Nishapur نیشابور and The Palace of Happiness شادیاخ
The former caravanserai in Nishapur houses the local library. It’s in one of the original barrel-shaped brick store rooms. It’s shut, though. The other rooms in this former travellers resting place are filled with craft shops. As we leave Nishapur the ground frost makes the dry brown fields shimmer in the low silvery sunlight. The road is pegged with coloured posters, each different, at two hundred-meter intervals. “Are these election posters?” I ask. “These are martyrs,” Ali replies. “Martyred in the war with Iraq.” “Have these posters been here since 1987?’” I ask. “Of course! They put a new one each year in case it becomes dirty.”
A shepherd is herding a flock of black sheep along a track in the level frosty land. I have not seen anything I think they could eat. The arid fields are polka dotted at regular intervals with white plastic bags that have caught on the spikier dry tufts and sticks. Their balloon forms are lit by the low sun like giant puffball mushrooms. It’s a two-hour drive to Mashad. Plastic bags all the way. We climb to higher ground into freezing fog. In the fog, busloads of workers are leaving the “Iran Car” factory from the night shift. We pass thirty or forty coaches heading back to Mashad in the fog, their curtains drawn, among the power lines and wind turbines.