More than anything, this article would be me paying my debt to this magnificent and yet humble city. I only spent three days there. But when you pack and hitchhike your journey through, 3 days could count for a lifetime.
I wasn’t alone. But we were two girls all alone in a city we had never been to. Looking different than the locals with two large cyan backpacks on our shoulders may put your grads up. But not in Bushehr, No!
Have you seen the mesmerizing blue Persian Gulf? How could that clarity not brighten up the locals’ attitude? How could that dazzling sun not warm up their souls as to welcome you wherever you step into, to give you directions, to pick you up and take you to places, free of charge. Give them a place to sleep when they know you are backpackers. All these came to my mind as we were hitchhiking our way back from Bushehr to Borazjan, then to Kazerun, and finally to my hometown, Shiraz.
Generally, Bushehr has a 707 km sea border with the Persian Gulf. This ancient land dates back to the Elamite ages and Mesopotamian civilization. It is also mentioned in the ancient documents of Susa.
Bushehr is called the strategic capital of Iran due to its rich oil and gas resources, abundant groves (Palm trees), and the existence of a nuclear power plant. Exports and imports by sea as well as fisheries are very prosperous in Bushehr.
The allocation of 34000 hectares to palm produces the best Kharak (unripped dates), Rotab (one step before becoming riped dates), and dates. Bushehr is the second-largest producer of dates in Iran after Jiroft and Kahnooj. Dates are the best souvenir you could take with you.
The people of Bushehr are very warm-hearted, sincere, lively, and hospitable, so much as it could blow your mind away.
However, these people have been through such rough times in contemporary history.
The story goes like this, due to the prosperity and special position of Bushehr, the first representatives of commercial companies and consulates of foreign governments, like Britain, Germany, and Russia, and the Ottoman Empire were established in this city.
So they start a hidden battle to win over the advantages of this portal city. Bushehr was twice occupied by the British forces.
Here’s a chance to introduce you to one of the most popular figures of Bushehr. He is also a national hero, still being mentioned by love and respect.
Ra’is Ali Delvari born in 1882 and killed in 1915, was a constitutionalist fighter and leader of the southern uprising in Tangestan and Bushehr against British forces during World War I.
At the age of 24, Delvari became one of the pioneers of constitutionalism in southern Iran. He started his work by getting close with revolutionary circles and constitutionalists in Bushehr, Tangestan, and Dashti.
By that time British colonialism had a widespread presence in the Persian Gulf. Delvari was the main figure to start the Southern Uprising. Tangestan’s uprising lasted for seven years under his leadership.
It was then that the brave people of Tangestan pursued three main goals; protecting Bushehr, Dashtestan, and Tangestan as their residential area, preventing foreign forces to march inside Iran’s borders, and maintain the independence of their homeland.
Usually, the worst enemy is the enemy within, thereby, these brave men and women from Bushehr and Tangestan had to fight two fronts. One with the forces of Britain and a foreigner who had no right to the national sources of Iran. The second, unfortunately with the tyrannical reign of Mohammad Ali Shah Qajar, the narrow-minded King of Iran.
As Delvari led them, the constitutionalists first ousted Bushehr from the Qajar officials. Hence, they took control over Bushehr for about 9 months.
At the beginning of the World War, Iran announced its neutrality. Ignoring this statement completely, Russian forces from the north and British forces from the south violated Iran’s independence.
Regardless of Iran’s diplomatic decision, these two nations attacked Iran. British warships anchored in Bushehr’s port and occupied the port in 1915. Slowly, they marched to occupy the whole city and the surrounding coastal areas.
Only one day after the occupation of Bushehr, noble citizens of Bushehr protested against this occupation. They were not armed, therefore they were mostly arrested and deported to India.
Ra’is Ali Delvari and his friends announced their readiness to defend Bushehr and prevent British forces to enter the city.
While British forces were planning to take over Bushehr, the first thought of Delvar. Delvar was Ra’is Ali’s birth land, so if he were to be defeated there, he would lose face and his influence over the people.
