Magic Masuleh Iran
By Lene Imbsen
MASULEH, IRAN–1050 meters above sea level where the air is thinner, cooler and less polluted we find the 1000 year old mountain village of Masuleh creeping down into and up the valley.
With its 1500 inhabitants it might deserve the title of neighborhood, rather than village. But since this place is one of Iran’s top tourist destinations the number of people in the village doubles fast, sometimes tenfold. Persians from the million cities of Rasht and Qazvin take day trips here in the afternoons to picnic; those who live farther away will spend the night at one of the site’s few hotels or rent a room at a local family.
We arrive Friday in the middle of Friday prayers and choose to stay in this charming place for three days. Although it did not take more than half a day before we knew the whole place and the whole place knew us.
Western tourists are rarely seen here, so there where many curious eyes observing us. Like everyone else we are sitting in a cafe drinking tea and smoking water pipe part of the day. All eyes are on us, and finally one person finds the courage and askers where we are from. Norway we answer…… ahh
Norvege he says and we can hear Norvege be whispered around the cafe and finally have the information reached the entire earthy colored village. We are accepted. And from now on the friendliness and welcoming comes to no end. We learn quickly to avoid eye contact with passers-by if we are to go anywhere – otherwise we are suddenly sitting and drinking tea and eating cake……. again.
Besides looking at the quirky architecture, where one ceiling is another’s yard, or shop in one of the countless miniature shops, there is little Masuleh has to offer during the day. Some peaks can be climbed and a waterfall visited. If you hike up in the hills, you will encounter the true shepherds and get the feeling of traveling back in time.
And here too, invited to tea. But it is at nighttime that Masuleh is magical. When it gets dark and colorful lights are in full flare. Patterned Persian rugs are lit up. And the air is filled with a mixture of sweet fruit tobacco, and shish kebab. The atmosphere changes, shoulders lowered.
It is the night that is the Persians primetime. Families gather, the children are included, fall asleep in the late evening on their father’s shoulder on his way to the car. Since alcohol is banned in Iran, it is never the loud atmosphere we are used to after ten o’clock, but a quiet hum and muffled laughter. It is magical
ATMs in Iran do not take foreign cards, bring dollars or euros. Do not exchange these in the bank, but with moneychangers on the street. The bank may require up to 50 percent commission..
There are dress codes for both men and women. Women should wear a veil and covered elbows. The top must be knee long.
Men should not be wearing shorts unless they are at the beach or doing sports.
Lene Imbsen writes from the Norwegian woods.