Another episode from the month I spent in Iran as a member of the American Alpine Club’s climbing exchange with the Alpine Club or Iran:
After our week at Alam Kuh, we returned to Tehran via a stop in a fruit market, where we gorged ourselves, and the village of Elika, a mountain village tucked into the twisted limestone canyons of the Central Alborz mountains below green-speckled slopes certain to brown with the advancing summer. A lead mine used to support the local economy, but it closed down many years ago. Nowadays, a few hundred people spend their summers in the area. Very few winter over in the village.
A stiff wind thrashed the poplar trees growing above the village’s decrepit wooden and adobe houses, now largely abandoned, and its more modern tin-roofed constructions. Inside the iron fence of one structure, an old man watered a garden. Nearby, a mongrel dog scratched its ear and flopped into a puddle of shade, utterly disinterested.
One of the Alpine Club of Iran members hosting our exchange was Mohammad Bahrevar, and when he was a boy, Mohammad spent his summers in the village. He was very proud of Elika, and took great delight in introducing it to us.
A superb climber, Mohammad learned to love high and wild places chasing up Elika’s local slopes. He was one of the very few city folks who could keep up with the mountain people.
Hossein Nouri, an old acquaintance of Mohammad’s father, invited us into his house for tea.
Us American climbers sprawled around the edges of Hossein’s plain, whitewashed front room. Exposed wooden beams lined the ceiling, and electric wires threaded between the beams and the roof. A small television stood in a corner. A space heater sat along another wall. A maroon curtain covered a storage alcove. In his late 50s or early 60s, with a small gray mustache, gray hair, and wearing a baseball hat, blue and white striped shirt, gray pants, and a vest for warmth, Hossein struggled to kneel with the rest of us on his worn Persian carpet. He shared tea and sweets and showed us a leather-bound prayer book more than 130 years old.
Just above the village, a small cemetery held the grave of Mohammad’s father.
The cemetery also contained the remains of Elika’s thirteen martyrs–the thirteen native sons the village lost during the Iran/Iraq War.
Iranian flags and the black flag of Imam Hossein, third Imam of Shia Islam, fluttered over their graves.