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An Iranian Beach Holiday
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Tehran is a teeming, modern city of nearly 10 million people and it's location at the northern edge of the Central Iranian Plateau, where the desert meets the Alborz mountains, lends itself to hot, dry summers. When the season hits and its residents need an escape, the roads north fill with cars headed for the beach resorts of the Caspian Sea.
Across the mountains from Tehran lies semi-tropical Mazanderan province, an expanse of forested mountains culminating in a thin strip of flat, verdant Caspian seashore. Originally a patchwork of small villages, the region has since the 1970's become a major draw for the burgeoning domestic tourist market of over 70 million. Vacationers mostly flock to holiday villages and hotels lined up along the water, and various theme parks have been built further inland to cater to them. The photo below is shot from a gondola as it ascends hundreds of meters up the Alborz mountains bordering the coast.
Half of the appeal of Mazanderan as a getaway, however, is the trip itself. A few routes exist, but most of them are small, windy roads marked frequently by small cafes and villages. One road passes alongside Fasham, a major ski resort about an hour north of Tehran. Driving above the resort in summer is an impressive site.
On a parallel road further East, meanwhile, among the numerous rest stops is an imamzadeh, or a shrine located alongside the grave of a relative of the Prophet Muhammad (of which there are thousands scattered across the country). Many travelers set up camp inside these mosques, eating meals or sometimes using their spacious halls as lodging. [Barely visible] tents fill the gaps between the columns in the picture below.
Further along, Mount Damavand, the Middle East's largest mountain, comes into view, framed by small villages of traditional red-rooved mazanderani traditional architecture.
Finally, after passing through these hills and valleys for about 3 hours, the landscape dramatically changes and green envelopes the hills...
Unfortunately, the pleasant villages and cafes here become strips of development geared towards tourists, trying their utmost to ruin the landscape with the allure of kabob and hooka.
The Caspian seashore has similarly become inundated with development catering towards tourists. Here, a few kilometers east of what used to be Iran's first Hyatt resort (pre-1979), sits Namak Abrud, a large planned town of villas & towers surrounding a small theme park and restaurant complex, within walking distance from the shore.
In other places, towers are going up along the beach to attract foreign tourists to Mazanderan's beaches. In particular, Arabs from Bahrain and other Gulf countries are targeted, as many already have winter houses in the area and are generally attracted to the air of conservative, family-friendly fun that pervades the atmosphere in the area's resort towns.
Among these towers, locals sell souvenirs, ice cream, and other refreshments to tourists out late night joy rides on the area's main highway. These guys sell nuts late into the night, across the road from two of the aforementioned towers.
Despite the overdevelopment, the north remains a very attractive holiday proposition for Tehranis, buffeted as they are by the urban problems of the capital as well as the political pressures exerted upon the country as a whole.
Unfortunately, all holidays must end at some point...
This article has been viewed 9901 times in the last 3 years
Franny Wentzel: 22nd Dec 2011 - 02:33 GMT
Wouldn't it be nice if they could create a resort village for all the High Priests, Ministers, Mullahs, Dear Leaders, Eurocrats, Generalissimos and El Presidentés of the world and lock them up there so the rest of the world can carry on without them in peace?
Something like this...
Mind you, we'd feed them television images and computer data to give them the illusion of still being in power but the world would, in reality, be run by some benevolent computer programme - I'm thinking some cheap Casio personal organiser from the mid-90s could do the job with a fair amount of competence.
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