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Published: February 27th 2016
Finally, here it is...it's Iran time! Made it easy, I arrived in Shiraz at 3.30am, ready to apply for my visa on arrival at the airport. I read a lot about it. Don't forget, first rule, if you have been to Israel, you will not be allowed into Iran. Well, you know my blogs, I just had to make sure that if they "google" me, nothing too embarrassing would go out of it...and that they would not put me on the next flight!
I was greeted in the middle of the night by big smiles, and only welcome words. No questions asked, just smiles....and a 45 minutes wait to get the visa processed after I paid the 50 euros for the visa fee. It was close to 5am, I was ready to take my taxi to my little hotel. I'm staying for one night in a little traditional hotel call Niayesh. 29usd for a single room. Check-in time is at 2pm...and at 8am I have my guide picking me up to go to tour Persepolis and Necropolis. Great welcome too at Niayesh hotel, and they even have a room for me at 5am....shower and 2 hours sleep before
my tour is more than welcome. I truly feel that Iran will be an amazing trip...even if it is going to be one on the rush!
8am, I'm not really sure where I have been able to gather at total of 3 hours sleep this night...but I know one thing for sure, it's going to be a long amazing day! Let say I will sleep, in my next life! There is our guide this morning, and only 4 of us. Two guys from Colombia and an Italian. The sun is out, I'm not sure of the temperature, but I guess it's just above 10 degrees, and the sky is just as blue as it can be. This morning, we are driving to Persepolis, just 90 minutes outside of Shiraz. The site have been the center of the Achaemenid Empire for only around 200 years from around 500BC to 300BC. The place is just huge...empty of international tourists when we arrived. It's Chinese New Year, so later one, we will bump in few Chinese tourists traveling in small groups with each time a translator.
We spent just above two hours here. We could have easily
spent a full day in Persepolis. After all, the site is in par with places like the pyramids or the Acropolis. Magnificent is short of words to qualify such an amazing site. Interesting to note that most faces on the bas-relief have been damaged some 700 years ago by Arabs! You want to understand the problems between Saudis and Iranians, you can start here...as Iranians would simply put it...we have a 3000 years old culture, and it didn't start with Islam! Guess this may apply too to today problems!
We spent 90 minutes touring the site with our guide, before being giving an extra hour to walk around on our own. Time to climb to the Tomb of Artaxeres...and to think that I have the same feeling visiting this place, reminding me of few years ago in Burma. Iran is amazing today..what will it be when the hordes of tourists will come...after all, the country has been closed to most of the outside world since 1979! I visited Burma before the hordes...here I am in Iran before the same hordes! Sadly, I have to admit, while walking around, I couldn't stop feeling, if only did I go
before to Mali or Yemen, the two countries I wanted to see...and where I'm too late! Happily, Iran is a safe heaven today when it come to securing the local populations compare to their neighbors of Iraq, Afghanistan or most of Pakistan. Sometime, a strong regime...does keep people having the right to live...simply! I have to admit to, I couldn't stop thinking of my visit to Palmyra, on the first day of 2011! It's like yesterday, and still, look what happened to Syria! Palmyra is now gone, and I hope one day we will judge those criminals!
After Persepolis, we are driving 20 minutes away to Necropolis, the tombs of 4 of the Achaemenid Kings. More bas-relief here, more blue skies...and even less tourists! Another amazing sites to tour for a good hour. This is my first morning in Iran, and I'm so happy to be here!
Time to drive back to Shiraz just on time for lunch. And yes, I have to admit, I took a little nap on the way back to the city while in the car. I'm taking a bus at 6am tomorrow morning all the way to Esfahan...so I
have the afternoon to visit the city of Shiraz, and to taste my first Iranian meals, so you guess, no time to rest for me ,and I know my legs are going to hurt by the end of the day. I'm equipped with the Lonely Planet. Not that I'm using the guide a lot the last few years....but in a country that is not moving that fast...that is not that connected to the outside world by internet, Lonely Planet is pretty useful!
My lunch was not the cheapest affair, but yes, it was amazing. The restaurant I went was packed with the nice crowd of Shiraz...and yes, you do see a lot of couples here...pretty intimate, and you do see a lot of women hairs here too! My point over the next few days....I will not take pictures of situations that could not be comfortable to the locals, but it doesn't stop me to write about them! Iran is not Saudi! Here, you see a lot of make-up, and pretty often the scarf is just there as a duty or a symbol, covering very less of the head! Iranian women are sexy or charming, you call it
the way you want, and they have no problem to show what they are are allowed to show! More to come in the next few blogs. There is the Iran you see on television, there is the Iran of Argo....but there are also the Iranians who party way more than the Lebanese are even able to party! To come soon!
My afternoon was spent walking a lot, and even discovering more! Mosque after mosque, shrine after shrine....souq after souq! No place is off limit to a non-muslim here. At Aramgah-e, the Lonely planet warn you that Muslims may not be welcomed. Instead, the new way is pretty impressive. I'm welcomed by a minder, let's call him my private guide. No fee in, no fee for the guide...and a young volunteer will take me for a good hour to tour the site, all this in perfect English. All questions are welcome...some are welcomed with an embarrassed smile....the art of diplomacy....in a place that doesn't really publicize yet the art of free speech for all!
I made sure I discovered as much as possible before sunset! Here, no party life....who cares! My bed was waiting for
me! I made it back back to Niayesh hotel...
easy dinner of lamb kebab...not a glass of Shiraz in sight! By 9pm I was in bed. You have wifi in Iran, but no facebook, no news sites....and yes, you can access travelblog!
I was up by 5am, there is 24 hours in a day, and this week, I have the feeling I'm using as efficiently as I can every hour of these 24 per day! Took a local taxi to the bus station. My bus to Esfahan was at 6am. Well, the bus left only at 6.45! But I was on my way north, to more amazing scenery...and I was happy...yesterday had been an amazing long day. I'm in Iran!
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