‘I think you should stay here also tomorrow’. This is the typical sentence I hear every time I say that I am just spending one night in a place, usually followed by the list of things I should visit. It is also a politeness formula , one of the many Iranians have . Only once I was really tempted to stay one day more, it was in Hajij, I could hear some music and dancing coming from a nearby house and the boy who said it added: ‘ Tomorrow is No Ruz , you should stay here and see how we celebrate it’. What would have been a better way of celebrating Iranian new year,or Christmas, as they like to translate it, in a small Kurdish village, surrounded by mountains and with people already preparing themselves to celebrate? Unfortunately I came the wrong day, staying one day more was not really appropriate, so the next day I said goodbye to the people in Hajij and started riding through endless picnics in a general very happy atmosphere, maybe too happy given the continuous and somehow annoying honkings I received by passing cars; some militaries even asked me to stop at a check-point, they had no interest in checking my passport, they just wanted to take a photo with me, before offering me fruits and candies.
No Ruz is not a religious holiday, it is the Iranian New Year and it takes place on the 21st of March (now we just entered year 1392 if you are wondering). And Iranians seem to really love No Ruz, which is usually spent travelling with the family: Iranian families simply load their cars with carpets, dishes, tents and other stuff and hit the road. Some people go to meet their relatives in other town, other prefer to set themselves on a very simple routine which consists on travelling during the day, with a very long break in order to do a picnic, arriving in a city in the evening, and pitching their huge tents in some campsites, where small evening shows are usually organized.
During my stay in Kermanshah, few days after No Ruz, I happened to be in one of these campsites at lunch time, it was so quite that I decided to spend the night there, hoping to get some rest and to escape from the never ending curiosity of the people; in the early evening the place started to get really crowded with Iranian families that were pitching their tents and a little show of Kurdish dancing was being prepared. Me and my bike didn’t pass unobserved, I was soon invited by a family from Urmia, a total of 3 cars, that was travelling along Kurdistan; surprisingly the invite came from a girl that spoke some good English, but then she disappeared and I was left in a tent with her two male cousins and their father. At a certain point a military approached us saying that someone wanted to speak with me: it was not, as I first thought, a passport control, I had to take part to the evening show, doing a mini-interview about my trip with the girl translating what I said for the small crowd. Fortunately this small show hasn’t been recorded as people in the end showed surprise for my shyness, at least they didn’t ask me to participate to the Kurdish dances as I initially feared.
The 20th of March, the last day of the year, I was cycling through Paveh, hoping for an invitation, as I wanted to see how they celebrated, an invitation that unfortunately never materialized, and I ended up spending the night in a village, invited for dinner by a family who didn’t really care about No Ruz, if not for watching some program dedicated to it on television, something that reminded me of my New Year’s Eve as a child, spent in front of the television in my grandmother house.
Now I am arrived in Esfahan, where I will stay a few days, and I found the town literally full of Iranians finishing their holidays; Imam square, the second largest square in the world was covered by people having, as usual, some sort of picnics and children playing in the big fountain. In a few days all of this will be (finally?) over, people will go back to their normal life, children back to school and hopefully Internet point will reopen again. And I will be ready to cycle across the desert to Mashhad.
(these apparently random pictures makes actually sense, they are people I met during No Ruz, some Kurdish dancing, a loaded car of Iranians on holiday, Iranians having picnics, me dressed in a funny way (and there will be more of me with funny dressing, which are actually Kurdish dressings…) but I don’t manage to add captions)