At the border with the desert

At the border with the desert

Finally the desert, in Fahraj, Iran

Feb 17 2015, 9.30 am

We are sitting on the cold roadside along the Silk Road Hotel, waiting for Masoud of the Fahreddinn that offered to take us to Fahraj. The german girls are staying another day, we will meet them again in Shiraz. We are right in the middle of our trip.

10.50 am. At the end we asked the hotel to call Masoud, and he sent us a driver. We could have gone to Fahraj by bus, but it seemed offensive not to take the lift. He did offer it.

The roads out of town have 2 or 3 lanes on each direction, even though there’s not much traffic, and between the two directions there are about 50 meters, so it’s difficult to see accidents here (they do have the habit to spend a long time on the opposite lane when they overtake); they can do it, there’s a lot of space, there’s the desert around.

Between a town and the other, the desert. Only near the towns, where water arrives through the qonat (a water system that apparently is quite expensive, so they’re trying to substitute it), there are trees and some cultivation. Everything else is sand, rocks and some bush.

1.20 pm Haven’t seen Mr. Masoud yet. I’m starting to think we will never see him. His factotum has arrived, he’s making some tea. We are relaxing and waiting that for the heat to go down a bit.

Bahadur told us that a few months ago a “Luca” passed by: he’s touring the world on a vespa. You can follow him on That sounds so cool! I would also love to do something similar. Italy-Turkey on a motorbike would be enough for me.

A pickup in Fahraj

7.23 pm. Bahadur is making dinner. He truly does everything here. He took us to the desert for a safari, we had tea and homemade grappa on the dunes, and smoked from a water pipe.

Bahadur told us that some of his friends would like to move abroad; but he talks to foreigners quite often, and knows that life abroad is not as shiny as you might think, he’s got a girlfriend and so he’s ok, he goes to the desert with his grappa so he can drink alcool when he likes; he’s happy with his life.

Before going to the desert we walked around Fahraj; the mosque was built 1400 years ago, it’s one of the oldest in Iran, and it’s made of sun-cooked bricks. The old part of Fahraj is made of sand and clay, like Yazd.

The minare of the Mosque in Fahraj
The minare of the Mosque in Fahraj

The local restaurant at 7.15 pm was closed, so Bahadur cooked some spaghetti for us.

Over-cooked spaghetti with very oily sauce made of mushrooms, meat and tomato. And baked in the oven. A bit heavy for a dinner, but not bad.

Yoga in the desert

Yoga in the desert

Adventures in the Thar Desert, Rajasthan

November 26, 2010

I survived two days in the Thar Desert, near Bikaner. On a camel. My butt and thigh are aching. No more camel rides for me, thank you. They asked me to go back. Ok, I might, one day, if you give me a bike instead of a camel.

I was on a tour with two French guys and a Dutch-Portuguese couple. These last two were interesting. She’s a bag designer, that uses recycling materials. He’s an artist, that to pay the bills owns a coffee shop in the Netherlands, somewhere near the border with Germany, and earns quite some money from the business. Six camel men, a guide and his son. The youngest of the camel men, Umad, 12 years old, is basically everyone servant. He’s called around everywhere, to wash dishes, peel potatoes, wait. And he runs forth and back always smiling. These desert guys are beautiful. Except maybe for the red-brown teeth colored by tobacco. That are not as bad as those of their camels, anyway. The oldest camel man, Kesudan, is 53 years old. He looks 20 years older. I guess life in the desert is not that easy.

The tour started with a visit to the Karni Mata Temple, a temple dedicated to mice. It was quite impressive. And a bit disgusting, if I can say. At the entrance you have to take off your shoes, like in all temples, and than you walk amid mouse shit and food. It’s good omen if a mouse runs between your legs, and even more if you can spot the white mouse. I waited for 10 minutes at the entrance of the white mouse house, but nothing. No luck for me. I’ve never seen so many mice in my life.

Karni Mata Temple

These two days in the desert were a completely different experience from what I had in Wadi Rum. There I was traveling on a 4×4, amid mountains and red sand. The Great Indian Desert is a great extension of dry spiny bushes and sparse trees. Camels walk very slowly, so you don’t go very far. And I think that is the point, to spend two days with a different space-time perspective. That is actually unnerving, when you are used to rush and do everything quickly. But I guess it has its advantages.

