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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Deep Into the Ancient Zagros Mountains of Western Iran: Baking Gerdeh in Barfejin Village

I have this childhood memory of going with my family from Hamadan to a village deep into the Zagros mountains called Emam-Zadeh-Kooh (امام زاده کوه - it means the mountain of the buried saint). There were many farms there and we bought fresh fruits and vegetables right next the fields the farmers were working on. The most vivid part of the memory is the heavenly taste of the breakfast I had at a local tea house there. The traditional honey, almost frozen kaymak (سرشیر - قیماق), and fresh hot bread. This was more than 20 years ago and I still remember it well. 

I travelled to Emam-Zadeh-Kooh in April 2014 when I visited Iran. I wanted to see the changes, see the people, see the road, and revisit those memories. Travelling is so much fun in you have great companions and I had two amazing companions in this trip. 

The road from Hamadan to Emam-Zadeh-Kooh passes through several villages. One of these villages is called Barfin or Barfejin (برفین - برفجین - meaning Snowy). The name refers to the heavy snow falls they experience during the winter. Remember that Hamadan province in Iran gets very cold (-30 degrees of Celcius) in winter. While we were passing through this village we stopped at this traditional bakery to buy bread.

The bread they make is called Gerdeh (گرده - meaning round, or the round one). It is the traditional bread of the Hamadan province. Although a bread with the same name is also baked in Hormozgan province, I am not sure if they are the same. Most Iranian breads are flat ones and this one is not an exception. The special dough is flattened and then topped with a mixture of egg yolks, aromatic herbs, and maybe some spices. Then it is attached to the inner wall of a hot Tanoor (تنور - traditional clay oven) and baked. 

I am not sure for how long this bread is being made in this area. But, "Signs of early agriculture date back as far as 9000 BC to the foothills of the Zagros Mountains", says the Wikipedia article. So I believe we are looking through a window to the past. 

People of these villages are so warm and welcoming. It is almost hard to pay them since they insist that you are being their guest and they don't want to accept money for the bread. By the way, the bread was amazing. I hope you can all taste it someday. 

There will be more photos on this subject so stay tuned. 


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