Seven years ago, a young nomad was looking for a missing sheep in the Zagros Mountain. He came across a guide and two tourists. They were lost, exhausted, and desperately needed a place to pass the night. So he took them to his parents’ tent, gave them food and drinks, and helped get them back on the right track the next day. Before they left, the guide asked the young nomad whether he would like to earn money by walking tourists around his mountains. The young nomad was curious. Could he really get paid for doing what he loved doing every day? That would be a too-good-to-be-true opportunity to miss. So he accepted the offer. Since then, he has taught himself enough English and some French that he no longer needs to rely on other guides for translation. Every now and then, he would take some tourists back to his parents’ place high up in the mountains so that they can stay overnight in a nomad’s tent, watch the most brilliant starry night, and experience a truly authentic Qashqai nomad life. From a guide assistant, he now has a thriving independent eco-tourism business, and hope to open his own agency soon.

Meet Bahman Mardanloo, the coolest tour guide that we met in Iran. When I first saw Bahman at the Parhami Traditional House in Shiraz, he looked quiet and shy. But once we hit the road to visit his fellow nomads, his true vivid personality came alive. It was not really a tour for Bahman. He was going back to his roots, simple as that. He grew up as a nomad, hence knows the people, their customs, the animals and trees, the mountains and springs. To see him respectfully asking permission from some local women to let us observe how they make herbal medicine, gently letting a baby goat suck his fingers, happily playing around with nomadic kids, or enquiring about the headache problem of our nomadic hostess were some of the most tender and heart-warming moments I had during the trip.

The nomads live very simple lives. They move around twice a year – to a higher ground in the summer, and a lower ground in the winter. Women spend their days doing the household chores, cooking, cleaning the house, making bread, butter, cheese, and yoghurt, weaving carpets, and looking after young kids. Men take their goat and sheep herds to faraway pastures. Children roam around. Ponies are their pets, rocks their tools, and mountains their playground. A water tanker delivers drinking water to them once or twice a week. The nomads rarely venture into the civilized world, unless they need to visit the hospital, or teenagers need to go to schools. Our guide Bahman now lives in Shiraz. He knows the best place for saffron and pistachio ice cream, the coolest shisha den, and the most beautiful restaurant in town. But I could see how his face lit up and his smiles brightened when he was back in nature. Even just talking about the nomad life brought out so much passion and joy in his voice. A nomad he will remain for life, in love with remote pastures and wild mountains.

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Parhami Traditional House in Shiraz

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Driving out of Shiraz

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This mountain range looks like a dinosaur’s back

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A dry river bed

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These 2 nomadic women were grinding herbs by rolling a rock back and forth

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The grounded herbs would be used as medicine

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Nomadic women often wear very colorful clothes

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Another woman cleaned up the grains by dropping them against the wind

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Reaching the nomads

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Our hostess

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Traditional way of making cheese and yogurt

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Our hostess’s twins and nephew (middle)

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Her youngest son, an adorable and shy 4-year old boy

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The family’s goats

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Tents made of horsehair

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This ponny is the boys’ pets

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This boy is the cheekiest among the three

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The most serious one 🙂

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Our tour guide – Bahman -let a baby goat sucking his finger

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A super cute baby goat

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Tea provided by our hostess

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Our hostess cooking rice for lunch

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Milk rice

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This young boy was so shy, he hid behind closed doors. It took me a long time to get some snap shots of him.

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The little boy playing with our tour guide

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A water container made of goat skin

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There are 3 other nomadic families living nearby

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Unlike our hostess, this woman did not like being taken photograph os

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The boys found an empty plastic bottle to practice shooting their toy gun

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The girls just sit and watched

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Bahman tried the toy gun

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A nomad taking care of his herds

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Leaving the nomads

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On the way to Qalat village

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Colorful hills

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Approaching Qalat village

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We went to a shisha (water pipe) den

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A portable compact speaker

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Bahman was so good at this

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We ended the day with dinner and tea at a local restaurant in Shiraz

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