viernes, 17 de marzo de 2017

More than a room with breakfast !

There are many hostels, motels, hotels, local homes open to tourists around the world and around Iran. They have their prices and it is reflected in what you get, travellers fora are the best place to look for the categorization of their services. As the Persian proverb goes; "you get as much soup you have paid for". And there is Khoonegeli! I am sure there are places similar or better than Khoonegeli perhaps not in northern Iran but I have heard there are in India, but when enquiring about your stay please bear these simple but important facts in mind;- The work is seasonal, from late November until late March there are very few visitors, perhaps just enough to feed the animals and pay for the man who looks after them. The structures being all made with wood, mud and hey (wattle and daub) require much more attention and maintenance than those made with bricks and cement. To place a misplaced roof tile which is causing a leaking roof it can cost up to 80 usd, why? Because there is simply no-one left close by to do it so the craftsman would need to come from 100km away and he would charge a full days work plus expenses. But these hand made tiles are pretty, they are hand made, they form part of the local architectural identity long lost to ugliness and chaos. The house only has two rooms and this limits the number of guests which it can accommodate, however, the garden now has a swimming pool for children which adults have also found enjoyable in the hot summer days, a 45 m yoga and meditation hall plus a swing as well as the bamboo hut for afternoon reads, tea and coffee in groups. Building more huts and increasing the number of rooms would certainly allow one to increase the number of guests at any one time and reduce the prices somewhat but this requires capital. I simply do not have capital. I live a bohemian lifestyle and am a believer in slow growth. Apart from the main house which was built in 2003 with savings from working as a doctor in London all the rest have been paid for with money earned here with hard labour, often sacrificing personal health and privacy to keep the standards as they are. As one Iranian American guest rightly put it " this is a labor of love", this may not be strictly true as the Oxford dictionary describes the phrase as I have a growing family I need to support and this is my only income but it does make a point. Finally, as someone who works hard to support a growing family I deeply appreciate that every one of our client also has to work hard and earn a living. There is no such thing as a free lunch! Thank you.

The North-South divide

Like many countries Iran has its expensive and not so expensive regions. Generally speaking the economy of Iran is dependent on oil and there is plenty of it so it tends not to be as cheap a destination as other central Asian countries. Inflation in Iran is high. Every Nowrooz many commodities rise 20% in price never to come down again. Western Mazandaran (this is where Khoonegeli is) in the north is the most expensive part of Iran outside the capital. Land prices, groceries and other amenities often surpass those in southern Europe. In contrast places like Qom and Yazd despite being large cities are among the cheapest in Iran. For those travelling north beware that these hyper-inflated prices are a direct result of two major factors. One is the proximity of Tehran, the richest, the most populated and by far the most expensive city in Iran and secondly the existance of lush green forests and the sea which most Iranians find extremely attractive as holiday destination. However, this narrow strip of land squeezed between the beautiful Alborz mountain range and the Caspian sea has a limited capacity for holiday homes. In recent years the government has been clamping down on illegal buildings but despite these holiday villas dot may mountain villages with road access. Land in these places can fetch over 100 euros per square meter. There is no shortage of buyers who push other prices like basic commodities up as a result.