Your Holiday Romance

Marianne Cukor found things weren't going too well with her boyfriend in the Middle East...
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The Independent Travel
A few years ago I went back-packing around the Middle East with my boy-friend; our route was due to take us around Turkey, Syria and Iran.

We weren't getting on too well, not least because the weather was far colder than he had led me to expect and I felt like blaming him for the fact that we were so ill-equipped for the cold.

One day in Isfahan a fantastically handsome Iranian man invited us to have dinner with his family and I insisted that we accept, although my boyfriend didn't want us to.

At first everything seemed normal. I got the impression that the man was polite and probably quite religious. But once inside his lovely house, we saw no sign of any family. Instead, we were sat down on Persian carpets and offered opium pipes to smoke.

This didn't seem a brilliant idea in an Islamic republic but because my boyfriend refused, I decided to have a smoke.

From that moment, things began to move rapidly. Our handsome, friendly host suddenly began to seem like the only man in the world. Before long I was wishing my boyfriend wasn't there while he, surprise surprise, began demanding that we go back to the hotel.

I wouldn't. The opium made me so comfortable and warm that the thought of going back to our freezing hotel seemed ridiculous. I think we had quite a nasty argument and in the end my boyfriend stormed out, leaving me to the infidel.

After that there were only two of us on the Persian carpet and, in the circumstances, what followed seemed the most natural thing in the world. The boring bad moods of my boyfriend vanished into the smoke of the opium pipe.

Waking up the next morning could have been one of the worst moments of my life. I had a headache, I was alone with a strange man without any luggage and I had lost my boyfriend.

But strangely, my dream had only just begun. I turned round to find a breakfast of eggs, milk, bread, dates, yogurt and mint tea being delivered to me - with a smile - on a round silver tray. It made think that I had not made a mistake.

After breakfast my new friend took me back to my hotel, but there I discovered that my boyfriend had gone, leaving an angry, bitter note full of recriminations.

For the next fortnight I loitered around in Isfahan with my mysterious friend, admiring the blue-tiled mosques and peacocks. It was no longer cold, and every rational thought had gone out of my head. In the evenings we smoked, ate saffron rice and made love. I never asked myself where I was going, or why. When my old boyfriend showed up in a panic couple of days later I just told him that I needed some space. He left.

Then one day it all came rushing back. I got scared and decided that I was doing something horribly wrong. I fled back to England alone, without even leaving an address. Since then, I have thoughts only for Isfahan.

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