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KASHAN

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Nipple shaped roofs, Kashan, Iran

In some aspects, Kashan is one of the most beautiful places I visited in Iran. It's conservative. The streets are filled with women dressed in black and men who think it's alright to harass western women. They teach their sons that it's normal to chase them through narrow streets and throw stones at me. I manage to escape to the safety of a hostel. Fortunately, I meet other travellers there. In Kashan, the tourism industry isn't as present as in other cities in Iran. A lot of times it feels as if I'm discovering this place on my terms. Some moments are wonderful. I'm fortunate to explore old and empty historic houses. Some are furnished, but the most beautiful are empty. The exquisite frescoes and murals give the familiar forms a unique look. I could live in a house like this. It would have to be empty, Steve Jobs style. Furniture always seems just a little bit too much, too pompous.

From the street, these desert city houses look all the same. But behind the sandy yellow walls that line the streets, hide large and small houses. Sometimes they go down three floors into the earth. Some are made of a number of rooms, arranged around a small courtyard, or two. Almost always there is a little water fountain in the middle. The old water systems are still functional. Everywhere in the city, you can see stairs leading deep into the earth. Some of them point to an underground city, which protected the inhabitants centuries ago, others lead to water towers that go deep into the ground and collect the rain and morning dew water from the desert. It's one of the places that are ripe with stories.

With a male escort, I explore one of the many historical hammams and enjoy the sunset on the rooftop. The roof is shaped like breasts with over dimensional nipples. The view over the city is beautiful, and despite the satellite dishes (which are officially banned in Iran) that break the timelessness of that picture, it remains one of the most beautiful moments on my journey. It's quiet looking over the city far from its inhabitants. The foto is not half as pretty as reality.

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