To trace their roots, most Americans piece together a family tree. My own family’s point of origin on my dad’s side is spelled out plain as day in his last name. Although he was born in Tehran, his parents were born in a tiny little desert town about 30 kilometres from Esfahan. Since we were in the neighbourhood we decided to go check it out.
Driving out of Esfahan, we passed our first camels of the trip. Mook was too excited. The girl of his dreams is from camel country!! Not long after, we hit it: The majestic town of Habibabad. We drove around for a while and then into the “centre.” It was small. Most of the narrow, dusty streets were lined with old mud houses. There were a couple mosques, and every single woman in the town was wearing a chador.
I stuck out, but Mook was like a representative from some alien race who had descended from the sky in a blue VW Golf. People stared.. from a distance.
Everyone who I had talked to about my ancestral hometown said the bread they made here was really good, so we went to the first little shop we saw and bought six pieces of it. To me it looked pretty much like any other Iranian flatbread, except it had little green sprinkles of a horrible herb called shambalileh (some type of fenugreek) in it. One “piece” of bread was actually a huge slab. The shop owner folded them all up and stuck them in a black carrier bag, probably thinking WHO THE FUCK ARE THESE PEOPLE??
We walked around the centre of town and snapped a few photos of me and the bread. One brave construction worker came up and initiated conversation. We told him we were from Germany, and through a series of elaborate gestures he told us that one time he tried to go to Germany, but the police arrested him at the airport. Nice!! Several small children and their school teacher came outside to watch the exchange, but despite our best “salaam”s and waving they didn’t want to talk to us. 🙁
A few other dudes said hello and busted out their stock “Wheraryoufrom?”. When taking pictures of a cute little mosque some guys must have thought Mook really likes mosques because they directed us to the other, better mosque in town. We checked it out but decided that the ayatollah staring at us over the door made it too scary to enter.
Having been born in a proverbial mixing pot, its cool to be able to check out my roots in some far-away country. And it’s crazy to think that, just two generations ago, my family lived in elaborate mud huts in the middle of the desert.
There wasn’t much to see in town besides that, so afterwards we decided head out as far into the middle of nowhere as possible. We wanted to see camels and sand dunes, but no matter how far we drove there was no sign of either. But still, the desert is awesome.