Citadel Reconstruction
BAM, Iran
February 7, 2011

Sometimes it takes me a while to parse the obvious:

Walking down the street I saw objects scattered on the pavement ahead. As I stepped closer I saw they were dates. Did somebody spill a box of dates they were bringing back from the market? No, that couldn't be. They were strewn too far along the pavement ahead. They couldn't have just spilt out.

My second thought: maybe they were there because young boys had been playing around, throwing dates at each other? That might explain why there were so many scattered all over the sidewalk.

Finally I looked up to realize the obvious. I was walking through palm trees. Date palms.

I selected the dates that looked to still be in good condition, picked them up, and brought them back to where I was staying. After rinsing them off I tried one. Sweet. Sticky. Yummy. I ate them all.

Date Palms
The main attraction in Bam is the Arg, an ancient city built of mud. Perhaps I should say the main attraction in Bam "was" the Arg, as an earthquake in 2003 demolished the town. The Arg must have been amazing. Even in its present crumbled state walking through felt like stepping into the past. Though no longer habitable, buildings still stand throughout a huge area. Exploring the site felt as if I were walking through some village in Biblical times.

There are on-going attempts at reconstructing the Arg, but I can't imagine it ever coming back to what it was before. How do you rebuild a city that was built out of mud thousands of years ago?

My mind is starting to get back into speaking Farsi. I never had more than a rudimentary street level of communication in the language even when I last left Iran. What little I can express is really broken. But a phrasebook I picked up back before crossing the border has been useful. Last night, I went out for dinner and shared a hookah pipe with another traveler staying at the same guest house, Paul. He picked up on something I hadn't: how receptive people have been to my basic attempts at the local language. "Did you see how that guy just kept on smiling as you were speaking with him!", he said. "I should try to learn a little bit of the language when I travel, too."

The best compliment came on our way back, when we stopped off at a shop just across from our guest house. Though I can't form complex sentences, it is easy for me to ask for what I want: so many words in Persian are identical to those in other languages (e.g., Uyghur, Urdu) that I'm more familiar with. "Do you have bread? Cream cheese? Raisins? Buttermilk?"

This time I did notice the smile on the woman behind the counter. When I paid and said goodbye, she bid me good night and said, "You speak Farsi very sweetly."

That made me smile, too.