Stories in this Iran Travel Series:
Iran Road Tour: Tehran to Mashhad via the Caspian Coast
- Our Iran road trip is really an Escape
- How to plan a road tour of Iran
- Touring Iran’s countryside: Our first night
- Iran Road Tour: Mt. Damāvand’s first sighting Escaping from Tehran keeps paying off
- Iran road travel: Tehran to Caspian Sea trip
- Iran Caspian Trip: Journey into the clouds
- Touring Iran’s Caspian Region: Filband
- North Iran Tour: Fantastic local food
- Waking in a traditional Iranian village home
- Tour of Caspian Coast: City of Sari
- Mobster turned Moslem servant
- Camping in Iran: Alendan of Mazandaran
- Badab Soort hot springs of north Iran
- Our Iran Road Trip > Meeting a shepherd
The first sight of the snow-covered Mt. Damāvand on our second day of our Iran road tour was so unexpected that I simply slammed on the breaks.
The “bride” – Persians’ honorific for Damāvand because it looks like a bride spreading its white dress – appeared right after a hard turn on the twisty desolate road we took to get back on Haraz Road and resume our carefree Tehran to Mashhad itinerary.
Photography on an Iran road tour
Even if you’re an armature photographer, it’s hard to tour rural Iran without stopping to take pics. The country is mountainous – contrary to the stereotypes. Therefore, you’re often flanked by highlands on one side or another or both.
I used to haul a lot of equipment – SLR cameras and tripods – on my road trips. Not anymore. The cameras in mobile phones have improved tremendously. And it’s easier to photograph the people in Iran when using phones. Less intrusive.
Energized by the cold and fresh country air, I go around a bend hunting for pictures of the valley on my left.
Around another bend, I photograph this scene:
The thrill of the first glance of Mt. Damāvand
And suddenly “the bride” pops up on my right, a gorgeous white arrow striking the clear blue sky.
Both wife Saeideh and I let out loud expressions of awe as I involuntarily slam on the brakes.
Saeideh jumps out.
“I’m going on a run. Catch up with me later,” she says.
And she began running down the road, more or less toward her “bride”.
The significance of Mt. Damāvand in the Persian / Iranian psyche
This is what Damāvand does to the Iranian heart.
To start with, most of the time, the 5,671-meter near-dormant volcano is hiding in clouds or its own occasional eruptions of phosphorus fumes. So seeing it so naked against the clear blue sky is a rare treat.
Its height and heft and near perfect cone shape are mesmerizing. Damāvand is the12th most prominent peak in the world and the second most prominent in Asia after Mount Everest (at least according to the Iranians who wrote the mountain’s wikipedia page).
But Damāvand’s effect on the Persian psyche also comes from its place in the Iranian history and mythology.
It is the symbol of Iranian resistance against despotism and foreign rule in Persian poetry and literature. It makes multiple appearances in pre-Islamic mythology and, post Islam, it’s a character in the Ferdowsi’s 1000-year-old Shahnameh, which gives the mountains magical powers.
Seeing Mt. Damāvand on the road to the Caspian Region of Iran
I never tire of looking for Damāvand when I drive north from Tehran. Between managing my way through the insane driving on Haraz Road, I wait and wait for its appearance. The first I time I see it, invariably I let out a little yell, alerting everyone else traveling with me. And then almost immediately I miss the bride as I go around a bend and lose sight of its majesty. And so I drive I impatiently waiting for its next appearance.
It plays the same hide and seek on everyone driving toward it.
Maybe that’s part of the reason Haraz Road is so darn dangerous!
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