This post was first published in my old travel blog, Erudite Traveller on 20 December 2017.One of the things I obsessively prepared for during the planning stage of my Silk Road 2017 trip was how to cross to Turkmenistan, a land-locked country with border crossings from Iran, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. In the end, I opted to cross the Iran-Turkmenistan border in Sarakhs, a city straddling the two countries. Getting through the border between the two countries was a surreal experience. The brown and desolate winding mountains and sand dunes in the Iranian side, despite the presence of giant trucks,
This post was originally published in my old travel blog, Erudite Traveller on 05 December 2017.Mashhad, Iran’s spiritual capital and second largest city is located more than 900 kilometers to the northeast and borders Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. This made Mashhad the perfect entry point to my next destination: the ancient Achaemenid satrapy and Seljuk Turk citadel of Merv (Margiana), Turkmenistan. Although not a usual tourist destination for foreigners and non-Muslims, Mashhad is actually a famous site for Shia Muslims worldwide. Devotees flock to Mashhad’s Imam Reza Shrine by the millions during Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, especially
This post was first published in my old travel blog, Erudite Traveller on 22 November 2017.It was in Kang Village in Mashhad, Iran, that I learned how to say no five times before accepting offers of food and drinks. Taroof, the Persian custom of civility and deference, can be a landmine in local – foreigner relations. Persians make offers that they expect will be refused. Its basic component is politeness; by a complicated dance of offers and refusals, people show their respect and deference to one another. Accept offers too early and the offerer will be put on the spot
I knew that my trip was off to a roaring start when my Thai Airways plane en route to Tehran announced that alcohol is to be served less than an hour into the flight. I have sworn off alcohol due to my fear of hangovers but decided to join in on the fun. Alcohol is strictly prohibited in Iran; who knows when I will have it next. Later in the trip, I had dinner in a restaurant along Valiasr in Tehran’s downtown district which listed mojitos (peach and mint) on the menu. My enthusiasm was doused when I was informed that
This post was originally published in my old travel blog, Erudite Traveller in 2017. “It’s Ashura,” my guide said, surprised and confused when I asked why there were so many people on Tehran’s streets close to midnight. She probably assumed that I knew that I will be in her country during a religious holiday. I didn’t. I wasn’t prepared to travel in Iran on Ashura. Ashura, or the tenth day of the Muharram (the first month in the Islamic calendar), is considered one of the most important religious holidays for Shia Muslims. Iran is a Shia-majority country. Not knowing it
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