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Birthday in the Salt Desert

It’s the 9th of May which is my birthday. I’m spending it driving through the Dasht-e Kavir Salt Desert in Iran. There are hundreds of locations I would prefer to be instead of here. Celebrating your birthday in Iran isn’t too much fun. No booze, no touching and no dancing in public. Basically everything which is kind of fun isn’t allowed. Also none of my friends is here with me and when you turn 37 you aren’t excited anymore to get older. Therefore, I wasn’t really looking forward to celebrate my birthday and didn’t tell anyone about it. The only persons who were aware of my birthday were the two crew members Jason and Sam since they have a passenger list with my name, passport number, birthdate and such.

At midnight I was hanging out in the courtyard of our hotel in Yazd. There was also my fellow traveler Chris from New Zealand who celebrates his birthday at the same day as I do. After congratulating him I showed him my passport and he was surprised to see it’s my birthday too. He then convinced the night porter of the hotel to put a couple of soft drinks on the house and celebrate our birthday with us. While we were “partying” I also got bitten by a number of mosquitos. I didn’t expect them to be here in the desert but luckily we are in a malaria free zone.

In the morning we were heading off to Meybod were we visited four different sights. The first one was Narin Qal’eh, a castle based on mud bricks built approx. 2,000 years ago. I didn’t listen to the explanations of our guide Mehdi so I can’t say much about it. What I found most breathtaking was the view on top of the castle overlooking the town and the mountain range in the background. Second was a carpet museum located in the Shah Abbasi Caravanserai. Here we could see a number of very old carpets and a guy demonstrating to us how they used to be made. The third stop was a mud brick icehouse which was used as kind of big fridge to store ice which was collected during winter time. The heart of the cooling mechanism is an underground area and a special dome with a hole in the ceiling, all reminding me of a big egg. Last was the town’s pottery and ceramic museum where we could see a number of plates and bowls in white and blue color.

We continued our drive to the Chak Chak Mountain where we arrived around lunch time. It was extremely hot and when our guide Mehdi announced we are going for a one hour hike up the mountain I thought I don’t really need the experience to climb a mountain in the midday heat, especially not in my Muslim outfit. So Isabella, Jason, Sam and I stayed back with the truck while a handful of other people went to climb it. When they came back approx. one hour later I found out there was actually a miscommunication by the guide. They only went up for 10-15min until they reached a shrine which is supposed to be the holiest of all mountain shrines of Zoroastrianism. There they had a look at the eternal burning fire and a conversation with one of the priests. If I had known this I would have gone as well but so I unfortunately missed it.

While people visited the Chak Chak Mountain Isabella and Jason prepared lunch for us which were some delicious sandwiches. We then continued our travel to the villages of Qaranaq and Garmeh where we saw the ruins of the ancient villages. Unfortunately I’m not able to find them on a map, so they might be spelled differently. The ruins in Qaranaq were much more impressive than those in Garmeh so when you have only limited time at hand make sure to visit Qaranaq. However, what made the visit to Garmeh especially exiting for our leader Jason was a farmer’s house where he felt in love with one of the goats. I’m not sure if she felt the same because when Jason tried to kiss her she was just staring at him.

Our home for tonight was supposed to be the small village of Khur but due to university exams in the area our hotel reservation got cancelled this morning and our guide Mehdi needed to find an alternative accommodation in the area. What he found was a basic hotel in the village of Mesr. Basic means the rooms were nothing but walls and a carpet on the ground which wasn’t an issue since we have full camping gear with us. The dining area was a small open air room in the courtyard of the hotel where we got dinner served since there were no restaurants around. Again I wasn’t able to find the two villages on the map, so they might be spelled differently

After dinner our crew members Jason and Sam surprised Chris and me with a birthday cake each. By then my birthday wasn’t a surprise anymore since the rumor got spread during the day and every couple of hours someone different came to me and whispered “Happy Birthday, Katja!” While blowing off the candles of my cake I made a wish and hope it will come true one day. I then shared my cake with everybody and instead of booze we had black tea with it.

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