Iran is one of the best countries so far for driving. Diesel is incredibly cheap (about 0.07 eurocents a litre) and the roads are in good condition. Also, because you do not need to wait -or find out about bus schedules, you can see a lot of the country, including less visited beautiful sights and cities. That is what we did. After Tehran we went driving towards Iraq and don’t worry it is not dangerous, only when you get to about 10 kilometres from the border. The first stop was Hamadan, at the height of 1850 metres and close to the 3574-metre-high mountain Alwand.
Hamadan is also one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Jews in the country. This is because it is believed Esther and Mordechai are buried here. She was a biblical queen and Mordechai was her brother. The fact that this tomb is an important Jewish pilgrimage in the country, proves that people here are ready to accept more than just Islamic religion. Hamadan was also named the capital of Asian tourism. However, about every major city in Iran carries such a name. Another example is Tabriz: capital of Islamic tourism.
We stayed at a campground a little outside the city centre, near a mosque. There was a big parking space with places to pitch a tent near to a small mosque. Outside of the mosque there was a big line with Iranians and their children, outside some tables where people were eating. We did not understand that this was a mosque at first, because it seemed more like a restaurant. We asked around if the handing out of food and religious (really loud) music was for a specific occasion, but no, this happens all the time apparently.
After dark we retracted in the car to watch a movie. This became quite the challenge as more and more Iranians gathered around our car. One little boy was just standing inside half of the time. They all seemed really interested in our car interior and what we were doing. Even when the car door was closed, they still came knocking to bring us tea. Even though in our society this might seem intrusive, they all just meant to be kind. Another compelling observation was that other campers were all on their way to the religious site of Kerbala in Iraq. We would not dare to cross the Iraqi border, but apparently for Iranians it is a common thing to do. They also thought this was where we were going.
We went further to Kermanshah and Bisotun, an UNESCO heritage site along the ancient trading route between the Iranian high plateau and Mesopotamia. It is a monument with prehistoric inscriptions from the Median, Achaemenid, Sassanian -and Ilkhanid periods. Like Taq-e-Bostan in Kermanshah, where you can see rock reliefs from the Sassanid empire.
Following the way past these ancient sites, we came across more curious Iranians. Everywhere we went we heard a ‘hello’ in the distance. Even though this is true for most of the places we visited in Iran, this part was where we got the greatest amount of attention from locals wanting to help -or talk to us. We did not go any further than Kermanshah, we would have stayed longer and visited Khorramabad and Sanandaj if we had the time. However, if you can only spend one month in Iran, you need to make sacrifices.