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Published: October 4th 2014
Another day and another early start tromping across the countryside in our van, this time from Yazd to Esfahan. By now the kids had acclimatized to our driver and guide and rather than the shy-head-down-whispered good mornings, they were now greeting our friends with big cheery "Hello Amu!" (which means uncle in Farsi). Enroute we stopped at Nain, famed for its unique carpet styles and Iran's oldest mosque (8th century). There was also a supposedly interesting citadel though it really was more of a pile of lumpy mud with sporadic outcrops that looked like towers. Perhaps the most memorable part of Nain was when we spied our arch nemeses - a French family that was also travelling with kids. We liked being the only foreigners daring enough to bring small kids to Iran (because its sooooo dangerous ... not!) - so that family was stealing our limelight of being 'on-the-edge' travelers. Suffice to say some dirty stares were mutually exchanged when respective backs were turned.
We pulled into Iran's most picturesque city, Esfahan, early noon. Esfahan is the must see destination of any tourist because of its collection of fabulous architecture. It was the capital for some rather opulent dynasties
and thus they have left behind a veritable smorgasbord of palaces, mosques, bridges, and tourist-dollar-extractors enough to keep even the most efficient of travelers busy for several days.
We were blessed to have a hotel right at the edge of the highlight of Esfahan, the Naqsh-e-Jahan square. Somebody seriously had too much money to spend building this square, because its just simply an awe-inspiring jaw-dropping holy-guacamole amazing collection of buildings surrounding a confluence of Iran's entire population of picnickers. Centuries ago this was just a humble market area and today that same market remains on the perimeter of the square (though mostly marketing tourist junk). Over time, various rulers added a palace, an amazing pair of domed mosques, fountains, and prettified archways to create a simply stunning panorama. I'm convinced this is without a doubt the most beautiful city square ever. Ever. Our photos fail to capture the beauty of this place - wish I had a wide angle lens 😞
We spent the afternoon lazing about the square people watching. Iranians love picnicking and Naqsh-e Jahan seems to be the place to picnic. Families are large here - it was rare to see a group of less
Naqsh-e Jahan square
She's got the whole world in her hands
than ten people. It was weird to see women in their full head-scarf regiments lazing on the grass - somehow it seemed much too dressed up for a picnic! But they seemed comfortable enough. We enjoyed just watching family life and reinforcing that Iranians are just like the rest of the world - naughty kids getting yelled at, wives scolding their husbands for gazing at their phones, teenage girls pushing the edge of fashion by plastering themselves in makeup. Our kids also enjoyed having some down time to run around and waste some energy, and they particularly loved being able to splash in the massive fountain - our youngest decided to go for a swim and got her clothes completely saturated. Thankfully the warm Iranian sun boiled the water out in minutes! Oh, and we also discovered saffron ice-cream, which is just scrumptious.
We spent the evening and night walking the famous bridges of Esfahan. These bridges were the distinctive icon of Esfahan once upon a time, but alas the government decided they needed the river water for other purposes. So today the beautiful bridges of Esfahan span a dead dry river bed … which sadly completely uglifies the
experience. It was however another opportunity for people watching - this time to watch the young and the romantic who walk the bridges hiding away from the eyes of chaperones. Groups also congregate beneath the bridges to sing - we were treated to one such event where a few men used to acoustics of under-bridge chambers to chant and create simply stunning melodies. Enchanting!
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