the eggs. To the extent when we actually go to a hotel that did not serve eggs, we would actually order some. And Subhanalllah the food helped us to not be hungry for quite sometime which was quite strange because we were in cold weather. Alhamdulillah.

Since we were served typically the same thing everyday, we expected the same thing again and again. Then when we got to Kandoven, the most Northern place that we went, we were served about the same thing but with a twist. Cewah! The honey they serve was straight from the honeycomb and the butter is just something that one would die for. Especially creamy and delicious. Both are the speciality of this town!

And the other food was superb! The kabab is out of the world. The yoghurt here, which is normally too sour for me in the arab side, is just nice, mildly sour, the tomato soup is perfect, the baklave which is melenting sweet in the arab side is just just perfect. What can I say? If you do go there, eat all you can. tee he he

Alhamdulillah for every daily thing that we do, there is always something we can point out to each other and as for myself to my kids. Perhaps there are some food that we might not favour. Knowing the sunnah will help us know how to react.

For example, the picture is perhaps the best roast chicken I ever had. The salad that comes with it (not in picture pun sangat superb. They use the oil dripping as the dressing). But the cauliflower (in the picture) was actually pickle. And I am not in favour on anything sour, what more pickle.

As good manners, we should not spill the food back onto our plate especially when the host is there. ell we were in restaurant but our Iranian driver was there. If there is still a need to take the food out, we must try to do it discreetly. Spilling food out in front of everyone is quite gross.

And most importantly not to criticise the food that you do not like.

Narrated by Abu Huraira:

The Prophet never criticized any food (presented him), but he would eat it if he liked it; otherwise, he would leave it (without expressing his dislike).

Bukhari : Volume 4 : Book 56 : Hadith 764

I was with an elderly lady who went with us from Esfahan. I was on my way to tehran while she wanted to stop halfway at Qom. We had lunch together. She doesn't speak english at all. We smiled a lot.

Anyway we were given this bowl of yoghurt each to dip into with our bread. They would also just eat the yoghurt by the spoonful. The yoghurt is ok not like the sour laban I had here. But I still cannot make myself eat plain yoghurt like I would with the commercial packed yoghurt that comes in variety of flavour. The lady asked me (I think) why I did not finish my yoghurt. I hope she understood that it is not the favourite of mine.

Anway I remebered a story when rasulullah sallallhu alaihi wasalam was presented with dhob (desert lizard). He left the food not eating it.

Book 21, Number 4791:

‘Abdullah b. ‘Abbas reported that Khalid b. Walid who is called the Sword of Allah had informed him that he visited Maimuna, the wife of Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him), in the company of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him), and she was the sister of his mother (that of Khalid) and that of ‘Ibn Abbas, and he found with her a roasted lizard which her sister Hufaida the daughter of al-Harith had brought from Najd, and she presented that lizard to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him). It was rare that some food was presented to the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him) and it was not mentioned or named. While Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) was about to stretch forth his hand towards the lizard, a woman from amongst the women present there informed the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) what they had presented to him. They said: Messenger of Allah, it is a lizard. Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) withdrew his hand, whereupon Khalid b. Walid said: Messenger of Allah, is a lizard forbidden? There opon he said: No, but it is not found in the land of my people, and I feel that I have no liking for it. Khalid said: I then chewed and ate it, and Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) was looking at me and he did not forbid (me to eat it).

Anyway just for extra knowledge, he did not prohibit eating the lizard either.

I, myself, find it hurtful, when people from other country, even though they are not used to our food, criticises it. Understandably some food do not suit a foreign's tongue, but criticising them is another matter altogether.

Anyway, when we try to follow the sunnah, Insya Allah there is ajr for that. What more, there is always good manners that we can exhibit to other people. Who are we to preach about Islam? Thus good manners from us supercedes everything, Insya Allah.

Everyday there is always something to point out on how we can apply the sunnah.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011



Alhamdulillah we are back.

The trip has been very good nearly every second except the time when I gaduh with my lover. It's all his fault. :P

We started off with the cold desert in Qtar and dashed through more desert in Saudi and most part of the UAE until we reached the metropolitan Dubai.

Subhanallah Dubai's skyscrapers are a feat to look at. And as you drive onto the 6-lanes highway of Sheikh Zayed Road, you can't help be amazed at all the man-made surroundings. Currently they are leading in terms of scraping the sky compared to its counterpart but perhaps Qtar with its money and vision will come close soon. Assuming they are competing that is. Which naturally remind me of this hadith Jibrail.

He (The angel Jibrail) said, “Inform me about the Hour (yaumul qiyamah).” He (the Messenger of Allah) said, “About that the one questioned knows no more than the questioner.” So he said, “Well, inform me about the signs thereof (i.e. of its coming).” Said he, “They are that the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress, that you will see the barefooted ones, the naked, the destitute, the herdsmen of the sheep (competing with each other) in raising lofty buildings.” Thereupon the man (Angel Jibrael) went off. (Part of hadith of Iman, Islam and Ihsan a famous Hadith Jibrael. Teh angel Jibrael came to Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihiwasalam and the sahabah in the form of a man)

And of course the best thing about Dubai was meeting friends. Masya Allah, I am happy to chat with them, laugh, listen to their ideas and opinions. I am happy to note also that we are taking steps to fear Allah in our daily life. I love my friends for the sake of Allah.

Flew off to freezing Tehran and made way to highland with rugged mountain covered in snow. Drove further up north, the climate became warmer (around 15C perhaps) and towns looking like Bandar Muar.

Further up autumn was taking place. The scape was filled with plots of paddy field and bushes of tea. Red and brown and yellow leaves were falling leaving the trees bare. People are still out camping and having fun with their family around the little campfire. The Iranians love outdoor. And I can understand why, with such beautiful outdoor place to go, I would do the same.

It gets colder as we reached Masouleh, the town where they build houses at the hillside and your roof is other people's walk of way.

Then we dove further deep in the western area, Zanjan. These cut across the range of mountain. The drive was scary and breathtaking at the same time.Rugged mountain and snow at the top.

Zanjan itself was covered in frost which reminds me of Manchester. It snowed a bit when I was there.

As we drove up to Kandovan, the scape was white with frost at first but slowly changed to many colours after that. Brown, green and yellow scape.

I must say the best view is when we are on the journey itself which I couldn't photographed much because we are in the car and someone else is driving and I am polite sometimes.

Then Kandovan, where early generation's creativity and the need to survive is now a tourist attraction. The rocks are carved into the house and people still live there. Sherpeding, doing trade, sending kids to school.

Throughout the journey we viewed stream trickling, water flowing in between the rock, some frozen and some calm.

We saw view that are breathtaking. We saw the marvels of Allah's creation.

Allah Al Musawwir. He is the one who fashions everything. He shapes His creation. He colours it. He makes it as what we see. The world shared among the believers and those who do not believe.

If this is paradise on earth, what will jannah be like when Allah is preparing it especially for those who believe in Him?