The Day in Mashhad: Today was a day to explore the special sights of Mashhad and also to prepare ourselves for the next country Turkmenistan, where will we will have our first camping experience when we visit the burning gas crater at Derweze. Mashhad is Iran’s second largest city with a population around 3 million. It is also a place of pilgrimage for many muslims as it contains the burial site of the only Imam (of which the religion has 12 named Imams in the Koran) entered in Iran. We caught taxis in the morning to visit the shrine complex. These Iranian taxi drivers are unbelievable. They manoeuvre through the chaotic traffic with ease. They must have incredible peripheral vision and their reflex are lightning as the traffic moves haphazardly around them. Nobody uses indicators. There is no give may at roundabouts and intersections you just meld together and pop out the other side. In Perth what is a 2 lane road is four lanes here. Cars drive at 50 kph within centimetres of one another randomly changing direction so you have to react fast.
Very few tourists visit this area. We saw no others the whole time we were there. We had to have an official escort, a clergy and a guide. We were led to an introductory area where they had been expecting us. 4 chairs lined up in front of a big screen with a documentary about the complex. We were also permitted to discuss some aspects of muslim religion and it’s relationship to other religions and the world. It was an interesting 10 minutes.
We were then taken into the huge main square of the complex which receives over 27 million pilgrims a year. They were spreading out the carpets to cover a huge area ready for evening prayers.
We also had pointed out to us the golden dome which holds the casket where the 3rd Imam, Imam Reza, is buried. However we could not enter here, and many other areas as we were not muslim.
We wandered around the museum with the history of the complex as well as containing displays of Iranian art and carpet. The carpets were incredible as were some of the highly decorated doors, covered in gold and silver.
After leaving the holy shrine we visited the Masshad bazaar. Although not wide, only 2 corridors, it runs for more than a kilometre and has 2 levels. ENORMOUS. We refreshed with some cold fresh fruit drinks half way. A cantaloupe and a banana/milk. They were great.
It was then off to a quick lunch and return to the hotel in the hot part of the day to refresh and prepare the car.
Luckily C-YA was in an underground garage where unfortunately the Quokkavan would not fit as it is too tall. Jeff and Andrew unloaded the car and prepared it for the next part of the trip including the camping sections. We needed the extra fuel and water tanks to be easily accessible as well as having all the camping gear packed in the right order for setting up camp.
We then were taken by car to a supermarket to buy supplies for the journey ahead. Noodles, tinned food, pasta, long-life milk, can-openers, cooking oil, and in Quokkavans case cooking and eating utensils as well as a gas stove.
Then it was off to dinner at another nice hotel where the boys tried non-alcoholic beer. The picture says it all!
Early start tomorrow, heading to Turkmenistan and Ashgabat the capitol.
C-YA Andrew and Jeff
Mongolia Charity Rally 2015