Qeshm Island


The word that comes from the heart penetrates the heart.


Nizami Ganjavi





 I was in the kitchen cooking, reminding myself that cooking with love makes the food tastier and the process more enjoyable. However, my inner voice kept protesting, trying to convince me otherwise - that I was stuck in the routine of everyday life and missing out on the most interesting moments. My thoughts were interrupted by a phone call from my husband. His friends from Tehran had decided to leave the capital and move to the island of Qeshm in the Persian Gulf. 'They're inviting us to visit,' he said at the end. 'Sounds great! Finally!' I exclaimed.



 We packed our travel bag in just a couple of minutes. After 20 minutes, we were rushing through the bustling capital's railway station. Built in the late 1920s by the Polish architect Wladislaw Horodecki, the station in Tehran has a fascinating history. This was the same architect wich renowned for his whimsical creations, such as the House with Chimeras in Kyiv. It was astonishing to think that a man whose architectural marvels adorned the beloved streets of Kyiv now rested in Tehran's Doulab Catholic cemetery. In 1928, an American company, impressed by Horodecki's works, appointed him as the chief architect for a syndicate tasked with constructing Persian railways, prompting his move to Iran.


As the train sped on, vast expanses of barren land swept past the window, gradually transitioning into desert hills as dawn approached. We were nearing the port city of Bandar Abbas.




 The sun beat down mercilessly outside. As we stood in line for the sea boat, I felt the urge to strip down and dive straight off the pier into the water. But rules are rules, and perhaps it's thanks to them that some order can be maintained in this chaotic world.


 Fortunately, luck was on our side, the captain allowed us to sit at the top of the water bus's nose. And so, we sailed across the Persian Gulf, breathing in the salty sea air. The boundless sky seamlessly merged with the sea, leaving only a distant gray strip on the horizon. So the gray strip became the coast of Qeshm Island as soon as we approached the destination. 



 Upon reaching the city, we took a taxi and drive out about sixty-kilometer journey away from civilization.


 Amidst the sandy valleys, camels meandered lazily, serving as invaluable aids to the locals. Renowned for their endurance, these creatures had long been instrumental in transporting water to even the most remote corners of the island. Many families kept entire herds of camels, which freely roamed the local terrain in vast caravans. Suddenly, a camel obstructed our path.


"These animals can be quite dangerous," cautioned the taxi driver. "You mustn't startle them. If provoked, a camel can enter a state of nervous frenzy, causing havoc and potentially damaging the vehicle. It's best to wait until it moves on peacefully".



  Having safely navigated past the animals, we continued our journey and veered off the highway into a village. There, we were greeted by Amir - a man with dark hair and a perpetually radiant countenance. He promptly introduced us to his local friend, Hassan, whose dark face was adorned with a warm smile and gleaming white teeth, proudly displayed at every opportunity.


The village was built of mud houses and sandy streets, basked in abundant sunlight. Local women adorned themselves in headscarves and vibrant traditional attire, while face masks shielded their eyes from the intense sun. Men bustled about in long white shirts and turbans, predominantly Arabs inhabiting the area. The local culture bore influences from the Iranian culture to the north, the Arab world to the south, and the Indian culture to the east.


With a joyful smile and shining white teeth, Hassan warmly invited us into his home. Stepping over the threshold of the gate, we entered a traditional courtyard, wich contained by several small, single-story white houses arranged in a rectangular formation. Gesturing towards one of the doors in the central part of the structure, we were invited inside.


   I was eager to explore the island immediately, but my attempts to convince others to join me for a walk were futile. It was attributed to the stifling humidity of the tropical climate. Within five minutes, the intense heat dampened my enthusiasm, leaving me with no choice but to quell my curiosity and seek relief under a refreshing cold shower.



Closing my eyes, I splashed water on my face, then opened them to find myself frozen in place - a large lizard stared back at me from the upper corner of the small bathroom. Clinging to the brick wall with its claws, the unwelcome guest attempted to remain unnoticed. "Welcome to Qeshm Island," I chuckled inwardly, swiftly exiting the room.


 In the courtyard, beneath a tree, our small group prepared to dine. Hassan's mother emerged - a woman of above-average height, her dark complexion mirroring her son's, adorned with the same radiant smile. Clad in traditional attire, the small wrinkles beneath her eyes hinted at both her kindness and age. Accompanied by her two young daughters, she brought forth dishes and, spreading a tablecloth directly on the floor, then hastened back to the kitchen. The girls meticulously arranged plates rice, greens, and the main dish - shark - upon the table.


The people here stood out starkly from the diverse ethnic groups across Iran, but what left the strongest impression on me was the spiritual purity radiating from the children. 



After our lunch, we finally embarked on a swimming and exploration adventure to the Hara Water Mangrove Forest. During the day, the forest was accessible for walking, but as evening approached and the tide rolled in, boats became the means to navigate among the treetops. Sometimes, the forest could remain submerged for days, creating ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes and sea snakes. However, I would only learn about these potential dangers later. For now, my attention was captivated by a young boy seated across from me in the boat. Despite being no older than thirteen, he bore a striking resemblance to the former American President, Barack Obama. Thus, we fondly dubbed him "Ali Obama". 


As the boat gently glided into the mud, we cautiously disembarked one by one. In the distance, a towering fiery torch illuminated the landscape - a beacon marking the extraction point for natural gas, several kilometers away. Beneath our feet, tadpoles scurried on two legs, a poignant reminder of our evolutionary ancestors whose transition from water to land paved the way for our existence.



