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Published: October 13th 2017
What a thrill to fly from cool autumnal Britain, overnight from Heathrow and arrive at Imam Khomeini International Airport to a cool clear dawn in Tehran. Many of our family and friends were incredulous at our choice of this latest Wandering destination - we are hoping over the next couple of weeks to show what an inspired choice it was!!
We are travelling on a Wild Frontiers small group tour, commencing in Tehran and then travelling south through the central and eastern deserts to Yazd, Shiraz and Persepolis and subsequently heading back north through the mountain ranges to the amazing Silk Road city of Esfahan.
Tehran is a sprawling metropolis, suffering with dreadful traffic congestion, but the slow moving traffic does allow one to cross the busy roads dodging between slow moving traffic! Between the modern skyscrapers and tower blocks, many adorned with massive murals featuring famous religious figures and also slogans and portraits of martyrs from the Iran - Iraq war, there are amazing Islamic Mosques and Mausoleums.
On the way from the airport, we visit the impressive and massive, Imam Khomeini Mausoleum, a wondrous sight with shining gold cupolas and minarets in the early morning sun.
The city bazaars are bustling hives of activity, thronged by black chador-wearing elderly women, surrounded by great piles of spices, saffron, walnuts, pistachio nuts, pomegranates and other unidentifiable fruits.
The Golestan Palace complex and Crown Jewel museum are shining examples of the previous importance and wealth of the Iranian royal families.
We drive south, along a well-maintained motorway through almost deserted desert landscape of sandy soil supporting small scrubby bushes and barren rocky hills in the distance.
Suddenly approaching a tollbooth we pull into the roadside where our driver changes his slightly scruffy T-shirt into a smart pressed white uniform shirt with blue and gold epaulettes! This is for a good reason! - he then enters a low complex of buildings which turns out to be a police check point where his drivers credentials and vehicle details are scrutinised and we are soon back on our way with the driver now back in his T-shirt. Apparently we will have several more of these stops on the journey.
After a couple of hours we have our first stop at Kashan to visit the Royal Persian Gardens of Fin, an oasis of calm and tranquillity. Water channels
trickle down a central path, set between ancient cedar trees, leading us towards a Persian pavilion and bathhouse. The buildings are richly decorated by colourful tiles and frescoes.
Lunch is at the Abbasi Traditional Restaurant and Teahouse, set with low tables in a large central courtyard, with Persian drapes and wall, hangings providing a wonderful setting. The lunch is up to the same standard and consists of an Iranian speciality - Lamb Dizi - individual claypots containing lamb, chickpeas, garlic, spices and juices are served and then the contents are coarsely mashed together with a special pestle before being scooped up with chunks of lavash and other Iranian Flatbreads - absolutely delicious! We all eat so well we enjoy a short snooze during the next section of the drive through the desert!
Late in the afternoon we leave the main highway and head uphill into the Karkas Mountains, passing one of Iran’s nuclear installations guarded by military camps, tanks and guns - definitely no photos allowed even from the bus!! - to a small Zoroastrian Village, Abyaneh, at an altitude of 2500m.
Next morning we enjoy a stroll through the narrow winding cobbled and dusty streets surrounded
by red mud buildings, many with leaning balconies and crumbling walls. We meet many old locals dressed in traditional costume.
Another long driving day takes us, via Na’in where we enjoy a picnic lunch in a small park, to Yazd, arriving in the late afternoon after travelling 340km. We explore the main sights the following day including the spectacular Jama ‘Friday’ Mosque, the old grand bazaar and a Persian Garden. It has been the hottest day so far, 34c, and we welcome a refreshing cool Pomegranate juice in a rooftop cafe overlooking the minarets & cupolas of the mosques of Yazd.
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