Sometimes, the best stuff appears right out of nowhere and is completely unexpected. 31.10.13 is one such example. I’d made it to Garmeh, late, with few expectations. The dining area of the home stay  was full of young Iranians, (without hijabs) many of whom were keen to talk to me. We spoke for a while, before they told me about their plan to head out to the desert and sit around a fire, and I’m welcome to join. Ok. I didn’t bring my camera, partly because I wanted a rare night where i didn’t play the role of an annoying paparazzi prick, and partly because I had no idea how great the night would be. We walked and walked, before finding a couple of guys with instruments by a fire. For the next 2 hours there was music, laughter and tears. 3 guys played a set with instruments I’d never seen or heard of. The type of musicians who look like they have a deep affinity with the music they make. This wasn’t a garage band, it was something you’d happily pay good money to see. There would be moments where one person would lead the singing, then, everyone would sing. What amazed me was the quality of their singing voices. If a bunch of everyday Australians or English were sitting around a fire singing, I’d pay to leave. These were well honed singing voices, made more exotic because they were singing in Farsi. The songs, I was told,  were quite patriotic. Not the sort of patriotism that aligns itself with power, ego, or military; rather, it was the type of patriotism that aligns itself with the culture and people of their country – the only type of patriotism I could ever embrace. The lyrics were so moving, that several people were in tears as they sang. I was told some of the tears related to the attempted uprising in 2009, when the government brutally crushed those protesting the disputed reelection of Ahmadinejad. This was young, secular Iran in action – no hijabs, no sharia law, alcohol is legal here. This was one of those moments where everything feels surreal. Is it really happening? Is it a movie? Sitting by a fire in the Iranian desert, with a group of young Iranians, singing about the love of their country. A country they love so much, it brings them to tears.

It was 2:30 am before I wearily returned to my room. Waiting for me was a friend I’d been chatting to earlier. I told him all about the night, he said ‘Yeah, yeah. I’m sleeping on the end of your bed tonight. Night’.