Iran, day six

Tonight we raided another bakery shop and got a few more cookies. I really have a thing for all these shops that sell “by the unit”; something about them brings me back to childhood memories filled with village shops of spare candies, spare soaps and spare everything, some of which were used to give change.

I have also had another of these white pudding with vinegar-like-sauce on top – it is called fereni shireh and it is my favorite Iranian dessert and dish!

Coming to the dishes, well, there is not much variety, it is either lamb kebab or beef kebab. If you are vegetarian you are going to eat eggplant stew the whole time, if you are vegetarian friendly but picky, well, you are going to survive on fereni shireh.

Today we went back to the immense Imam square and it was a lot better than yesterday, both our mood and the weather. It is said to be the second largest square in the world after Tiananmen, not sure if it is true, but it’s certainly amongst the most beautiful squares in the world. There are two mosques, one palace, the entrance to a beautiful bazar and numerous benches and lawns and fountains so you keep taking pictures because you are never sure if you also got “this shot here” and “this corner there”.

My favorite mosque, and the wow moment of the day, is the Lotfallah mosque with its modest entrance that doesn’t feed your expectations. The thing is, that once inside, you are in a dark twisted hallway, your eyes get used to the lack of light and you don’t know what to expect. Then the prayer hall opens to you with its most colorful dome and you can’t help but keep your nose up as if Michelangelo drew it. The little windows adorning the cream tiles play with the light all day long and they make sure you never see the same colors more than twice in a day.

A good patient man this morning in his bazar shop, answered all of the questions I had been collecting in my mind since we set foot in the country (well, not the ones on the hijab). He was mainly selling teas and spices but his shelves were filled with dozen of boxes, bottles and jars with playful and mysterious tags. What I found out he had: -pomegranate face soap for face cleaning, -camel oil for “old man”, -rose water for cake or drinking, -a root to smash and then sniff (no kidding) to cure headache (grounded looked like pepper), -blue flower tea that makes your tea blue indeed, -natural black color for the eyes, -henne for the hair, -hazelnut oil for the hair, -magic potion for old men and women.

Also, I finally found out what it is the black liquid they put on the rice pudding, it comes from boiling the grapes for hours and hours. I was bargaining like a pro with this guy at the bazaar selling souvenirs because I really wanted to get one of those plates for my mum but not paying more than 15 dollars for it. When he saw that I was ready to walk away without the purchase, he gave in – I got what I wanted and showed him the picture of my bowl of fereni with shireh and asked “can you buy shireh somewhere? I want to make it at home, when I am back in Berlin”. “Yes you can find it at the store that sell it to eat. They also have shireh for sale”.

We walked a 15 minutes line of shops cramped on each side of the street until we found the holy matter. I couldn’t be happier, I was over the moon and sending mental emails to friends in Berlin to have them over our house to try the Iranian dessert. A fast running scooter past us and the guy in the back seat shouts “Did you find the shireh?” “Yes I have! I got two bottles”. – it was the man from the bazar. His sincere worry made me smile.

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