Picnic in the Sabalar Mountains

Bahram and Mariam met us in the hotel lobby in the morning. We put our rucksacks into their car and they drove us to the apartment where Bahrams parents were staying. We met lots of relatives and before long we were all piling into a convoy of cars and heading for the hills to have a big family picnic. We stopped on the way to buy Melon.

Jaffar with the Melon.

Mariam chatted with us all the way about the family and about their son Ali and about the local area. Later we were able to find out more about life for them in Iran. Mariam is an English language teacher and is from Hamadan. Bahram is an engineer and is originally from Ardabil. Bahram is a Muslim. He prays every day and goes to the mosque.

The cars pulled up by a small grassy area with some trees and a small stream, just at the start of the hilly country. Mariam asked us if we thought the spot was suitable. We said yes of course. It looked OK, a bit scruffy, but it was their family picnic and we didn’t know the area and didn’t want to cause a fuss. There were a few other families picnicking there too with tents. Everyone piled out of the cars and started carrying babrbeque and food and blankets down the stony slope, over the spiky weeds to the grass. I was especially aware of the spiky weeds ‘cos I had sandals on. It was time to meet everyone properly and go over all the names again.

There were Bahrams parents Haj Hassan Parvisi and Haj Khanum (Fahimei). Haj means they have been to visit Mecca and Khanum means wife and I think is the respectful way to address an older female family member rather than by the first name. Haj Hassan and Haj Khanum Parvisi’s oldest daughter Roya was there with her husband Haj Mohammad and their daughters Elnaz, Shiva and Yalda. Haj Hassan and Haj Khanum Parvisi’s third daughter Ziba was there with her husband Reza and their young daughter Anya. Ziba means beautiful. The youngest daughter is Nasrin. She was there with her husband Jaffar and their tiny baby Amir Hossein. The youngest son of Haj Hassan and Haj Khanum Parvisi was also there, Amin, and of course our new friends Bahram and Mariam with their son Ali who is 7.

That's Roya in the middle being funny.

Haj Hassan Parvisi with the baby Amir Hossein. Nasrin is in the background.

We chatted and mingled. I played ball with Ali and Anya and Bahram. Jaffar and Amir asked if I would help them get some firewood for the barbeque to cook the kebabs. We went to look round the edge of the next field. There wasn’t much wood. Presumably because its such a popular picnic spot it had all been used up by other people. I spotted a dead tree in the middle of the field. Jaffar had a big blunt machete and climbed up into the dead tree and started hacking into it. The tree was creaking under his weight and I thought he was really going to do himself harm but it was OK. After alot of effort with the blunt implement he eventually got a small bit of the branch off. I climbed up and tried to get some but they decided it was enough wood and we went back. Ruth and Hannah were settled down on a blanket chatting with all the girls and women. Haj Hassan Parvisi and Haj Mohammad were sorting out embers from the fire to use for a barbeque and smoking Qalyan (water pipe) while chatting. Jaffar started making the kebabs by pressing the minced meat around the big metal skewers with his hands. Then it turned out there was a need for more fire wood. I set off to find some because I felt the last mission was a bit disappointing. It took me quite a while to get far enough from the picnic area to find any decent wood and I had to hunt about in the scrappy hedgerows but I got a good amount and dragged it back. When I got there everyone was quite surprised and I got a round of applause. It felt really good to be useful rather than just a burdensome guest. I don’t think they needed all that wood anyway because it wasn’t long before the kebabs were served up.

We ate.
In Iran meat kebabs are served with a large portion of boiled rice.

After the meal we all flaked out and some of the men prayed.

Before they prayed they placed a small thing on the ground in front of them. It looked a bit like an octagonal bar of soap. We had seen them in the hotel rooms. Maryam told us that it is a piece of clay earth from Karbala.

Karbala is really important to Shia Muslims. It is the place where the Imam Hossein was killed in the year 680 together with hundreds of his Muslim followers in a terrible massacre. The Imam Hossein was the second son of Ali. Ali was the Prophet Mohammad’s son-in-law and cousin and, according to Shias, the rightful successor as Caliph (leader of Islam) after the Prophet Mohammad’s death.

After the picnic we drove to the road they call Paradise Road because of the view. But it was raining. It was a fun drive though. Roya kept gesticulating from the other car to signal that we should turn round and go to her house.

After the drive we went back to her house via the Ice Cream Parlour where Maryam and Bahram treated us to some speciality Ice Cream. We were spoilt that day! Bahram said the Ardebil ice cream is the best. When we went to Hamadan the following week Maryam took us for Hamadan Ice Cream and tried to prove to us that Hamadan ice cream is better: Healthy rivalry.

After the ice cream we went to Roya's Home. There was socialising and more food. Ruth and Hannah look like they've had too much though

We went and stayed the night at Jaffar and Nasrins apartment. It was beautiful. The family built and own the whole apartment block and a different branch of the family lives in each apartment in the building!

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