Iranians seem to produce everything.
Here young guys are picking tea leaves.
And ladies work rice paddies.
Beekeepers dot the landscape. They need to satisfy that collective Iranian sweet tooth.
And while scarecrows guard tomatoes, cucumbers and beans ….
Farmers drive their produce to villages and towns … all in the standard blue Zamyad pick up truck.
On the outskirts of every village and town, farmers sell their wares from the back of their Zamyads.
And the rest gets taken to traditional bazaars like this …
In cities you find shopping centres but, I promise, there is no Woolies Foodhall here. Shopping centres are for clothes, jewellery, electronics. Leaving food retail to farmers.
But before we can shop we need to be able to read. We will never manage the alphabet but numbers we master …. by practising on numberplates …. that is 3783766.
And that is DJX577EC, oops, I mean … 63827768.
And everywhere, seriously everywhere, in the countryside and the cities, we see Iranians picnic. They love to PICNIC.
Here in Tehran it feels like everybody is preparing for a PICNIC.
Hey, shall we PICNIC.
And in the Esfahan, a magnificent Silk Road city, after prayers, everybody heads off to …
… the most beautiful Persian Gardens to …
And it is not long and teenagers, like teenagers all over the world, saunter off to be with their own kind.
And, after mass, at the breathtakingly beautiful Armenian Orthodox Church it is too time to ….
And at Kermanshah these 6th century bas reliefs ….
… are surrounded by green parks perfect for a PICNIC.
This is not an odd site. We often see a man alone, or a group of men, stopping to brew chai.
And near the Holy Shrine of Khomeini is a huge cemetary called the Behesht e Zahra.
Here, amongst others, are the graves of the 200,000 local servicemen who died in the 1980 – 88 Iran Iraq War. Each with a glass box …
… to hold a photo, a letter, a medal, a favourite trinket of a lost father, husband, son.
Thirty years later we feel the sadness as … a son visits …
… and a daughter visits.
And not far off … the perfect spot to PICNIC. Indeed, why not …
Iranians seem to commemorate their loved ones very visibly. In most villages, towns and cities, streets like these herald their departed sons.
At another shrine, we stumble upon, and invited to join, this happy PICNIC.
We PICNIC too … along the roadside …
… sometimes in surprising shade and comfort.
And once in a field of flowers …
… on the shores of Lake Orumiyeh. Like the Dead Sea it is too salty to let you sink, and like the Ural Sea it is slowly dying as its feeder river has been diverted.
Some PICNICS go horribly wrong. Here we are caught, under dressed, in a rainstorm. Harry has to squeeze the cold out of me against a tree.
And what is on the menu in Iran …
A typical breakfast. A really lovely mast, a buttermilky, yoghurty, feta cheesy mixture with honey to be mopped up with bread left over from the night before.
Delicious kebabs; chicken, beef, liver … are available throughout the day, everywhere.
You select your kebabs and it is barbequed for you on the spot
And it is usually served with roasted tomatoes and bread.
So many types of bread, but this was our best ever. With saffron.
My favourite dish was Fesenjan, a melt in your mouth chicken in a walnut and pomegranate sauce.
And Harry actually really digs Dizi, this black stuff in the bowl. A tasty stew, ground into a paste, to be stirred through rice. Great for people who prefer not to chew.
Most dishes come with rice, yellow, white or vegetable. And if you are lucky you also get the savoury crust from the bottom of the rice pan. Bonus, all four, with fish.
Each salad has a special something … like the eggplant with sesame seeds.
Uhm, and a far less greasy version of you know what.
All this of course has to be washed down by chai …
… or … horror, horror, mock beer …
We most enjoyed juices and shakes … here we have an aloe one and a strawberry one.
And now for puds. This gent is driving a paddle through ….
… pure unadulterated SUGAR that aims to please all Iranians.
Iranians have a seriously sweet tooth. This candy floss and sweet drink brought to us was too sweet to handle.
But of course we had no difficulty wolfing this down.
But the biscuits, the biscuits, the biscuits … will make you weep. These yummy ones are stuffed with a date and cumin mixture.
And this is the lindt of biscuits. Ghottab is made from sugar, flour, almond kernels and cardamom. An explosion of surprise.
And here the Gilan cookie is being made. It has a walnut paste centre … and it is about to popped into the oven.
Here Harry, with the help of a cellphone translator, tells the baker that we have read about, and rode especially to Gilan, to taste this delicious cookie.
And after all that sweetness, Iranians work out. This gym in Yazd is cooled down by a water reservoir below and a wind catcher above …
It is called a Zurkhaneh, a House of Strength and is unique to Iran …
… a fascinating mix of sport, theatre and religion …
IRAN, the depth, the breadth and length of it is hard to express. We leave IRAN and IRAN leaves us …. simply grinning from ear to ear.