A Unique Eco-lodge

 A Unique Eco-lodge A Unique Eco-lodge

There is a knock at the door. “May I take ten minutes of your time to tell you more about Guileboom?” says our host, Khosrow, as he asks for permission to enter the gueshouse. We arrived less than an hour ago and have been warmly welcomed by our hosts, Khosrow and his wife Mahin as they set us up in their guesthouse. The guesthouse, barely larger than a room, is a simple mud-walled structure with rustic furniture in perfect harmony with the surrounding countryside. As we welcome Khosrow, we already feel at home.

The conversation of course lasts more than ten minutes as we are amazed by Khosrow’s vast knowledge of archeology, history and culture and keep bombarding him with questions. He shares with us the story of Guileboom; how a trip to the southwestern province of Sistan and Baluchestan became a turning point in the lives of five engineering graduates from Amirkabir University of Technology and motivated them to put their heart and soul into protecting local artisans and traditional crafts.

 The Story of Guileboom

The idea for establishing Gileboom was shaped nearly two years ago, when Khosrow Mahin-Rousta and his wife Mahin Shamsikhani travelled to Sistan and Baluchestan Province along with a group of friends and looked for a master seamstress on their trip. But when they finally found the artist, they were moved by the extent of her poverty and the miserable life she was living. This experience motivated the group to dedicate themselves to preserving traditional handicrafts and giving the local artisans the recognition they deserve.  

The idea was to establish an eco-lodge to give visitors a first-hand experience of village culture and introduce them to local crafts and traditions. After extensive research and consultation, Guileboom founders finally chose Qasem-Abad village near Chaboksar in the northern province of Gilan. Located on the border of provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran, Guileboom combines rich culture, age-old traditions, and natural beauty all in one place. Qasem-Abad is also famed for its folk music and colorful costumes and enjoys proximity to the sea, jungle and the highest mountain in the province, Mount Somamus.

Khosrow and Mahin teamed up with three other friends to purchase a 1,000-square-meter plot of land, including a villa, about a year and a half ago. They restored the house and named it Guileboom, which is a portmanteau of ‘Gilak’ - a demonym for the people native to the northern provinces of Iran - and ‘Boom’, Persian for ‘habitat’. Gileboom welcomed around 500 guests in its first year, including tourists from Australia, Germany, and South Africa.

  Village Life

Guileboom gives the guests a chance to interact with local artisans by organizing tours to the nearby handicraft workshops or inviting local musicians to play folk music in the house. The founders have so far identified as many as 35 distinct handicrafts of the region and located the workshops within a 20-kilometer radius. A collection of regional handicrafts including Chadorshab (a colorful hand-woven fabric made by local women), Namad (felted rug made of sheep wool), knitted and crocheted items, among others, are also available for sale.

The guests can also participate in seasonal farm activities (such as rice harvesting or picking oranges) or go trekking in nearby jungles and mountains accompanied by a professional guide. On special occasions, the guests are invited to participate in traditional ceremonies, such as the rice harvest festival, or watch local men wrestle in the traditional ‘Gile-Mardi’ style.

While Guileboom has many characteristics of an eco-lodge, including a waste composting system, employing local people, and supporting the surrounding community, the founders believe Guileboom has not yet realized its potential. They believe more needs to be done to turn the property into an ideal eco-lodge. They plan to modify the house eventually to incorporate only local construction material and improve water and energy efficiency.

  Authentic Gilani Cuisine

Our crash course on the history of Guileboom is over, and Khosrow lets us know that it is time for dinner. The ladies have placed the dishes and side-dishes including home-made pickles, olive, garlic and salad in round trays which were brought to our room and laid on a tablecloth spread on the floor. After a day of breathing the fresh country air, our appetite has more than doubled. Our dinner, rice served with morgh-e torsh –a sour chicken gravy cooked with local herbs, walnut and pomegranate puree– will surely satisfy everyone’s palate!

The food served in Guileboom is authentic Gilani cuisine, cooked by local women in a homely kitchen. Usually only one type of food is served in each meal – two, if the foods are vegetarian.

Guileboom can accommodate up to 30 guests in its two large rooms, two medium sized rooms and one guesthouse. Do not expect beds in Guileboom. Just as the food is laid on the floor in traditional village style, for sleeping too you must spread your mattress on the floor. The quilts are warm and bed sheets spotless. A night’s stay in Guileboom costs only 450,000 rials ($13.5) including breakfast, which offers locally made cheese and butter, seasonal home-made jams, eggs and fresh cow milk (on request). For every meal you eat at Guileboom you pay between 180,000 to 210,000 rials ($5.5-$6) depending on whether or not the food is vegetarian.

The next morning, we take a walk in the village and greet the farmers on their way to the rice fields. The air is filled with the fragrance of orange tree blossoms in spring, and as I look back at our short experience in Guileboom, I think perhaps this sentence written by a friend in Guileboom’s guestbook best describes the atmosphere of this place: “In Guileboom, the hearts are green.”