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Published: October 20th 2014
Enjoyable breakfast with Terry -interesting guy- sculptor, teacher, builder of an Eco house made out of shipping containers on his rural property in NSW. He travels light, with the exception of coffee beans and a whizz bang brewing cup - smart guy (as I rip off the top of one of those three in one coffee sachets).
Plan for the morning- the old US Embassy and change some money. Mehrabi at the desk draws me a sketch map and I'm off. Pass through Ferdosi Square, this is a major intersection that is full of mostly men milling around and setting up little areas on the pavement to sell things like bank notes and coins, socks, sunglasses, etc. The shops along Ferdosi are mostly higher end leather, shoe and bag shops and foreign currency places.
Arrive at the Embassy site, now called The US Den of Espionage. Like most tourists my motivation is to have a look at this piece of modern day history and the anti-US graffiti on the walls. The CIA orchestrated coup to topple the Mossadegh regime in 1953, the reforms under the rule of the Shah, then the revolution to form an Islamic State under the
12 petal flower
Seen all over Iran
Ayatollah Khomeini and the US hostage drama in 1979 all happened here. The perimeter watchtowers are now unmanned and the stone US coat of arms emblem at the front has been defaced. The front gates are open but apparently it is only open to the public for a short period of time in February each year. There are numerous security cameras. It's an interesting place to walk around.
Across the road is the Shohada (Martyrs) Museum, it gets 6 lines in the Lonely Planet but is definitely worth a visit. The front window display is like a contemporary art display of war- lots of white painted mannequins and weapons with a splash of red poppies. Inside this free museum are 4 floors of displays relating to the martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war 1980-1988. The displays detail the individual stories of martyrs with their photos, clothing - often bloodstained, and personal effects. There is a photographic exhibition, a video installation and on the 4th floor, a contemporary art exhibition. It's really worth a visit (closed Friday and Saturday).
Back to the Hafez via the money changer. Get 28 000 IRR to the 1 AUD, a seat, a cup of
tea and some lollies and a round of "Welcome to Iran's". NB- when you go into the offices double check the rates as it's not always the same as what is advertised on the electronic display board outside the shop- 2 out of 3 shops it was different. Apparently the higher rates are for changing >$1000.
Finish up at the Hafez and catch a cab to to Meyrabad Airport, the domestic airport, for 200 000IRR. It takes nearly an hour in gridlocked traffic. The driver uses this time to read the newspaper. Wait to check in and the flight is delayed an hour, wait longer to check in then go through the segregated security check. Wait at the gate. Further delay so head to the cafe- learn that you don't go to the place that the tea/coffee is being made, you go to the cashier first, pay, get a receipt, THEN go to the tea/coffee spot. Board plane at 5pm, take off at 5:40. Precision delivery of water and cardboard lunch box and we arrive in Shiraz about 50 mins later. Waiting for my pack, I get chatting to a French woman who is in Iran to teach French,
she is the only other obvious foreigner here, I can tell she is French even before she says hello- very stylish, even with her perfectly coordinated slipping head scarf.
My lift is nowhere to be seen so I get a cab from outside to the Golshan Traditional House for 120 000IRR.
Shiraz seems big and open and vibrant and lit up in comparison to Tehran. Taxi takes 20 minutes and 3 stops to get directions (Iranian men seem to have no problem with asking for directions) to get to Golshan, get dropped off and navigate down an alley to the very old front door. It opens to a courtyard and looks really delightful. Parviz, the owner, greets me, organises tea and shows me my room - it's awesome, up a staircase, ancient old door and a double bed with ultra clean, tiny blue tiled bathroom. It overlooks the courtyard and has a wall full of stained glass windows. I love it. Spend the next couple of hours drinking tea - made with tea leaves, cinnamon flavoured, nice china, silver trays, etc and having dinner at the communal table. Meet Javier, from Spain, we agree to
visit some mosques together in the morning. A group of Germans arrive and one guy puts on an impromptu concert. Discover the roof top. I really like it here.
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