Wake up, stretch out, take a yawn and look around. Imagine that all you can see are the soft, or sharp inclines and declines, wrapping around themselves as far as you can see. The soft silky sand dragons which are the sand dunes of Varzaneh. Ah, still my beating heart – this is some beauty you’ll be breathing in and shockingly easy to come by with the right people by your side (link to the Negaar Guesthouse FB page is here and their website page is here).
A night lying under the stars, nestled between the fall and rise of Varzaneh sand dunes. An evening spent making and eating together Chicken Kabobs (with a marinade to impress even those who have frequented the delights of Chicken Kabob in Iran). A morning huffing and puffing one’s way to the peak of a chosen dune. Sandboard in hand, Heart in belly. And the childish and shrieking glee as you hurtle down. Never fear inexperienced sand boarders! Even if you are without balance, all hands and feet – a general fleer from the thrill – this is an experience which will suit all. And after the first little tumble into the soft warm sand, you’ll be crying out for more.
I took my trip to Varzaneh last year in September. Never having slept out in the desert, nor having seen up close one of the salt lakes in Iran, a friend recommended me Varzaneh and in particular spoke highly of Mohammad.
Owner of the Negaar Guesthouse, Mohammad has made it his sole focus to promote the tourist industry in Varzaneh, recognizing the massive potential Varzaneh has for tourists – Iranian and International alike. A perfect blend of the traditional and the modern, Mohammad has created an environment and itinerary that would suit people coming with all interests (click to download the info booklet for Negaar Varzaneh Traditional Guesthouse below).
They provide historically and culturally focused tours, such as the Ghoortan Citadel Tour and the Varzaneh Town Tour. For those more interested in food then history – no problem! You can take an afternoon Persian Cuisine Cooking Class organized with a Local from Varzaneh, learning dishes such as Fesenjan and Ghormeh Sabzi (yes pleaaaase!). Responsible and rewarding travel – supporting local talent, learning from the best! What’s not to like?
Those curious about Persian traditional medicine have also struck lucky, Mohammad himself being an avid learner of traditional medicine, offers a Persian Tea Party – held either in the desert or in the guesthouse itself – a rooftop party with a healthy twist! And if health and wellbeing really get you going, then it makes sense to go for Negaar’s Health Restoring Tour.
This begins with one of the more bizarre experiences I had during my time in Iran. Well anywhere for that matter…. And fortunately for you dear readers, we did not take photos!
Step one of the Health Restoring Tour is, well, sniffing snuff. Or as Mohammad called it ‘Anfieh’. The point of this is much like that of the Neti point. Giving your nasal passages the cleansing of a lifetime. Personally, for me, it also had the added effect of reducing me to fits of giggles. Largely down to sharing the experience with a friend. Watching the wave of elusive sneezes one by one as they were threatening to break loose definitely has its humour factor. Feeling the build up yourself, before the sneezing party really gets going, is a giddy feeling, and when the sneezing comes, a strange sort of relief.
This is followed by several stages – one if which involves being taken to a local bathhouse and masseur. My masseur was a local woman, who took me to a private bathroom in her home. It is not typical, for myself at least, to enter a complete strangers personal space, where verbal communication is not the simplest mode of communication and for all intents and purposes there is little to connect you both beyond the service which is being asked for and provided. More significantly is it is not typical to feel easily comforted. We who love to travel and try new things, do so for the experience of it, and not always does that mean that we feel or felt in that moment safe or sure of ourselves. But, lying in the bathroom of my Masseur, as she scrubbed my skin, washed and combed my hair, and massaged oil into my body, I felt for a couple of hours like I was a child again. They way I’d felt when my Grandmother or Auntie would groom and pamper me. Ladies, you must try it, and go allowing yourself to hope for softness.
For nature lovers or thrill-seekers, there are opportunities to go into the Desert or the Salt Lake, both of which are not too far from the town of Varzaneh. An afternoon can easily be passed by taking a picnic out to the salt lake, watching the sunlight as it plays off of the white glistening ground before you. Mohammad too, is an energetic and engaging host and tour guide, with a substantial amount of knowledge of Varzaneh and the sites around it. And once you filled your brain with knowledge, and drank the sites in around you – well back to the sand dunes to get a bit of adrenaline going, whether on the boards or a taking the notch up on quads! If you ask, you just may well get.
But if it is just some rest, some TLC and shut eye you’re in want of, Negaar really has the feel of a small sanctuary with plenty of communal and resting space. Delicious and home-cooked Iranian cuisine available, and really warm and relaxed staff who will put you at ease. Guesthouses that feel like homes are always, in my opinion, the best places and Negaar has a homely feel to it. It is a place in which a lot of hope and love has been placed into it, a genuine desire to share Varzaneh and its offerings with others, in a responsible and respectful manner.
So, please, GO, GO, GO. Even still, when I close my eyes and think back to my time at Varzaneh, I am once more breathlessly tumbling off the sandboard, the sun shining down, sand glistening and the sound of only the breeze and raspy laughter filling my ears.
For more information about the historical and geographical feautures of Varzaneh check out this wiki page written by Mohammad.
For booking information for Negaar Traditional Guesthouse, click here