The charismatic and very genuine Mohammad Jaleli started fishing overland cyclists off the highway when he was 19, offering them a (somewhat cracked) roof to sleep under in the tiny desert community of Toudeshk Cho. Over eight years, his reputation has grown, and he has now given over a thousand travellers the opportunity to have a real Iranian desert experience. Mohammad founded Silk Road NGO, a charity aiming to preserve the traditional aspects of village life. Despite not being a museum girl, I found Mohammad's tour of the village fascinating - from safe water storage and land irrigation to keeping camels in and cats out, everything to sustain the village has been carefully thought of, and the same systems have existed for generations. An evening trip to the 'moving sands' - wind blasted dunes was stunningly beautiful, and eating with his family in an oasis at the bottom of a mountain we had just scrambled up hugely exciting as it involved spaghetti, rather than the Iranian staple of kebab! Despite being one of so many visitors, I was welcomed by everyone I met as if I was the first foreigner to venture into the village, which I was enormously touched by.
The village is conveniently located on the main highway between touristy Esfahan and Yazd in central Iran - it's very easy to reach, just hop off any bus on that road.
Mohammad charges a phenomenally reasonable $15 USD per night including food, and an extra $15 for the trip to moving sands, 65Km from Toudeshk. Catering largely, but not exclusively, for the backpacker community, he bases his rates on their budget travel, but will quietly accept donations towards his NGO retaining heritage in Toudeshk. He can be contacted by emailing email@example.com or phoning +98 913 9165 752 or +98 913 3654 420. You should secure a visa before making firm travel plans, which is harder for British and American nationals, and read your country’s Foreign Office travel advice.
Google map: bit.ly/i7m9se
Send your feedback or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org