Travel in the South Seas
A winter break in Hormozgan provides the traveler from Tehran with a complete change of scenery, not just because of the mild climate.
A winter break in Hormozgan provides the traveler from Tehran with a complete change of scenery, not just because of the mild climate. This region of the Persian Gulf has always been a place of passage for many merchants, navigators, conquerors, adventurers and slaves of all origins, and displays a great diversity of ethnic groups, still remarkable today.
This diversity is also observed in religious practices. While Shia mosques from the rest of Iran launch two minarets to the heavens, or even four to the largest, here the unique minaret of the many Sunni mosques reveals the majority religion, coming from the Arab countries bordering the Persian Gulf.
It is the largest trading port of Iran. Here, no giant container ships, let alone luxurious cruise ships. The transshipment is from Dubai, the large regional port, from small boats to deliver their goods in Iran. Cruise ships are limited to traditional wooden dhow - known as dhow in Persian - ferries, or small fast motor boats, autobus, which carry passengers to the gulf islands or to the Arabian Peninsula.
This day is Ashura in Iran. The Shiite minority of the city manage to organize a procession, very discreet, compared to those, grandiose, of the big cities of central Iran. In these days of religious celebration, the imposing seaside promenade fills up, in the evening, with a quiet crowd, chatting with neighbors or friends, smoking a water pipe - ghelian in Persian - or attending a t ' zieh, staging the martyrdom of Imam Hossein. We chat with a young Iranian exile in Brussels for work and returned a few days to visit his family and his young wife remained in the country. As everywhere else, here too economic exile is hard to live.
The bazaar, which stretches for two kilometers along the seashore, carries a massive amount of electrical, electronic, computer, clothing, footwear, made in China, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Korea. All these goods arrive here via Dubai, wholesaler and hub of the legal trade but also of the contraband of the Persian Gulf, difficult or impossible to eradicate in spite of the vigilance of the local authorities. Traders from all over the world supply Iran as well as South Caucasus, Central Asia, Turkey, Russia.
This village, located two hours drive east of Bandar Abbas, has a rare curiosity, its Thursday market. It sells animals, fruits, vegetables, fish, clothes. The star here is not really the merchandise, but the merchants who wear a characteristic mask of the region. Only married women wear it, to protect themselves from the attacks of the sun, we are told. Despite this mask that makes them completely impossible to identify, we must overcome their modesty to photograph them.
The island of Hormoz
At the pier of Bandar Abbas, we embark on the small landj motor we rented to two young boys who train the crew. (Small linguistic parenthesis: pier is said to be eskeleh in Persian, which has been translated by stopover in French).
After a 30-minute crossing, we land on the island of Hormoz, a little groggy by the speed and jolting, near the remains of a Portuguese fortress, completed in 1515 by Admiral Afonso de Albuquerque, who heard s to control the already coveted Strait of Hormoz, Gulf lock. The Portuguese remained 115 years on this island, until Shah Abbas I Safavid dislodged them there, in 1622, with the help of the English, his allies, to whom the Shah had allowed to install, near there, the East India Company. Meanwhile, the Portuguese had established the largest maritime power of the Persian Gulf by creating a network of counters. Since Hormoz, they controlled trade with India, the Far East, the Sultanate of Oman and all the ports of the Gulf.
This past commercial power, Hormoz is nowadays only an island of fishermen, whose kids assail us gently from our arrival to sell us some seashells, of any beauty elsewhere. Only one poor village, Hormoz, shelters these sinners, mostly of Sunni religion.
We tour the island by boat, the coast is beautiful and visited by flamingos and gulls. We stop on a deserted beach of fine sand for a swim. The bath will be short, the brides of the sea - the pretty Persian name of the jellyfish (arous-e daria'i) - having also invited to the wedding.
On the way back to Bandar Abbas, the sea police - very vigilant because of the many illicit trafficking of goods that thrive in this part of the Gulf, drugs and alcohol in particular - accost us and ask our guide details about our identity . Apparently satisfied with the guide's answers, the patrol quietly lets us continue our journey.
The next day, a large wooden katchi takes us from Bandar Abbas, accompanied by local travelers, for an hour and a half crossing, escorted by the seagulls. We cross everything that floats on the gulf, including an Iranian tanker. An Iranian tourist has the imprudence to film the military port and is immediately rebuffed by the captain of the boat. One does not joke in these sensitive areas with the secret defense.
We settle in the modest hotel Talayi, located south of the island, far from any home. Its beach is one of the most beautiful - fine sand, transparent water. It is a pleasure to walk in this limpid water, cautiously preceded by a stick to chase stingrays, armed with their formidable dart, who might have the bad idea to let themselves be stepped on, hidden in the sand.
We leave in the afternoon to visit Laft, traditional village of the north of the island, with houses ventilated by wind towers like those of the cities of the Iranian deserts. On the way, we visit the Valley of the Stars (darreh-ye setareh-ha), made of limestone rocks with crazy shapes, shaped by the wind and the rains. The whole island is covered with these amazing reliefs, which make the originality of the landscape.
After a night rocked by the sound of the waves, we leave for a more complete visit of the island. After crossing dazzling landscapes, we arrive at the famous Qeshm mangrove, djangal-e harra in Persian. We take a small motorboat on the channels crossing it, admiring the many birds in the marsh: terns, pelicans, flamingos, herons, and many others that we do not identify. The islanders say that at the time of the great migrations of spring and autumn, the birds are so numerous that they form real bushes. Numerous specimens of the remarkable mangrove tree, the harra - which gave its name to this 20-km2 water park - and named Avicennia marina by biologists - plunge their roots into salt water, absorbing water in by rejecting salt.
Before leaving the mangrove, we buy a small bottle of shark liver oil whose virtues, the seller assures us, help treat bone and cartilage problems.
We return by the tracks of the west of the island. This very little inhabited area is not equipped with roads. The violent rains of the beginning of the week have destroyed some bridges and we sometimes have to turn around to reach another track or get off the car to allow the driver to negotiate a delicate passage.
Along the sea, we meet an English cemetery lost in the middle of nowhere. The poor devils buried here were killed in a battle against the Portuguese long ago. The way back home still holds some nice surprises, including salt caves, once exploited by the islanders.
The drains of the Persian Gulf
These magnificent wooden trading vessels, the largest of which can reach from ten to thirty meters long, make sabotage in the waters of the Persian Gulf, from Madagascar to the Bay of Bengal, with, on board, crews of four to six sailors. In the past, these boats were equipped with Latin sails, long replaced by large noisy diesel engines. These dhows unload, in all ports of the Persian Gulf, tons of various goods (Hi-fi equipment, household appliances, fodder, foodstuffs, live animals, etc.) extracted mostly from the giant container ships of the port of Dubai. , located on the south shore of the Gulf.
The visit of the shipyards of Qeshm Island offers the fascinating spectacle of the different stages of manufacture of the dhows, starting from the gigantic trunks of red wood cut on the spot, to end, once assembled, with the buildings ready to take the sea, equipped all the elements of modern security and comfort. Construction techniques, while remaining traditional, do not neglect the use of power tools and good stainless brass screws for fasteners. The set, of great beauty, seems robust to any test.Magic show, with the smell of wood floating between the holds...