British forces had raided Delvar several times before, but they had tasted defeat in the area as well. Ra’is Ali Delvari, having stronger motivations to preserve Delvar, knew that even a small group of fighters could defeat a well-trained army, once they have been properly directed. 4 ounces could move a mountain!
The uprising of Delvar against the occupiers began and the British invading forces, which numbered about five thousand, were captured by Delvar and Tangestan fighters, and many British forces were killed.
The victorious guerrilla operation of Ra’is Ali heartened other Tangestan and Delvari fighters to join him. By the summer of 1915, he led a successful operation against the British Navy. The British were forced to send reinforcements from Iraq and India to Bushehr and bombed Delvar heavily.
When British officials made a firm decision to occupy Bushehr and advance on Shiraz, they sent their representatives to negotiate with Ra’is Ali and offered him 40000 pounds to withdraw his men. He replied, “How could I ever accept something that would jeopardize my country’s unity and independence?”
Then British officials threatened him that if he continues his uprising then he’d find himself in war with Great Britain. This meant that Delvari fighter’s houses will be indeed destroyed and their palm trees will be cut down.
Ra’is Ali wrote in response to the British officials that “Our house is a mountain and its destruction is beyond the power of your so-called Great Britain. If you start a war, we will resist, and we will fight back till there is still blood in our veins.”
With his hard efforts and battle strategies, the war started. British forces and their allied Khans could not defeat Ra’is Ali and his allies.
When the old fox can’t win an honest fight, he plots. Ra’is Ali was shot in the back by Gholam Hossein Tangaki, an infiltrating agent of the British forces in 1915.
Fight for the right cause, if you are killed, the cause will keep you immortal, bulletproof and, honorable. Bushehr, Delvar, and Tangestan owe much of its integrity to Ra’is Ali and his cause as well as all Iran.
Museum of Ali Delvari
The house and museum of Ra’is Ali Delvari are located in the city of Delvar, Tangestan. Delvar means brave and courageous.
The building of the museum goes back to the Qajar period. In this museum, there are documents of Ra’is Ali’s battles with British forces in chronological order. Also, the weapons and equipment of Ra’is Ali and his associates are displayed there.
Let’s get back to Bushehr. Bushehr has a rich culture with few historical sites to visit. But, regardless of the number of these sites, they present Bushehr so well. There are numerous intangible heritages though. Like the food they represent, or their style of music and instrument, their high skill of shipbuilding, mourning ceremonies in Ashura, and Bushehr’s old town texture.
Once upon a time, the main occupations of the people of Bushehr were fishing and building launches. To be entertained and the marine crew started to sing. They had a special accent and added that to the tune and so, the Bushehri tune was born.
Bushehr has a special ceremony called “Khayyam-Khani” or Khayyam recitation in English. Long ago it was only to be for men, but then they opened its circle and welcomed women too.
It is not all about Khayyam’s quartets. Many folklore songs and chants could be heard as the singer sings and locals answer him.
Bushehr’s Khayyam-Khani goes on with musical instruments like folklore flute, percussion, and a pair of reeds.
It is one of the oldest handicrafts in Bushehr, which dates back to the Afsharid period. As Nader Shah was the first to give Bushehr a portal city’s identity, he also established the first workshops of shipbuilding. Those small workshops have now turned into huge companies but they still work with their hands.
“Geregur” is a type of fishnet that is made of galvanized metal and causes the least damage to the fish. Bushehr is one of the important centers for weaving Geregur. This specific type of net is waved in the shape of a hemisphere.
Bushehr’s Gabbeh and kilims are worldly famous thereby, exported. Weaving these sorts of underlays is common in most rural and even urban areas. In Bushehr, Kilims are weaved in winter when they collect the sheep’s wool.
Bushehr gives you the best Tahini, which is a condiment made from toasted ground hulled sesame. It is better to take Tahini with dates and honey. It is rich in antacids and saturated fats.
This one is hard. There is no English translation for it “Qaliye-Mahi” is a famous and very delicious Khoresh (Persian term for stew). Qaliye means chopped-up meat and Mahi means fish. To sum it up it’s a stew, with chopped up fish and vegetables such as garlic, coriander, fenugreek, onions, tamarinds, and spices (salt, black pepper, turmeric). Instead of fish, some use Shrimps as well.