The plan was to sleep on the dunes under the stars. But the weather wasn’t too good, so the guide took us to an abandoned building, to sleep under a roof. This was built as a school, but was never used because the Indian government never sent teachers to the place. So is the Indian bureaucracy, explained the guide. Money is spent on infrastructures, then teachers are left without jobs and children without school because there is no communication between the various offices. He doesn’t vote, because everyone is corrupted, so there is no point in voting. He’s the first person I’ve met that doesn’t like Sonia Gandhi. When I mention that I’m Italian, everyone smiles and says “like Sonia Gandhi!”. Edvige Antonia Albina Maino was born 30 km from Vicenza and married a descendant of Mahatma Gandhi (the Gandhi family has had important roles in the government for decades; Sonia Gandhi in 2010 was president of the Indian Natioanl Party and could have become Prime Minister if the opposition didn’t complain that she’s not fully Indian).

So we slept under the porch of this building. Getting up was awesome, surrounded by fog, with the noise in the background of camels chewing nearby and the desert men preparing chai on the other side of the portico.

thar desert

Lionel, one of the French guys, coouldn’t find one of his shoes. It was 10 meters from the porch, a bit nibbled at. Some animal must have taken it during the night, probably a goat.

I went a bit away from the group and tried to do the 5 yoga exercises I learnt the previous day. But this thing of being calm is not for me. I should have done every exercise for 5 minutes 3 times, instead I did it one minute once. I kept thinking at the others that were cooking breakfast and I couldn’t wait. I have to try again. Only when I play solitary games at the pc I can spend hours without doing anything (this was in 2010, now I spend hours playing candy crush). Which annoys me, because I waste time that I could spend reading or doing something else. But playing on the pc helps me to think. I get some good ideas sometimes (like going to Africa).

Another day on a camel, but after half an hour I couldn’t take it any longer. I don’t know how people can enjoy this. I spent the rest of the time on a chart, pulled by a camel. I was laying on the hay that they use to feed the camels when we stop, letting the sun warm me up, cradled by the chart and the camel men dirge. Much better.

Kesudan was on the chart with me. At one point he stripped a piece of string from the towel he was wearing around his waist, and weaved a bracelet for me. Now we are brother and sister, explained another guy. Next time I come to Bikaner he hopes I’ll call him, he gave me his address. He has a handsome son, so I might really go back. But it’s better if I wait until the son grows older…

thar desert family
Walks in Bikaner

Walks in Bikaner

November 23, 2010

Today I allowed myself a treat. I had a no-alcool cocktail for 3€ (with alcool it was too expensive). With this money I normally eat 4 times or sleep 2 nights. But I needed some peace and relax in the chaos that is Bikaner. I’m at the café of a hotel that is part of a Maharaja palace, an Indian prince. It must be nice to spend a night at a maharaja home. My table is in a courtyard surrounded by porticoes and the rooms of the hotel are on the upper floors. All walls are finely decorated and carved. It’s not even that expensive sleeping here, 80 euro per night.

Bikaner is a small town at the border with the desert, with a lot of traffic, camels in the streets, an old town with a labyrinth of small alleys and houses with pastel colors, and a lot of people. Stressful people. I can’t walk two meters without someone reaching out saying hello and asking where I come from and if they speak a bit Italian it’s even worse. It’s a 40 min walk from the town center to my hotel. Last night while I was walking back I had at least three bodyguards escorting me the whole time. One kept asking if I wanted to marry him. I had to shout at him to convince him to go.

The trip on the bus was a nightmare. The road wasn’t paved for most of its length, I couldn’t sleep for the continuous jumps on the holes. Luckily for the next two destinations I have already booked a train ticket.

Tomorrow I will probably go to the desert. When I first went to the desert, one year and ten days ago, in Wadi Rum (Jordan), I fell in love. I hope I will enjoy this one too.

In one month I will be at Dubai airport, on my way back. A few days ago I thought that I should go to Africa in January. Just for a couple of months. In Mali, Senegal or wherever. I must before I find a job (it will be more difficult to travel for three weeks once you have job). I got this idea because of you. I loved all the positive feedback I received from this blog, it made me realise I should visit some other place and tell my experiences to you. I want to see Africa and bring it to you.

They showed me the bill. Does it mean it’s time for me to leave?