Just a few kilometers from Bostan and after having the strangest chicken barbecue picnic ever, we were headed for the village of Bardieh where the Heidari family were awaiting us and we were desperately in need of a cup of tea.
Through our journey in Khuzestan we had already gotten familiar with the concept of Mozif and got to visit a few smaller ones in the Lagoon of Shadegan, but nothing like what was waiting for us in Bardieh.
Mozif is an arched shaped structure made entirely out of bamboo sticks. An always odd number of columns holds the rooftop and a doorway with no doors facing the qibla (Mecca) marks the entrance. The doorway is deliberately designed smaller so that guests would be required to bow to enter which would oblige them to honour those inside. Once in, guests are confronted with a huge room fully covered in Persian carpets and adorned with colourful cushions. Tea is being brewed in a small fireplace right in the middle of the room and the wafting aroma of bitter coffee seduces guests just as they arrive.
We were extremely excited with what our eyes were witnessing and made ourselves quickly at home while waiting for the host to join us and tell us about the heritage of Mozif.
Mozif literally means a place of celebration. They were built on roads and had a similar usage to a caravanserai. Travelers or guests would take refuge here and the holiness of the Mozif compels the host to shelter and feed them without asking anything in return for at least 3 days. Special tea and coffee ceremonies are held every 20 minutes.
Ali told all this to us while pouring the coffee into special cups, right before he warned that all of us must drink from one or two glasses as tradition goes. This would mean we are all equals in the eyes of our host. Equality sounded nice and comforting but drinking from the same cup had us exchanging strange looks! We acted cool though. Good thing there wasn’t any strangers there to share the cup. 😀
Coffee shots were served by the right hand, grabbed with the same and taken quickly without putting down. If we wanted more we would have to shake our cup and only put it down once we know we’re totally done. Putting down the cup early would mean there’s a request from the guest. Everything seemed to be coded. Drinking twice had a certain definition that the host would immediately understand and 3 cups of coffee would define we are sworn brothers in war and peace and had a certain demand, whether it be financial, regarding marriage or a family problem. The whole ceremony is supposed to be held without any conversation between visitors and the cupbearer. All requests are made through symbolic gestures and guests could go on chatting with one another without being interrupted.
Once we were done with coffee, tea came along in thin waist cups to wash down the bitterness. We went for two rounds by holding our cup to the host. Once finished, cups were to be turned on their side in the saucer from which the host would realize we were full.
But Mozif is not only about finding shelter and sipping on tea, many would come here to have their problems solved by the elder host, even if it was a case as personal as divorce. No matter the issue, both sides concerned were to compensate by all means and leave the Mozif as friends.
The background of Mozif goes way back before Islam and to the first settlers of Khuzestan. However Islam has had its influences over the structure and its rituals. Mozifs were long gone in Khuzestan and their customs had faded over time, however luckily the Heidari family decided to bring them back by constructing the Mozif almost a decade back and pampering visitors with Arab hospitality.
Today the Mozif of Bardieh is open to travelers to stay the night upon a small fee which comes with breakfast and dinner. The village of Bardieh is not that far away from Ahvaz and since there’s not much to do around it’s recommended to spend the day elsewhere and only head here after sunset.
We absolutely loved the whole experience and were overwhelmed by the hospitality of Ali and his lovely family. If any of you are looking for unique cultural experiences, than this place should definitely make it to your bucket list. 😉