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Published: December 15th 2017
Tuesday 7 November
We left Shiraz to travel to Yazd. En route we stopped at the early Achaemenid ruins at Pasargardae. Not too far from Persepolis this was the city built by Cyrus the Great somewhat earlier. There isn't a vast amount to see at this spread out site - but enough to give an impression of what this could have been like 2,500 years ago. Slightly hard to imagine the gardens that were here in the desert but we saw the irrigation channels.
We had a lunch break at a small town called Abarkuh - we saw a very impressive ice house here in the desert. The town also has an old Cypress tree and a tall wind tower...
We arrived in Yazd as night fell, staying at the lovely Dad hotel, a converted caravanserai. After checking in we went to see the Zurkhaneh - a sort of gym (men only of course) where we watched as the athletes ran through a training session. Hard to describe what they actually did but it involved a form of press ups, clubs, twirling on one leg and for one lifting a sort of metal bow above his head and
spinning it - after the session I tried picking this object up and struggled to get it to waist height.
Wednesday 8 November - in Yazd
We were up to travel to the edge of town to see the Towers of Silence - two of these structures rose above us on the top of low hills. I chose to walk up to the slightly more ruined one as it was less busy. A very atmospheric and peaceful place - especially as I had it to myself for a few minutes. I wondered when it was last put to use for a Zoroastrian burial.
After this we visited the FireTemple and saw the fire that has been burning since at least 470AD before walking through the old town of Yazd. Lots of mud brick buildings, wind towers and water tanks. An enjoyable wander. After lunch - where we met and exchanged contact details with a student from Hong Kong (we will be there in January) - we visited a sweet factory/shop which let us sample the produce and we bought some to take home. It might not sound interesting but we then visited the Water Museum in a
former merchant's house where we saw how water was brought from the hills in previous times using handcut tunnels, the qanats. Susan and I walked back to the hotel getting slightly lost as we looked for a six towered water reservoir. Three little boys had great fun directing us down dead ends and then running away - harmless fun - and we did eventually find the reservoir. Back at the hotel I sat in the courtyard enjoying the late afternoon sun and the heat of the day in the stones. Later we walked back into town for dinner (Susan had camel stew) and saw and heard crowds at the Masjad-e Jame, they were gathering to celebrate/mourn Hossein the third Imam - the main celebration will be on Friday. The call and response was audible from some distance away. We stocked up with some nuts to nibble on during the journey back to Tehran.
I/we liked Yazd, it is a manageable sized town with a few good things to see and doesn't feel too touristy - yet.
Thursday 9 November - return to Tehran
Mr Ali had a long drive today, I think it was about 700 km.
We stopped at Na'in to see the very old mosque and where we shared a final flask of coffee with Ali. At a checkpoint we were given free lunches - as part of the Hossein celebrations. As we drove past Natanz on the motorway we saw the anti aircraft gun batteries protecting one of the centres of nuclear research - mainly underground. Slightly sobering. Another stop was at a shopping centre near Qom, this was super smart and unlike anywhere else we had seen in Iran - the loos were impeccable and Susan indulged in a wonderful ice-cream. The final stop before Tehran (and the terrible traffic again) was the as yet unfinished Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeni. This is enormous and a vast amount of money has been spent but it wasn't to my taste.
We went for a group farewell dinner, our final opportunity to drink lemon "beer" . Martin and Meg had written poems to offer our collective thanks to Vahid and Ali. Some of us had a post dinner walk and a final tea. We said farewell to Diane and Carol who would be flying to Australia and New Zealand respectively.
On Friday we
were up at 4am for the trip to the airport and a pretty uneventful journey home - to bacon sandwiches!
Reflections. This was a great trip. The people of Iran are amazingly friendly and hospitable, I wonder how many pictures they have of us in their selfies. The places we saw were fascinating, the food was tasty. Susan would prefer not to have to wear the headscarf all the time - it can get very hot and feels a bit oppressive - but we respect the cultural norms. From conversations I also gained the impression of a sophisticated proud people who want to engage with the world but not as supplicants.
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