In the evening we arrived in Ardebil. While walking looking for our hotel a crazy man approached us asking if he could help us. He showed us where the hotel was and then ran away. He was pretty crazy. Then a couple of minutes later we heard someone shouting from across the street. The same guy was leaning his whole body right out of a window of a bus that was driving up the street and waving and shouting goodbye happily. Crazy.
In search of coffee and tea we started the long walk into town, back up the long, noisy, busy road we had trapsed all along last night to find the inconveniently located place. Past lots of places selling things like freshly-skinned goats heads and offal kebabs.
So we spent the rest of the morning going to look at the Mausoleum of Sheyk Safi Od-Din and Shah Ismail I.
Sheyk Safi Od-Din (1252-1334) Was a Sufi and a follower of Haci Bektash (see earlier post about Haci Bektas and the Alevis). He was the founder of the Safaviyeh Sufi Order. Over the following 170 years, the Safaviyeh Sufis gained political and military power, finally conquering Persia and ruling Iran until 1722. The Safavids ruled the greatest Iranian civilisation since the Arab Conquest. They established Twelver Shiism as the official religion of the empire and unified persia for the first time since the Sassanians. Under the Saffavids Iran reached the pinnacle of Islamic architecture and artistic creativity. The Saffavids bult many excuberant and ornate palaces and awe-inspiring mosques.
Wood carving on the side of Sheyk Safis tomb.
Shah Ismail I was the Safavid Shah (King) who established Twelver Shiism as the religion of Persia. Twelver Shiism is still the religion of Iran today and I think Iran is the only officially Shiite nation (but I might be wrong). 'Twelver' refers to the belief in twelve imams: Holy men, appointed by God to lead the community. An immam is free from sin. The twelfth immam is the current immam and is believd to be the promised Messiah who will return with Jesus Christ to re-establish the best governance of Islam and justice and peace on Earth.
While I was at the shrine I was interviewed for the local TV news. It’s the third time I’ve been interviewed on foreign media and the second time I’ve been interviewed on TV news while visiting a Sufi shrine!
After the shrine we rushed back to the hotel because we had arranged to meet Mahmoud. We were late. While we were going back up the road a car pulled up and someone was calling out to us “Hello! What is your name? Where do you come from?” and “Can I give you a lift?” We stopped and answered there questions. There was a lady smiling in the back who started talking to Ruth and Hannah. They seemed very nice and as we were in a rush I decided to take up the offer of a lift. They spoke very good English. When we got back to the hotel they came in with us and we continued to chat. Mahmoud was already there and seemed a little disgruntled that we had already met someone else. They were from another city, Hamadan and were here visiting the in-laws. They were called Bahram and Mariam. They insisted that we went to have a meal at their home and meet their family and go for a picnic the following day. And that we go to stay with them in Hamadan. We had only met them 10 minuites ago! We agreed to meet them at the hotel the next morning.
We went out for the rest of the afternoon with Mahmoud. He took us round the shops. The first stop was to visit Mahmouds friends shop. But there was nothing there we wanted and there was no pressure to buy anything. In the bazaar we bumped into the same crazy guy that had showed us where the hotel was the night before. This time he sold us some cheap ice creams. He was still being weird. After going round a few more shops where we got some good bargains thanks to Mahmoud.
Later Mahmoud’s friend took us to a rusty theme park near a lake. It was busy. People were camping everywhere, especially in the car park. We sat about on the grass chatting about clothes shops. It was chilly.
We had some tea and eventually they took us back to the hotel. Although, of course, they wanted us to stay with them longer and go for a meal. Its actually quite tiring being a good guest the whole time and we all felt like we just needed a bit of time to ourselves!
So, in the evening we went out looking for a decent restaurant. The Lonely Planet had a very good recommendation so we went in search of that. When we finaly got yhere it was closed. The man in the shop next door told me it was closed because it is a national holiday. We didn’t know. So we headed towards town. On the way, crossing a main road a car pulled up on the other side and was beeping the horn. We just ignored it but then saw that it was Bahram, the same guy we met earlier who we were going to meet in the morning! He shouted out “Can I help you?” We just said no and carried on. We then spent at least another hour looking for a restaurant and couldn’t find one! Not at all! Not even a fast food place! Eventually we saw the same crazy guy again for the third time. He seemed to be in a rush, again. But we asked him where there was a restaurant. He took us very rapidly through the busy streets and showed us the entrance to a restaurant that was down some stairs beneath a shop. Then he scurried away. Unfortunately the restaurant only had kebabs and rice: Offal kebabs, minced meat kebabs or chicken kebabs. We went for chicken kebabs with rice. Unfortunately the chicken wasn’t very well cooked. There was a power-cut while we were there. The bill was more than it should have been. But it was the only place selling food that we had seen! The next day I was a bit unwell.