“Lets have tea on the bridge.”
I was a bit surprised at this suggestion. After all, who wants tea on a bridge? But in Isfahan it seems that just about everyone does that. I had arrived in Isfahan, one of the most famous cities on the Silk Route in Iran. In front of me was one of the most beautiful bridges I had ever seen.
The Khaju bridge was built in the 1660s during Shah Abbas’ reign. Its two tiered arched structure was magnificent, spanning the Zayandeh River. Below a series of rapids flowed through the city. But there was something else that made the Khaju Bridge so special and that was the atmosphere at tea time. Hundreds of people were on the bridge, chatting with friends, watching the water and drinking tea.
In a corner sat a group of old men brewing tea on an old gas stove. They met each other every day in the same place to exchange pleasantries and drink tea together. Sitting together, a group of veiled women stared out at the rushing water. As I sipped tea under the arches people began to approach.
A group of young boys shrieked hello and cheered when I kicked their football back to them. They asked me about football in the UK and seemed to know far more about the premier league than I did. One Manchester United supporter was also in awe of Leicester. Then a small boy came up to me surrounded by giggling ladies in abayas. “Welcome to Iran,” he smiled and the ladies beamed.I asked him his name and the subjects he liked at school, engaging him in a longer conversation. As he spoke more he increased in confidence but the ladies were thrilled. His mother recorded the episode on her phone, proud that her son could speak such good English.
It was difficult to walk across the arched bridge without being welcomed by someone or invited to tea. For me the Khaju Bridge represented more than a series of arches. It was also a bridge of friendship and hospitality between cultures. And instantly, Isfahan became one of my favourite cities.
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