Stained glass Iranian style
They make these without any glue or nails. Just hold themselves together with pressure. Amazing. I think its called Shabake (in Azerbaijan, can't remember the Iranian name)
We started the morning with a super early flight to Shiraz. Iran airlines was great, smooth check in, great food, and comfy seats. I sat next an old Iranian couple and exchanged life stories in a mixture of English, Farsi, head nodding, hand waving and lots of smile-and-pretend-you-understand-what-they-are-sayings. Foreigners are rare, and mixed marriages are even rarer, so mixed marriage foreigners with little kids simply reason for frantic jaw-dropping.
We were met at the airport by our guide and driver. Due to visa requirements, we were forced to book a tour guide, and since there were four of us, a van, which meant a guide and a driver ie. we were going to have to be grandma travelers. I wasn't looking forward to days of being escorted, spoken for, pampered, directed and left without the opportunity to get lost, confused or cheated. However, one look at the friendly face of our guide, Ali, left no room for a bad attitude. What a smiley, happy, and warm guide we had. Our driver, Hojat, was kind, super helpful and very funny. We were going to have a blast. Even if we were going to have to travel like old people.
was early morning and so first stop was the Shiraz bazaar. It was Friday (equivalent to Sunday) and thus everything was closed. However, we were able to go into a Hammam (Iranian bath) and see how to folks of old use to bathe. You first get naked and sit around, and then merchants hang around nearby selling you stuff - a pre-cursor to in-shopping centre car washes - get clean while you buy your groceries.
We then headed over to the Arg-e Karim Khan, a fortress built by Shiraz's most notable ruler, Karim Khan in the 1700s. The fortress walls were in great condition though one of the towers was falling over like the leaning tower of pisa due to erosion. The place is filled with beautiful stained glass windows covered with geometric wooden lattice work. Amazingly these were made without any glue or nails - apparently this kind of work is only done in Azerbaijan and Iran (can't remember what its called in Iran, in Azerbaijan its called Shabaka).
It was here that we discovered the wonderfully refreshing dessert of Faloodah (which is not at all like Indian Faloodah). Rather its intensely sweet sugar syrup poured on
top of rice noodles, and then smothered with sour pomegranate juice or lemon juice. Extremely refreshing, though it would kill a diabetic with one scoop. This is the kind of dessert that inspire men to climb mountains just for one scoop. If King Menelaus had a supply of faloodah, he probably wouldn't have cared too much when Paris stole Queen Helen, just as long as the royal faloodah cook was safe.
Our guide took us to an awesome place for lunch where we ate hands down the #2 best kebab in Iran (#1 was in Esfahan). It was an Egyptian kebab, which is a kebab mixed with walnuts and pomegranate seeds (I think), and a dash of delectableness to top it off. I am wiping the drool from my face as I type this. Sadly my search engine is not showing me a good recipe for this.
After a quick afternoon snooze in the hotel to escape the intense afternoon heat, we headed out for a unescorted meander through the old part of Shiraz. The area around the Arg-E Karim Khan is a meeting ground for locals, so we people watched for a bit. Iranians love picnics and
the place was overflowing with families and kids. We then headed down to the Nasir al-Mulk mosque, one of the most photographed mosques in Iran because of its beautiful stained glass windows (turns out every mosque in Iran claims to be most photographed).
Late evening, we headed over to the Tomb of Hafez. In honesty, I would have skipped this place if we were on our own, but our guide encouraged us to visit. And I'm glad we did. This is where having a guide really makes a difference. Its a beautiful place, but without added commentary on Hafez, his importance to the Iranian people and how he is still integrated into customs of Iranians today, we would have simply skipped over the place as yet another beautiful picture. However, our guide Ali made the place come alive with a fabulous introduction to Hafez and his importance in Iranian culture. Hafez was a 14th century mystic/poet that wrote a huge number of poems about love. He is Iran's most loved poet, and even the young people love him. Its said every house in Iran has a copy of the Quran and a copy of Hafez. Iranians do an interesting
custom called taking Fal. Basically you tell a 'Fal interpreter' a problem, then open at random the book of Hafez, and grab a random poem. The interpreter will then interpret how this poem applies to your problem. There were crowds of folks taking Fal outside. It looked like mixture of religious devotion as well as a bit of fun. Though I think its actually taken quite seriously. It would be interesting to try this one day, since many of Hafez poems are about love and women, so I'm kind of perplexed how how a Fal interpreter is able to related these to real world problems. Personally if I was Hafez and had grown up with Shirazi faloodah in my backyard, I would have been writing about faloodah. Faloodah doesn't make you mow the lawn and take out the garbage.
We then walked to the Quran gate. Every city has a Quran gate. Its considered fortuitous to walk under the Quran before going a long trip. So these Quran gates used to have a copy of the Quran at the top of them, so that as you left the city you would walk under the Quran. How convenient. Today though
it serves as a beautiful picnicking area.
We ended the night cruising the street for more honeydew juice, but alas had to settle for sub-par kiwi juice, which is kind of hairy and makes you your throat itch. The perfect solution would have been a bowl of faloodah but there was none to be found.
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