Saturday, March 8, 2008

Thursday Market

Not to be put off by our disappointment of the day before we decide to make tracks down the coast to Minab. Our speedboat back to the mainland is overloaded with shopping, and I start to wonder if I can swim with my boots on. Gayle points to the lifejackets in a bag in the prow of the boat. She's a mind-reader. We make a quick trip to change money at the bank. "From Manchester, Mr. John? How I would like to visit Old Trafford and watch Manchester United!" I smile and nod, because I've just handed over two torn Euro notes and everyone is very fussy about this. Why doesn't anyone ever want to watch City play? Same reason as me, I guess. The euros are exchanged without question. Then we hop into a shared taxi for the hour long drive to Minab. There's a soldier in the front seat and he keeps turning round to talk to us. The driver sometimes joins in. We speak no Farsi, they speak no English, but no matter. We now know all the questions, we are just not sure of the order. So the answers we give go something like this: "England. English. Near Manchester. 40. Wife. No children. No, Manchester City. Tabriz to Tehran to Yazd to Kerman to Bandar-e Abbas to Minab to Shiraz to Esfahan. Good."
It is hot and sweaty in the taxi, and it is hotter and sweatier in Minab. We are recovering in our hotel room, sat in our underwear, when there is a knock on the door. We quickly dress and I open the door. A man is smiling and saying something I don't understand and I am not sure who he is but he keeps pointing inside the room until I eventually let him in. He goes straight to the fridge and removes a frozen chicken, says thank you and leaves............
Our purpose here is to visit the Thursday Market. It is held on a bit of open ground next to a wide bone-dry riverbed. The market is very popular with people from miles around and gives us an opportunity to people-watch. The locals are a mix of Iranian, Arab, Baluchi and African, and most of the women here not only wear chadors but a particular kind of burqa, or veil, over their faces. They look like carnival masks - bright red embroidered eye masks that have a kind of beak - quite unusual. The mask possibly originates from when the Portuguese settled around Bandar-e Abbas to trade. Minab itself is the dustiest and dirtiest town we have visited in Iran, and on Thursday a wind whips up the dust and blows over the market. The market is a bustle of traders and shoppers with goods and food laid out on cloths on the ground - lots of fish, rolls of cloth, plastic tupperware, "Chinese" bric a brac, shoes and clothes. We wander around with Sjef and Sasskia, a Dutch couple who we first met in the Turkish border town of Dogubeyazit. Apart from the grit in our eyes, the hurly-burly of the market is fascinating. On the edges sit a crowd of men on motorbikes chewing the fat whilst mostly women go round to do their shopping. After all the covered bazaars we have wandered through, the scene makes quite a change.
There is nothing else to keep us here, so we return to Bandar's crowded bus station and manage to get the last seats on the last night bus to Shiraz. It's another long hot ride...........

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