Urmia: love for sweets and water combined

 I’m reinterpreting unpublished pieces from the most beautiful and complex trip of my life, April-May 2019. And when the gaslighting and world-round circus are done, I’m going back to Iran!


The first things I had ever heard about Urmia were related to its otherworldly lake, with its colours and dangers of drying out.

Lake Urmia, Iran


Marcel and I were so close! Our new friend and host in Tabriz, Ramin, had helped me recover from the nasty cold that had been upon me ever since Dizin… and had suggested we tried the carrot halva in Urmia. A local speciality, clearly. /I still remember our big eyes – ‘Do they really make halva from carrots?’/   

Driving from Tabriz to Urmia is scenic; at the beginning of May, there was a lot of green and then there were a lot of volleyball nets and people playing. Ramin, a volleyball player himself, had told us a bit about the fascination for this sport in Iran.

And then, there was the bridge over the lake and we started seeing people picnicking (it was Friday) on the wide beaches to our left. The colours that we had seen in pictures were difficult to spot (it was midday and quite cloudy). Nonetheless, I was charmed and happy that the water level had risen!

First contact with Lake Urmia, Iran


We decided to ride into town, try and have a havij bastani and then return to the lake. I guess we were still not convinced of the talents of the sweets providers in Urmia. Little did we know that we were going to end up right on Bakers’ Street – literally –. 

Carrot halva – checked. It was incredible.  

Havij bastani – checked. And I won’t only say that… it was so good, with the creamiest ice cream that I tasted in Iran, that I thanked the pastry chef with a hand on my heart and told him – via an online translator – that it was the best havij bastani of my life.

Havij bastani and cake in Urmia, Iran


…and then, something told me to cross the street and enter a confectionery store. I won’t be able to accurately describe how it smelt inside… it was like a sweet dream. Via the same translator, I managed to explain to the father and son team (I think?) that I was also a passionate baker, so they too explained how they made noghls in a gigantic cut-out sphere. We bought a whole box and that night I couldn’t stop eating them. ‘Marcel, this is one of the best sweets I’ve tasted in my life!’ I exclaimed, with shiny eyes and an aftertaste of rose water. /We got so addicted to noghls… that we tried to buy at least a box to take back home… but we only found some in Shiraz… still made in Urmia./

Noghl making tool in Urmia, Iran


With that fact pretty clear to us – that the top bakers, confectioners, and pastry chefs in Iran were from Urmia –, we headed to the lake, taking the road to its left before reaching the bridge – it seemed less crowded there.

Our walk was long, over unfamiliar land: its texture told us that it was muddy; the reality showed us that we could easily continue to the water. It was lunar, windy, different from any other lake I had ever experienced. Beautiful in such a special way!

Lake Urmia, Iran

Lake Urmia, Iran

Lake Urmia, Iran


I saw glimmers of hope in its bright water. I had a big smile on. We both felt one of our biggest travel dreams – seeing Lake Urmia – fulfilled.    

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