 The local boys wasted no time in demonstrating how to craft exhilarating mud slides, followed by gleeful plunges into the water. The youngest among them was tasked with an important duty - to guard the boat. Until evening fell, he steadfastly held onto the rope, diligently fulfilling his responsibility. Later, only at the urging of the eldest did he finally relinquish his post to join in the aquatic activities. Once again, I marveled at the remarkable nature of these children. Their pure hearts exuded boundless joy and unwavering devotion.


 This day on Qeshm Island proved to be one of the most extraordinary in my often unpredictable life. After enjoying the exhilarating slides, we opted for a leisurely stroll along the riverbank to bask in the sunset's glow. A massive red orb gradually descended behind the mangrove treetops, which gracefully dipped into the water.


 Captivated by the moment, I began snapping photos, savoring the overwhelming emotions. There was Ali Obama, his crooked smile captured by the camera's lens. Unaware of the unfolding events, I hastened to rejoin the group of friends.


 Upon our return to the boats, Ali was conspicuously absent. Hassan swiftly contacted the local patrol, who informed him that they had pick up the boy to the boat upon hearing his cries of pain - he had been bitten by a water snake. Fortunately, prompt administration of an antidote saved his life. It was a good reminder of the importance of responsibility and understanding of the mesmerizing water world.




"Deserts are meant to be traversed." With this mantra in mind, I roused myself from sleep and ventured out to explore the surroundings. Despite the early hour, the scorching heat outside made me break a sweat within minutes. The local taxi driver quipped that he never will see the hell, becouse he already living in hell.


As evening descended, we found ourselves in a quaint fishing town boasting a history spanning over 2000 years. The ambiance of antiquity was palpable, heightened by the melodic chants emanating from the old mosque during our stroll. Narrow streets lined with houses leaning against each other evoked a bygone era, while local girls shyly dodged the gaze of our camera phones amidst the backdrop of traditional wind towers known as badgiraes. It felt like stepping back in time, with only the modern air conditioners adorning the small clay windows serving as reminders of the contemporary world. Beneath each unit, trays collected precious droplets of water, a testament to the resourcefulness ingrained in the local culture, where every drop was treasured and reused.



 Perched atop the city's highest vantage point, we settled into a cozy spot, silently observing the local boys engaged in a spirited game of football. In the distance, sand mountains loomed against the backdrop of the crimson sky, framing the watery expanse of the mangrove forest. Beyond, the sea stretched out, dotted with old fishing ships drifting tranquilly.


 Long ago, the island fell under Portuguese control, yet scant historical evidence remains of their presence, save for the fortress in the city of Qeshm. Local hostility towards the colonizers even led to the destruction of their cemetery, erasing any lingering reminders of their occupation.


 Hassan reminisced about his childhood devoid of electricity and told us that the island's recent introduction to modern amenities. He recounted his awe upon first witnessing the water channel on Vali Asr street in Tehran as an adult. For twenty minutes, he couldn't tear his eyes away from the sight of the small river flowing swiftly , marveling at the abundance of drinking water. He vividly remembered the arduous journey on camelback spanning several kilometers to reach the nearest water well on his native Island.



 Around ten in the evening, everyone reconvened in Hassan's courtyard. The door remained open, inviting neighborhood children to freely come and go as they pleased. Children was settling on a bench in the center and started to observe us. Hassan's mother, clad in traditional attire and a mask, skillfully prepared pancakes with caviar and cheese in the home oven. Meanwhile, one of her young assistants adorned my hand with intricate henna designs. The another day on the island drew to a close, the sense of community and hospitality lingered in the air.


The following morning began in a car, when the first rays of the still-pink sun gently kissing the pearly sky. Departing at five in the morning, our destination was the Chahkuh Gorge - a breathtaking 100-meter-deep cleft. Despite I feeling a bit queasy and yearning for sleep, the anticipation of witnessing such natural wonder fueled my excitement.



 Qeshm, situated near the Indian Ocean, once served as a thriving trading hub for the Portuguese, who facilitated the sale of African slaves to Arab nations. Amir pointed out a towering, impregnable rock where a village of escaped slaves once thrived. With its excellent acoustics, the rock provided a sense of security for its inhabitants. Legend has it that when the Europeans approached, the Africans shouted loudly, their voices echoing ominously and frightening the superstitious Christians. Believing the area to be inhabited by malevolent spirits, the Portuguese left the slaves.


 As we made our way back to the village after an enlightening excursion, we spotted Ali Obama walking along the roadside, returning home from school. Every day, he traversed several kilometers under the scorching sun in pursuit of knowledge. Welcoming him into the car, he eagerly inquired about our next steps. However, our journey was finished and we already back to modern civilization that day. We spent the evening in the capital of Qeshm, preparing to set sail for the mainland the following morning.


 As we cruised past the first traffic light on the impeccably paved city road, a longing to return to the village washed over me. My heart yearned to reconnect with the children. The island had left an indelible mark on my memory, with Ali Obama occupying a special place among its vivid recollections.


*Talla wells


 Qeshm island has resorted  to many ways to find the water it needs. One of those ways is to drill wells in the rocks, which  sometimes end in gypsum layers and are capable of holding water healthy and cool for a long time. The mound over looking these wells direct rain water toward the wells and it is for this reason that they are called talla wells ("tal" means "mound" in  Persian.)


 These wells located near laft village which is said it is said that in the past the past the number of these cisterns equaled the number of days in a year (366-equal to leap-year) and every day one of the wells was used for water. The rainwater, which is prized like gold, is directed to the wells from the hills around.


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