Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Great Iranian Hospitality

Iran is one of those countries that likes to please its guests. Such a country wide hospitality is difficult to imagine, but I think may be it is because they were cut off from the world for so many years or may be it is genetic. Either way, I truly enjoyed and appreciated the Iranian hospitality during my stay in Iran. I would get invited to join locals for a cup of tea, some sweets, a full meal and also stay with them for many days. Do not confuse this with ‘Taarof’, another of Iranian culture where hosts offer guests something out of courtesy. While, I was offered Taarof almost everywhere from shops to buses to hotels to streets to markets, true hospitality came in between and boy was I really floored. People stayed back and guided me to taxis. A local Iranian lady took me to the bus station and haggled the prices for me when she could have just given me directions. Almost in all cities, locals offered me to join them for a cup of tea and some sweets. I even got to stay with a super friendly local family in their house and got to explore the true Iranian culture. But, the one memory of true hospitality that remains in my head is of this chilly day at Na’in.

Super Hospitable Gaz shop Owner from Na'in, Iran

Myself, a Turkish guy and a Chinese girl, all 3 backpackers were exploring the desert city of Na’in with laden backpacks and shaking in the bitter cold and desert winds. We had decided that we would explore Na’in as part of a day trip from Toudesk Cho to Yazd. And after some 2 hours of hitchhiking, we arrived at Na’in.  We had finished exploring the Jame Masjid and had just had a cold lunch at the ruins of the Na’in citadel. After some food in us to warm us up, we were exploring through the deserted and awfully quiet alleys of Na’in when this Iranian gentleman hurriedly walked up to us and requested us to enter his shop. At first, his shop seemed like a storage place, but upon entering, I saw that this was a shop where gaz (a chewy sweet candy made from rose water, almonds, sugar and honey) was being prepared. Our host could not speak any English, but since I could understand words like (Kheyli Sard – meaning very cold) and (garm chai – hot tea), I got to understand his offer of a cup of hot tea in the cold weather.

He quickly made up a hot stove, inverted some jerry cans and made us three backpackers sit around the fire. While the water on the stove got warmed up, he offered us gaz, honey, sugar and almonds to munch on. It was his way to warm us up before the tea was ready. He asked where we were from and was interested to know that none of us were European travelers. He spoke about how he grew up in this desert town, has 2 sons and 2 daughters and how he manufactured gaz in this shop of his. By then, the tea was ready and he offered us 3 glasses of hot tea and some gaz candy to go with it. After our first glass of tea, our host offered us a tour of his small gaz shop, the storage and even showed us how gaz is made.

We loved our conversations with him so much and the fact that we were nice and warm and glowing after I don’t know how many glasses of tea and gaz, each one of us bought some gaz candy souvenirs from his shop for extremely attractive prices. In fact, the gaz candy from here was so good that my other local Iranian friends to whom I offered these as gifts were surprised at this high quality gaz.

It is such warm hospitality that warms my heart and makes me travel more off beat and not so popular travel destinations. The people of Iran, you will always have a special place in my heart. And this gaz shop owner sure did warm us with his tea, gaz and hospitality on a bitterly cold Na’in day.

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