Madi Jahangir *– After visiting the picturesque town of Masouleh, we headed to touristic Bandar Anzali on the Caspian sea. Anzali is a free trade zone harbour town close to Rasht, capital of Gilan province. We arrived at the cloudy Anzali late in the evening. While the sun was not still down, the sky was gloomy and dark.
We walked along the famous harbour promenade and not much of our surprise, It was heavily raining in there. Anzali has the most humid climate of any city in Iran with heavy autumn and early winter rainfalls. It does not snow there like the rest of the province, but the humidity rises up high to a point that clothes would naturally get wet even when it is not raining. Despite the rainfall, the locals who are used to the climate, were walking in the promenade, were riding bicycles or were just sitting on the stone benches watching the ships and the boats roaming in the muddy lagoon. Anzali lagoon is famous for the boat trips. In some places in lagoon beautiful water lily blossoms in certain times of the year. The lagoon is also home to many migrant birds.
People in Anzali are of Gilak origin. They speak Gilaki as a maternal language and Persian as official language. Unlike the impression that the cloudy sky gives the visitors, this small harbor town has been quite significant in the contemporary history of Iran. I heard that they call Tabriz as the city of firsts. But Bandar Anzali also holds the title. Bandar Anzali has had the first municipality of Iran, even before that of Tehran or other big cities. It was the doorway to Europe and being always an important trade route, brought so much prosperity for the city. Bandar Anzali was also the first city in Iran that was lighten up by electric lamps.
Some of other achievements are the foundation of Iran’s first female high school and being among the firsts to enjoy communicating through telephone line. Bandar Anzali is an example of religious harmony in Iran. Muslims and Armenians have lived in the city for long time side by side with a relation based on friendship, corporation and mutual respect. Anzali’s Armenian church and Cemetery are considered as the historical places in the city. As the most important seaport in the north of Iran, it was also the place where the Polish Anders Army landed on April, 1942, after evacuating from the USSR. The Polish Cemetery is the memorial of those years under occupation.
Bandar Anzali has never been a capital of Iran, but it has made a worldly record still. The gloomy harbor town is known to be the world’s capital of the precious caviar. The preparation and marketing of the so-called golden eggs are handled through the Iranian Fishing company and under the control of the ministry of Finance.
The caviar market is banned for the common people, however, it is very typical to see anglers lined up on any side of harbour while are very carefully holding their fishing tackle, silently watching any movement of the hook in the hope to hunt some fish. I remember when i was a child, i had tried to learn fishing with a tackle at Anzali harbor. But it needs so much patience beyond that of the children’s tolerance. For that matter, We were never successful in our hunting experiments, but there are some fishermen in Anzali that count on the income of fishing to pay the life of their family. Of course not those who are holding their tackles in their spare time, but others who go for hunting by the small fishing boats and triangle nets. They show up more during the rain, because, referring to the Iranian proverb, the muddy water is best to fish.
* Madi Jahangir is editor at Dream of Iran