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Published: November 26th 2014
My Landmark Minaret
Ali Mosque, visible from the front door of Dibai
You meet some very interesting people on your travels. Travel creates a level playing field for these encounters.
This morning I had breakfast with the Austrian Ambassador to Doha and her partner. We sat out in the courtyard and swapped stories; a potted history over coffee, flat bread and Persian feta in a blue courtyard. It's kind of like speed dating (well, I think it would be like speed dating); you tell a story, listen to a story and maybe spend more time with them if the inclination and opportunity arises, or if not it's still a part of the overall travel experience. They are here for a few more nights, I think we'll spend some more time together.
So, the day begins with a plan to visit the Masjed-e Shah and the Masjed-e Lotfollah during the day and head over to the bridges for the evening. As usual, after the first few turns out of the alley I find myself not quite where I thought I'd be. I think it started with detouring to take shots of the dilapidated houses around Dibai House- getting carried away and not paying attention meant I ended up at at a dead
Buildings around Dibai
I think that they may have been part of the original palace
end somewhere off the bazaar. The dead end housed a textile printing factory and a very helpful fellow who had lived in Sydney for 10 years who was happy to walk me to the Naqsh-e Jahan Square, but first, "would I like to have a look at the factory?", "sure", I said, "but I can't buy anything", "sure", he said, "just come and look".... So after a very interesting hour or so of learning about the techniques used for printing, textile quality and looking at the various blocks/paints I then looked at about a hundred different table cloths that I didn't need, had 2 cups of tea and some nougat. I left empty handed but much more knowledgeable about Iranian textiles. True to his word he did eventually walk me to the Square (via 3more table cloth shops). I said an amicable goodbye and thanks and told him that if I changed my mind and did need a tablecloth I'd find him (as it turned out, I decided that I did desperately need one, but do you think I could find that dead end 2 days later??).
A full 2 hours after I left Dibai House I finally arrived
at the Masjed-e Shah (aka Masjed-e Imam) on the south side of the square to find it was now closed; its big heavy doors shut tight and the ticket office empty. No big deal as the ice cream shop was very close by. This faloodeh stuff is so addictive - instant gratification for 20 000 IRR (70c). I bought my faloodeh and went back to the Masjed-e Shah to wait it out. Sitting at the base of the stunning blue 30m high portal eating ice cream is something I'd recommend. As usual, I wasn't alone for long as a series of Iranian couples, families and groups of friends came to sit next to me to chat, to take pictures or just say hi. So friendly. This mosque was built under the rule of Shah Abbas 1 in 1611, it was completed just after his death in 1629. It is truly magnificent- the tiling is incredible and there are 4 minarets in total. Like many other mosques that I have visited it is being restored so the central courtyard was heavily covered in scaffolding. The place was virtually deserted so I had a lot of time to pick out silent little
corners to enjoy the immensity of it all.
Wandering through each of the Iwan I found myself in a fantastic courtyard where I had a great view of the main dome and minarets. The tiles were predominantly yellow, green and blue and there were a series of wooden door/windows arranged around the perimeter. The courtyard area was also completely deserted so I found myself a shady bench to sit on. After about 10 minutes of admiring it all a tour group of about12 arrived and decided to enjoy my shady bench as well. Got chatting to some of them- an Australian, a Brit and an Irish girl, it turned out they were a G Adventures group. Their leader had gone to find the mullah to come and talk with them so I found myself included in the visit. There were 2 mullahs in the end, they work in the communications office of the mosque and were very happy to answer questions and have a chat. Ended up with an invite to have lunch with the group- why not? Off we went.
Had lunch at Nagsh-e Jahan Banquet Hall- upstairs area, nice atmosphere, lots of stained glass and day
beds. Shared a few dishes with my new G Adventures buddies- fesenjan (sooo delicious- ground walnut and pomegranate syrup stew), an aubergine stew (v good), Esfehan special meat balls (ok), yellow rice, yoghurt, flat bread, tea and a nougat sweet (gaz). I'd recommend the restaurant, it would be interesting to go as a small table- they whack on an 18% service charge for groups! Paid my share and said see you- it was a nice interlude but I am so glad I am travelling solo- one of the group had a massive hissy fit during lunch and launched into a long tirade with lots of F@@##$ being thrown around- it was really embarassing, he looked like such a d@@# h$@@. The 2 that I hit it off with and shared lunch, Dave from England and Yvonne from Ireland were mortified. Yvonne is off to Nepal after Iran so it was fun to talk Nepal. Dave is a travel agent on his first group tour- it's a shame for the Brits not being allowed to travel solo in Iran.
Back to the mosques- I headed straight for the Masjid-e Lotfollah, apart from wanting to see this one for its beautiful
The ice cream shop
I will be back there one day! (probably tomorrow!)
domed ceiling, it appears on the front cover of LP Iran and an obligatory photo was on my list. Can't believe where the day went- it's 4:15 already and it shuts at 5. Beautiful mosaics with the afternoon light filtering through. This one is way smaller than Masjed-e Shah, it was also built from 1602-1619 and is dedicated to Shah Abas I's father in law- Sheik Lotfollah. The high windows and creamy coloured ceiling tiles were just stunning, took lots of pics, the tiles at the entrance were also stunning- lots more photos! I think this is my favourite mosque now. Bumped into Caroline, Mitchell, Sam, Maryam and Ayaesha who promptly enveloped me again and whisked me off into the sunset to the bridges with them.
We arrived at the Pol-e Si-o Seh (Si-o Seh Bridge) and walked across it- total of 33 arches, 298m long, built between 1599-1602. It looked pretty stunning all lit up. The Zayandeh River that runs under it was drained a few years ago to reroute water elsewhere (severe water shortages)! Such a shame- just a tiny puddle left. We criss crossed the river bed over the next 2 bridges before catching a cab
back to Jameh Square. There was a huge concert on with drummers and a demonstration of aerobic wooden club throwing. The pools in the centre of the square had been illuminated with hundreds of coloured lights - the fountains were stunning. There would have been thousands of people packed in- very cool.
At 10pm we found ourselves back in the pretty much deserted bazaar looking for food- no go but lots of table cloths on offer (should have bought one!). We ended up at a fast food place eating very long hotdogs and cups of corn with mayo. Interesting. Back to Dibai at midnight- another awesome day. I have been so lucky with the people I've met.