Iran 1978

I learnt that the bearded stranger wasn’t married either. I asked him for help.

I have a good life to offer a wife. My father has hundreds of sheep on the border with Pakistan. I am his main shepherd and our Baluch laws say I will inherit the whole herd. Our lifestyle is simple, peaceful and we don’t take much notice of the government in Teheran. But we are also certain there’s lots of oil in the desert where we live; the prospectors tell us this. They say we will all be rich soon. A good wife needs to know this.

I sat next to the stranger on the bus from Yazd to Bam. Now, in the evening, we were in the same mosaferkhane (traveller’s hostel), in a room with 6 beds, watching a fat man from the bus pretending to himself that he was touching his toes as he did his exercises. The stranger, his lips cracked by the dry wind, had spent the day wandering the ruined city and its citadel, completely destroyed by the invading Afghan army in the 1850s.

Bam, Iran

Bam, Iran

‘Can you help?’ I asked again. He said no, no-one he knew in Europe would be likely to come and marry me. That was expected so I looked really disappointed and asked for something else. All I actually wanted was that he send me a photograph of any of his female friends so I could boast to my friends about the foreign woman I had met in Bam and who I would be sure to marry one day.