Sanandaj, the capital of the Iranian Kurdistan


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When we finally managed to solve the first part of the Indian Visa in Tehran we decided to leave the city and discover a part of Iranian Kurdistan before having to go back to the madness to finish the paperwork.

We took a “VIP” bus to Sanandaj that has nothing to envy to European buses at a pretty ridiculous price (all details at the end of the post). The reclining armchairs and breakfast included on the ticket made the trip something much more enjoyable (we sleep 90 % of the way). It’s funny because when you say you travel to Iran many people think (as always) that people live on the trees but then you can see for yourself that the quality of some services exceeds by far that image.

We left Tehran at midnight and arrived at Sanandaj at 7 am. Kia, a friend of Sarvin, another girl we met fortuitously thanks to Couchsurfing in Tehran, was waiting for us in the city. Samara, his mother, received us with open arms in his house and served us a second breakfast in an open space covered with carpets of thousand colours.

Kia and his mother barely speak any English, and when I say barely I should say nothing. With the help of google translate, the universal language of hands and big siles we had a sort of a conversation. Kia is 22 years old, is an architect and in a few months he has to go to the army. In Iran the army is not a mandatory service but it is rather a weapon of blackmailing youngsters since without it you have no right to a passport, so it is not possible to leave the country without having gone through the hoop. Many young people with whom we speak do not want to do it for fear of the strong brainwashing that they would suffer for two years, also because during those two years they do not receive any income whatsoever.

Speaking at full speed, no matter if we understood him or not, Kia took us all over Sanandaj from one side to another, we walked through the market, we visited the museum of Kurdish history and entered the mosque of the city, in addition to visiting some unknown corners even closed to the public that if it wasn’t for him it would have been impossible.

After an afternoon of walk and laughter, we went back home and met the rest of the family (if there is something you must know if you travel to Iran is that there is always time to meet the family,  the whole family). When we told them our plans to hitchhike the area the first thing they tried was to get us a taxi and make our plans for us (the typical Iranian style we were already meeting). After negotiating of about 30 minutes we managed to convince them that we could make it without problems and that camping was not the end of the world, even more, we show them all our luggage so they would be sure we were prepared (while we were laughing  about the absurdity of the situation)

At night Chia, his older brother, ended up “adopting us” at his place, not before visiting Rogi’s family (his wife) where they would offer us the best (and the only) homemade wine that we have ever tried. Her father is a wine master who for 39 years has managed to provide the family of alcohol, a forbidden thing in the country.

That night was one of the first nights that disturbed me. After the wine I learned to dance in Kurdish style thanks to two beautiful girls. That same night I listened to first-hand stories of struggle, resistance and oppression that brought me to bed with tears in my eyes. The road to Iran had just begun and I was already losing it. (and complaining or thinking about it did nothing but worsen the situation).

How to reach Sanandaj from Tehran

Take a night VIP bus from Azadi terminal, metro stop, yellow line Meydan-E-Azadi

Price: 350.000 to 400.000 Rs per person
Duration: 6-7 hours approx

The non-VIP bus would be about 100.000 Rs less, but with no doubt, if you travel at night the VIP bus is a luxury for little more.

What to see in Sanandaj?

The Abidar park
The Central Market
The Kurdish museum: Khan-e-Kord (80.000 Rs ticket)
Sanandaj Museum
Hajar Khatoun Mosque
Qeshlaq Bridge
Clim to Abider top


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