Escapism

Jill Worrall leaves Timaru to take on the world - bringing adventure travel to your desktop

Iran: Easy like a Friday evening

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It is early evening in Tabriz, the capital of Iran's north-western province of Eastern Azerbaijan.

It is Friday, the Iranian equivalent of a late Sunday afternoon in New Zealand, so the Ilgoli Garden, one of Tabriz's favourite places to promenade is packed with locals.

It is autumn now and soon the evenings will be too cold for leisurely strolling and the drinking of tea at outdoor kiosks.

The focal point of the garden is a large square pool, in the centre of which is a two-storey pavilion adorned with decorative tilework. A short causeway connects this to the wide pavement that frames the pool.

Four fountains, illuminated with multi-coloured lights, play in the centre of the pool. Drifting in and out of the colour-splashed water are pedolos shaped like white swans.

Promenading around the pool are little girls in frilly pink party dresses, young married couples holding hands and diminutive old ladies in flowered chadors (the length of cloth that more conservative women use to cover themselves from head to foot).

The tea stalls are doing a roaring trade as are the sellers of dishes of hot broad beans.

There's an Italian-Iranian circus here too. We don't go in so I have no idea if perhaps there are Iranian trapeze artists performing in some kind of circus version of hijab (modest Islamic style clothing).

Shrieks of mock terror are emanating from the brightly lit funfair, near which a cascade tumbles down a steep hill from the upper terrace of the garden.

It is quieter up here, the garden more secluded and many of the park benches are occupied by young couples gazing into each other's eyes, hands locked together.

We stop to drink tea and people stop to ask where I come from and what do I think of Iran.

Sadly Iranians are all too aware that the image of their country portrayed in much of the western world is a far cry from their reality. When they ask what the media tells people about Iran I often find myself fudging my replies.

How do you explain to a smiling couple who are proffering you tea and pistachio nuts that back at home are people convinced Western tourists will be in deep peril in their country?

Pictured above: The Ilgoli Garden in Iran's northwest. Photo / M. Karzarj

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