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Zofia Radzikowska

(Adventurer. Photographer. Storyteller)

Riding through Zagros Mountains, I noticed a nomadic camp. What should I do, I couldn’t miss such a photo opportunity! They waved to me to join them and gave me the second lunch that day (not easy to be hungry in Iran, even during Ramadan!). These two families move their camp every day by car, set the tents, prepare the meal, and wait for the men with their sheep to join them late evening. In the sign language, they asked me where I would sleep. I decided that I want to stay with them and asked if I can set the tent next to them. Of course, they agreed. Whole afternoon and evening, I was walking back and forth between the tents of two families, talking and documenting their lives.

In the evening shepherds arrived with hundreds of sheep. One guy started to smoke something. I asked what it is. “Teriak” didn’t tell me anything, I could understand that it helps for the pain. It looked harmless, the mother of the guy saw it and complained more about smoking cigarettes than Teriak. I was amused to take a few puffs of an unknown drug. Didn’t feel any effect and resigned from smoking more.

At a certain point, most of the family started to fall asleep, and the smoking shepherd started to hit on me. I felt uncomfortable and told I will go to sleep. He tried to stop me… putting his hand on my crotch out of the sudden! I immediately moved his hand away, got up, and left. Went to my tent, opened the knife, and tried to fall asleep with the pepper gas in my hand. I was mad on myself that I escaped instead of screaming at the guy and embarrassing him in front of his family. I was mad that some creepy guy can that quickly destroy such a perfect experience with a local family. Finally, I fell asleep.

When I woke up in the morning, the shepherds and the sheep were gone. I was offered breakfast and decided to enjoy them and do not let the thoughts about the abusive guy spoil any more of my time among these good people. When I got to the city, I googled “teriak.” It was opium. Still very common in Iran. Shit! Well, traveling is about collecting experiences – at least another one is “checked”!

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