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Published: November 1st 2005
Our first destination is the most obvious of the local tourist traps, the gigantic Naqsh-e-Jahan Square. A roughly 500 meter long plaza surrounded by a slew of interesting buildings, dominated by the imposing Imam Hoseyn Mosque (a.k.a. Abbasi Jame Mosque) to the south, the smaller and more exquisite Sheikh Lotf Ol-lah Mosque to the east and the cryptically christened Ali Qapoo Edifice, a palace-like structure built under Shah Abbas I as a place for his audiences to the west. Most of the square is occupied by a big park with fountains, and tourist minded carriages are making their way around the square in circular patterns.
The Grand Imam Hoseyn Mosque with its 52 meter tall dome looks great, its decorated walls shimmering in the morning light, but as with many mosques its disposition makes photography very hard unless you happen to have a helicopter or a nearby hill to stand on. Everytime you walk backwards to snap something you walk into a wall before you can reach a good distance, so take a good look while you are here. Conversely, the smaller Lotf Ol-lah Mosque is most interesting on the inside, the golden decorations in the ceiling of the dome
being quite spectacular. Lastly, the Ali Qapoo palace is mainly interesting because you can climb to the pavillion and get a nice view of the square from there. I will always remember this place because from here I was lucky to spot some IIAF helicopters on maneouver; Jet Rangers, Hueys and Cobras in formation.
We continue to Khaju Bridge, one of the long bridges that span the wide Zayandeh river flowing through the city centre. The river does give a rather dry appearance right now. The bridge has two levels, and on the bottom level you can find small cafés in the vaults which seems to be a popular place to hang out. It also seems to be quite popular with beggars, as we are mobbed by a large group of some 30 young children. Farzaneh explains that they are Afghan refugees.
In the afternoon we stop by the large Vank Cathedral, catering to the many christians of mainly Armenian origin that can be found here. I must say that I was most surprised to find a church here. A less inspiring, but no less impressive in its own grim way, place is Golestan e Shohada, the Rosegarden
Imam Hosein Mosque
The main 52 m tall dome.
of the Martyrs. This is where thousands of mainly young soldiers from the war against Iraq are buried. Orderly lines of graves, each with a flat tombstone with a portrait of the deceased and a short inscription about his name, age and during which operation he died. As you file past the graves it just goes on and on. Aged 17, 20, 18, 21, 17, 16, 19, 18, 23, 16... In one end of the yard there is a small display of framed pictures and posters that you can buy. They are pictures of victorious soldiers as well as colour photographs of dismembered corpses of those who died in combat, thus attaining a noble death. One picture shows an open jeep and the remains of the soldiers who were in it when it was destroyed. It is all rather gruesome.
I have some time on my own before dinner and walk around looking for an Internet café, as the expensive business centre at the hotel feels a bit out of my league. I find a small shop where the owner has a computer in a corner and get a rate at half the price. Still haven't heard anything from
All that' I'm saying...
....give peace a chance.
Rezvane in Tehran and now I am beginning to get a bit nervous. I chat a bit with the owner instead, who is explaining his ambition of creating a website to showcase the country of Iran for the tourism industry. I wish him luck and head back to the hotel and lie down in my hard bed and listen to some cds.
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