Iran

The Camp in the Clouds

Writer

Brownbook Staff

Photographer

Shiva Araghi

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How did you end up in Jangal-e Abr?
This trip was the first and last time I’ve been to Jangal-e Abr. My friend called and invited me to go camping. She told me that she was going with her brother and that she had no idea what it would be like. The only thing she said was to take warm clothes and to not forget my sleeping bag. Her brother, Ali, had heard about Jangal-e Abr from his friends and decided to go. The rest of us just followed his lead, really. I didn’t even bother to ask where it was.

How did you get there?
It took us about seven or eight hours to get there from Tehran. We took two cars – a Peugeot 206 and a Mazda. It didn’t occur to us that ‘off-road’ camping might require an off-road car. The humidity made the ground muddy and, at the end of the trip, the cars sank and got stuck. We all had to go around the back and push.
We got muddy from head to toe.

Is camping popular in Iran?
Absolutely. Unfortunately I don’t think that it’s for the sake of camping itself, though, but more because of the freedom that the place allows. When you go camping off-road, you seem to have more freedom. Because there’s only you, you can listen to music loudly, you can dance freely, you can wear as you wish.

What are your lasting impressions of your Jangal-e Abr trip?
All I can remember is its coldness and greenness. It’s like heaven on earth – so green, so fresh and unbelievably dreamy. Although it’s so beautiful and all, it doesn’t feel like you can trust it or feel safe. With all of the clouds and fog and the bare or isolated trees, the landscape looks creepy.

It must have been scary to spend the night there?
It wasn’t that long after the boys started to set up the tents and build the campfire that a local man came by to warn us about the area and spending the night in it. He said it wasn’t safe at all, that there were wild animals and bandits.

That sounds like the beginning of a horror film.
We were so lucky that he actually turned out to be very kind. He invited us to stay in his cabin for the night, gave us homemade bread and let us sit by his fireplace. Thinking back, I realise how immature and thoughtless we were. The door was not even attached – we had to lift it up and away to open it. Anything could have happened to us, if you think about it. Even worse was the fact that we were surrounded by wolves, or something making a similar sound.

How did you take your mind off it?
Ali made pasta on the campfire for dinner that night. We played cards and smoked some shisha.

What was it about the landscape that appeals to the photographer in you?
Because of the moving clouds, you can get hundreds and thousands of different photos from the very same spot. There is something about that place. Or at least I thought so. It was as mysterious as it was picturesque.

Do you feel people outside of Iran have misconceptions about the landscapes there?
I don’t think so. With the Internet, I don’t think people have misconceptions about landscapes anywhere really. Technology has eased everything; if I can Google anywhere in the world from Iran, then people outside must be able to.

Do you have a favourite image from the series?
A picture that I took at the very beginning of the trip. I saw a guy who was somehow holding a goat in a bag on the back of his motorcycle, like a pet. The goat looked very at ease with the situation. You don’t see that kind of thing in Tehran. For some reason, that picture is still my favourite of the series. I love capturing unrepeatable moments and keeping them forever.

This article appears in the issue43Buy Now