Tell most of your friends and family that you’re heading for Iran and an awkward cringe will be drawn across their face. Tell most Iranian city dwellers that you’re destined for Kurdistan, and they’ll make neck-slitting actions accompanied by sound effects. I, on the other hand, had somewhere, somehow, once heard the contrary. That the Kurds were incredibly friendly and hospitable people, which was enough of an incentive to add it to my itinerary.
After a long day’s travel to get to Kurdistan’s capital Sanandaj, I hired a taxi with a charismatic driver named Ali. I told him that I wanted to go to Howraman-at Takht. A small town wedged between the mountainous ranges separating Iran and Iraq. We set off along thin hairpin roads and chatted in a mix of both broken English and Farsi. Between offering me pumpkin seeds and apples to snack on, Ali continually questioning me about where I planned to stay, as to his best knowledge there were no hotels. Every time he asked I would reply ’family’. He understood this as ‘I have family in Howraman-at Takht,’ where as I was actually hoping he would help me find one to stay with.
After close to 4 hours on the road, Ali dropped his speed and pointed ahead saying ‘Howraman’. I in return pointed to him, and made the following hand gestures and actions ‘you…talk…Howraman…family,’ and finished with my head resting on my hands to signify ‘sleep.’ He said some Farsi words, kept smiling and nodding. We had in someway learnt to understand each other from our time spent together in the car.
Night was falling and people had retreated back to their homes. Ali had rolled down his car window and was doing his best to recruit me a home to sleep in. At one of the last houses before the village ended, Ali managed to get a woman’s attention and propositioned her with a foreigner and a backpack. She peered into the taxi and got a good look at my face, while I was doing the same, checking if this was the face of a woman I could trust. We both instantly came to a mutual unspoken agreement and before I knew it I was whisked inside her house to meet the rest of her family and acquaint myself with the Kurdish of Howraman-at Takht.