Be Arami, Be Arami... A First Trip to Iran - A Whirlwind of Colour and Icecream

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Middle East » Iran » South » Shiraz
October 2nd 2014
Published: October 20th 2014
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Signs to My Hotel 1Signs to My Hotel 1Signs to My Hotel 1

Just so as I know where to turn into the alley- my directional idiocy score is very high
Wake up at 0530, couple of hours until breakfast! Enjoy a communal breakfast with Javier, a Turkish guy and a Persian couple who live in France. Nice way to begin, and this breakfast has got watermelon, and the best feta to date.

Head off before 0830, the Mosque-e Molk is supposed to open then. It is less than 5 mins down the road. Javier was there yesterday afternoon but is also keen to see the morning light. This has been on my list since planning the trip to Iran- I have been anticipating the light and colour for months and months. We get there, pay the 50 000 IRR ($1.80) and head in. The central entrance courtyard and algal green pool is just beautiful, there is restoration work going on at the southern end. The tiles are unbelievable. The mosque itself is beckoning, shoes off and in we go. It is already full of tourists, the majority are Chinese. Everyone is vying for photographic nirvana and there is much selfie action happening. It is every bit as beautiful as I had imagined. The colours are really incredible, they reflect onto the wall tiles and the carpet and the people. We sit in there for a while soaking it all in before succumbing to taking a million photos too. The rest of the complex is also impressive with its intricate tiling.

Next stop is the Shah-e Charagh, the mausoleum of Sayyed Mir Ahmad (brother if Imam Reza) and the most holy Shiite site in Iran, which we access through the bazaar. Javier seems to be equipped with a solid sense of direction, I just follow. This part of the bazaar seems to be selling mostly high heel shoes, jewellery, makeup and gaudy, sparkling, shiny, glittery swathes of fabric and frou-frou dresses in every traditional and neon shade imaginable. I think to myself where on earth these fabrics are used- they are such a contrast to the predominantly black chadors and coats that are worn by the women in public. Exit the bazaar and we are in the car park for the mosque.

There are 2 separate entrances, male (easy- just go in) and female. First I have to put on a communal loan chador- I choose a nice green and white floral one, unfortunately it doesn't smell very floral, and apply, the screening ladies assess it, shake their heads,
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The most beautiful sight in Iran
remove it and reapply, it's all very good natured. I clutch onto the fabric tightly, trying to keep all the bits covered that need to be. I'm allowed to go in after a bag search and WOW- HUGE square. Incredible turquoise domed mosque and minarets, really incredible. Back through another set of separate entrances, this time giving up shoes to shoe lady whilst trying to keep chador firmly fixed- it's VERY challenging and very hot- I now know why the floral green and white chador is not smelling too fresh- it has housed thousands of overheated, frazzled, chador clutching tourists before me.

It is so worth the sweaty effort- this shrine surpasses all sights to date- it is the whole package experience- the glitteriest, blingiest collection of mirror tiles on every conceivable surface, chandeliers, masses of black chador clad women; sitting, standing, praying, reading, SMS-ing, laughing..., kids running around, and a steady procession of women moving past the shrine, many of them weeping, others praying, all touching it until the women shrine guards tap them with one of those static feather duster things and they move on. It's quite a sight. Several of the younger girls and women spoke to me, all thanking me for visiting their country. Amazing.

Find Javier outside, or rather he finds me- I guess I'm very recognisable as the only person in a green and white floral chador. We walk around the perimeter that houses various offices- religious instruction, teenager centre, a health clinic and a guide office. There are guides available FOC if you would like a detailed tour.

Guita, the exiled Persian living in France that I met in Tehran, then calls to say she wants to meet- she's outside the bazaar... Now. After a series of 11 phone calls to and from my mobile, many of the calls given to random Iranians passing by to help us find each other, we do- she's in the old bazaar, not the newer bit we were in. Anyway, Javier who has a full blown cold by this stage is happy to head back to the hotel while I carry on the day with Guita. We start the afternoon with a Shirazi dessert called Faloodeh- it's a local specialty icy thing served with a scoop of saffron ice cream and it is seriously delicious.

That done we spend the rest of the afternoon in the bazaar- jewellery, plates, ceramics, carpets, souvenirs, spices, fruit, etc where we bump in to Julienne, the French professor who I met last night at the airport, and then at various historical sites including:

Vakil Mosque- impressive tiled entrance, impressive tiled inner courtyards, impressive shadowy arches, impressive marble pedestals, reconstruction going on and another algal green pond. Admission 50 000 IRR ($1.60)

Vakil Haman- 100 000 IRR ($3.20) - interesting but missable if you are short on time/money. Lots of mannequin displays, etc.

Pars Museum and Gardens- 100 000 IRR - a nice garden oasis full of flowers, trees, benches and butterflies and a small museum with some beautiful art peices.

Arg-e Karim Khan-150 000 IRR- giant fortress of Karim Khan, built early in the the Zand period (I read that on the info board). Khan made Shiraz the capital of Iran with the intent of it rivalling Esfahan. Much of it is under restoration and out of bounds but it is still worthwhile visiting. There is also a bathhouse here (I preferred it to the Vakil Haman) which is convoluted, atmospheric and has really nice light. The place was very quiet
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ceiling mosaics
when I was there so I sat in it for about 20 minutes alone.

Interestingly, Guita got into all the sites free as she passed off as a tour guide. We finished up by making a quick visit to the bookshop she went to as a child and then having some tea in a tea shop full of men smoking water pipes. The tea had a smoky flavour that was quite pleasant. Said goodbye and made my way back to Golshan - at least I tried to go back, I got lost for about 40 minutes and ended up back at the fortress. A quick trip to the tourist office and a hand drawn map got me back on track and I picked up some bread and fruit for a very late lunch (3pm).

Spent a couple of hours in the courtyard being plied with lots of cups of tea and relaxed. Javier emerged for his bus after sleeping the afternoon away so got to say goodbye.

Recharged, I decided to revisit Shah-e Charagh. Got way laid by an ice cream shop on the way - the carrot juice and saffron ice cream combo this time and a conversation with a group of Shirazi locals who all liked mountain climbing in their spare time. Finally got to Shah-e Charagh, got into my chador, got re-chadored by the lady guard and went in to quite a different setting from this morning. The square was full of people praying and the Imams prayers were being broadcast on an overhead loudspeaker. The domes were illuminated, it was really beautiful.

When I arrived back at the Golshan they were serving a traditional cabbage and meatball dish so I had dinner at the big table while Parviz recited Saadi poetry ( very sing song) and the German from last night sang again. Another really good night.

Off to a home stay in a village I can't find on the map tomorrow via Persepolis and the Necropolis.

Additional photos below
Photos: 40, Displayed: 27


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Nasir al Mulk Mosque

Photography in action
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Nasir al Mulk Mosque

Work in progress
Colour in the BazarColour in the Bazar
Colour in the Bazar

Where would these fabrics be used? Stay tuned...

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