Wednesday 25 April 2012

Iran: A Stranger and a Private Tour

Iran: Grand Bazaar of Esfahan - Ramble and Wander

I was trying to take a shot of the traditional clothes hanging just outside the entrance to the Grand Bazaar when I noticed this one guy who appeared to be waiting for me to take the photo. I thought he just wanted to walk pass by in front of me but I was wrong. The guy approached me and started a conversation. He turned out to be a roof expert, or so he claimed, in the process of repairing the roof in some parts of the bazaar. His father's in Australia at the time, repairing an Iranian carpet in one of the government's building. His grandad is an expert in antiquities and has appeared in the Lonely Planet, Italian edition for Iran. For the life of me, I don't remember his name, so I'll just refer him as Mr Roof Expert for now.

Iran: Grand Bazaar of Esfahan - Ramble and Wander

Mr Roof Expert asked if I would like to see the view of and from the rooftop of the bazaar. I honestly thought he might be onto something but then, this is Iran.  So I said yes, and went along with him into a somewhat dimly lit area of the bazaar where there was hardly anyone else around, walked the empty stairs a couple of floors up and then climbed out to the rooftop.

Yes, I basically threw caution to the wind. Not recommended if you're travelling alone elsewhere.

Iran: Grand Bazaar of Esfahan - Ramble and Wander

Iran: Grand Bazaar of Esfahan - Ramble and Wander

Views from the rooftop of the bazaar
On the top floor of the bazaar, however, away from the crowd, there're people working hard at repairing carpets.

Iran: Grand Bazaar of Esfahan - Ramble and Wander
(Above) A worker repairing a carpet on the top floor of the bazaar; and
(Below) A gas-powered iron (weighing more than 20kg) to help straighten out carpets.
Iran: Grand Bazaar of Esfahan - Ramble and Wander

A good Persian carpet should last a long, long time, and if there is anything wrong with it, the seller usually gives a 10-year or even a lifetime guarantee to repair it for free. Obviously, this offer is a bit useless if you buy a carpet and then bring it out of the country to wherever your home is. But still, it's not an empty promise. You know they take great pride in their carpets, and rightly so too.

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Mr Roof Expert then asked me if I'd like to see a famous tablecloth maker at work. We walked downstairs back to the ground floor where he brought me to a little shop belonging to one Hassan Sedighifard, just around the corner from the main entrance to the bazaar. I might not have found nor knew of this place had it not been for this guy. Mr Hassan Sedighifard is famous for his hand-printed tablecloths and his work is recognised by the UNESCO (if I recall this correctly - there's a letter from the UNESCO addressed to him framed and hanged on the wall behind him). He is apparently also famous in Japan and has appeared in a Japan's TV channel, NHK.

Iran: Grand Bazaar of Esfahan - Ramble and Wander

(Seeing Mr Hassan with the stamp reminded me of the little batik cottage industry which my late grandfather and uncle had back home in the early 1980s. As a kid, I used to play around with some of the stamps as well as with the hot wax (by dipping my hands into it!) that they used to make batik prints).

There was a Japanese couple in the shop when I was there. When asked why they choose Esfahan as their holiday destination, their answer simply was...
"We love Esfahan. We have been coming here for holiday every year for the past 8 years."
My jaw dropped and I went like, "Whattttt?? 8 years??!"

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Mr Roof Expert later asked if I would like him to show me anything else but unfortunately, I had to take leave to drop by Masjid Sheikh LotfAllah and Masjid Imam before walking back to the hotel for my pick up to go to the airport.

So we parted ways but not before me thanking him for his out-of-nowhere hospitality.

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Iran: Grand Bazaar of Esfahan - Ramble and Wander

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