Bushehr’s Old Mansions
Dehdashti Mansion; the Medical Museum: Haj Gholam Hossein Dehdashti an oil merchant built this mansion. It is a very unique building in Bushehr when it comes to architecture. It may look like two separate mansions but they are connected through a corridor built at a height. Inside one, you will find yourself in a courtyard surrounded by tall walls with many windows. Some modern artists now use it as a modern art center.
The other building, however, is much more fascinating. It has a great dome with mirror works and sash windows. This building is now dedicated to the medical history of Bushehr.
Bushehr Medical Museum has a good position in the field of medical heritage in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean region. This city has provided an active, dynamic, and motivating environment for teaching and researches the medical history of the Persian Gulf. Bushehr also has created an atmosphere based on the principles of social harmony and convergence.
Based on such records, a museum was needed to exhibit this background. Bushehr’s medical museum started to collect, preserve, display, and make available and retell the medical heritage of the Persian Gulf to a diverse range of visitors and researchers.
Overall, this museum displays medical instruments, prescriptions, drugs, and methods of treatment from far ago till the contemporary time. In addition to that, they have dedicated a section to those who were famous doctors or nurses.
NOTE: do not forget to look at the mansion while you are roaming through the medical history.
The Mansion of Haj-Rais: This mansion is now a café. Haj Abdul Rasool Talebi, AKA as “Haj Rais”, was one of the most famous merchants of Bushehr. His mansion was built under the monarchy of the Qajars. The complex consists of nine interconnected courtyards, four of which are left unattended.
Café Kohan: Yet another mansion turned into a really beautiful café. This is where you could attend the Khayyam-Khani ceremony. It has a waiting list so you have to book your seats in advance. The back-alleys which lead to this café are wonderfully charming.
Malek Mansion: well fort thing’s first. There is no way to enter this magnificent mansion with peace or through ticket stands. You have to go around the barbed wire to find a hole and then pay someone some money and pretend to be a reporter or a tourist. Its inhabitants are Iran and Iraq war-torn refugees.
Once they realize your intention and how humble and friendly you are, let well let you into the secrets of the forsaken mansion.
A two-story building with an area of approximately 24500 square meters. Mohammad Mehdi Malek hired French architectures to design his place for him. He was, perhaps, the richest merchants in all of Iran. Its current residences tell funny stories like once Reza Shah (or a military official from the British army) was passing by and Malek made a fire for him out of his cash! Just to say how rich he was and later, this got him into trouble. Some say his property was confiscated in favor of the king. Some say he went bankrupt and the British forces jumped into the occasion and purchased the mansion for a low price.
The Old Texture of Bushehr
Now here’s where our real journey began. After taking our time in Malek’s mansion we founded a narrow ally and embarked upon it. Bushehr has several old neighborhoods. All with narrow alleys but covered, mostly, with colorful ivies. They all lead to central parts of Bushehr.
What separates Bushehr or most of the southern cities from other cities in Iran is the external decoration of the houses. The external walls are often white so that heat and humidity do not harm the materials used to build the house.
On the other hand, most of these walls are covered with bougainvillea. In spring, when the flowers of bougainvillea bloom, they create a dreamy scene with the white background of the walls.
These old back alleys are often full of strange and beautiful workshops. Carpentry workshops for making ship equipment, workshops for making musical instruments, weaving southern clothes, and full of subjects for photography. The things that are found in these neighborhoods are special and so singular. It’s worth the long walk.
Last but not least, the outstanding and unexpected beauty is only offered by the Persian Gulf. Bushehr is a peninsula. Wherever you turn you see that blinking blue inviting you to put yourself in the way of beauty and watch its splendor sunset and sunrises. Get a boat and wander in the infinite blue, find Jonathan Livingston Seagull and ask him about that wonderful place beyond.
Find peace as the Persian Gulf, Bushehr, and the southern air is all about that.