[By Shideh] To me, leaving Tehran always brings mixed feelings. The comfort of having access to everything I am used to (which make me spoiled), familiarity with my surroundings, and the natural love for my birth place with so many memories on one side made me reluctant to leave, while the chaos, pollution, traffic jams, and the stressful state of Tehran made our journey to Kurdestan easier. We started driving toward Qazvin, then Hamedan toward Sanandaj. The drive was about 10 hours while we barely felt any of it. When we first exited Tehran, we saw a vast lifeless desert in front of us. There were mountains in the background, but no sign of water or greenery. This lasted for a couple of hours when we started to see farms on the two sides of the road. Our surrounding slowly became greener and the mountains changed shape. In some areas it was calmly raining, in others we saw a sunny sky. Zagros was slowly coming out of its shell and appeared in front of us with its young powerful curves, sort of welcoming us first time visitors. What beauty, words can hardly describe it. At that moment, I thought of a relatively cheesy song by Elvis when I saw Zagros and found myself helplessly in love with its beauty: “but I can’t help falling in love with you…”
This mountain range is relatively young compared to Alborz and its shape is distinctly different. It has been a base for many ancient civilizations with mighty rivers and lands for farming.
Soon we were on the edge of the Iranian Plateau, a mesmerizing sight. You see yourself at the height of the plateau sort of like standing at the edge of a huge cliff. Driving on the snaky roads of the mountains that took us down this cliff like a magical elevator, we saw the sign: “welcome to the province of Kurdestan.”
Here we saw two old men wearing Kurdy pants, jackets, and shawls riding the most beautiful horses I had ever seen. They seemed to be quite strong and in shape. Despite the deep lines on their faces and thick mustaches that made them look old, you could still notice their natural beauty: honey color eyes, bright healthy skins, white hair with shades that showed they used to be black as the sky at night. As we approached the city of Sanandaj, we saw more men the vast majority of whom wore traditional costumes. Strangely enough, I saw only a few women in Kurdy costumes. I later found out that sadly they feel restricted to do so and only wear their costumes for major celebrations. What catches the attention of all visitors at first is the density of naturally beautiful men and women. Women, in particular had a sort of wild beauty that match the nature of this province. The second shocking experience in this region is their open-mindedness, respect for women, for each other, and for us visitors. Kurdestan homes a few astonishing groups of spiritual darvishes in its mountainous villages, with a long history of Sufism before and after Islam. Most importantly, this province has created one of the most passionate types of music that I can’t even begin to describe. Please click on the youtube link below to get a feel for their type of music.
[to be continued…]