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Published: March 3rd 2016
Next stop in my little Iran tour, the jewel of Esfahan. I took the 7 hours local bus from Shiraz to Esfahan. The bus was scheduled for 6am, we left at 6.45am. The bus ride was comfortable, less than 4usd for a 7 hours ride. The restroom stop was...by a local mosque, which is a first for me. And one more time, amazing people. Not many tourists do venture independently to Iran today, even less seem to take local long-distance buses....so you end up meeting people, and even when they don't speak English, they are super friendly!
Visiting any place on a National day, and you face the issues of closed places such as museums or other sites. I arrived in Esfahan just after lunch time. I knew most mosques do close here by 4pm on winter time...so I was in a rush, because tomorrow is the National day celebration! And not everyday do you spend such a day in Iran! So I'm on the run to see as much as I can today....because tomorrow, I didn't know yet, will be a very different day for me!
No pictures of food here, no time for
long meals here, I'm on the run, so I stopped few time for some nice simple fast food. My hotel is the Kowsar....a former Sheraton back in 1979. 75usd gets me a "renovated vip room" with breakfast. Well, nice room, even got BBC and France 24...but no France 24 on National day, sure! While having breakfast...many Iranians around, some Chinese tourists, the face of Iran tourism industry this week!
By 4pm, I manage to visit Masjed-e Jameh. The mosque is huge...more blue tiles mosaics that you can every dream off. As many of the mosques I have visited so far, one more in full geared renovation. They know tourists are on their way...very soon! I reach Imam Square after 4pm. This by simply going around the local bazar. I knew the direction, seems my internal compass was pretty accurate! Imam Square is huge, and they are getting ready for tomorrow...big time. Sadly, all the mosques on the square are already closed. I will come back...tonight after sunset....and tomorrow morning to see what is all that fuss about.
At sunset, I'm at the Si-o-Seh bridge. The place is packed with the young locals tonight. Seeing
a lot of hairs around...yes, this is not Saudi! The place is simply gorgeous, but the bridge is just too long for me to capture it in a single frame.
Time for a break, and a nice local kebab. My feet are dead....my hotel is in front of me on the other side of the river, but Imam Square must be so gorgeous after sunset...and I'm taking the bus tomorrow to Tehran at lunch time. So I walk all the way back to Imam Square...and yes, the place is simply even more gorgeous after dark! By the time I'm walking back to my room, I have walked miles....dead feet, happy me, this place is amazing. No nightlife in Iran, so the choice it easy....it will be a nice bath and an early night! Don't forget, tomorrow is a special day.
I wake up early. My plan is to first visit the Van Cathedral. There is still an Armenian area in Esfahan, and I wanted to see the master piece center of it. My luck..it's closed, it's Revolution Day! That door is solid and properly closed. Not my first surprise of the day. I decide
to take a taxi to Imam Square. The squared has been sealed of by the police. I'm ending walking the last kilometer.....but I do understand, this is going to be an experience. Camera out...with my red glasses....don't ask me to hide here. So I walk...and get the smiles! In from of Masjed-e Shah, a group of military young men is posing...and they won't let me take a picture of them!
Masjed-e Shah is closed, but the door is open! I'm going by bus to Tehran at lunch time, so it's now or never. I walked in ....get told is close...and ignore the comment....and continue in! 20 seconds later, I'm inside, alone...the place maybe close, I'm going to visit it....huge, amazing, in the middle of extensive renovations...sadly, the blue sky has gone....maybe Revolution Day celebrations do not deserved a blue sky! I'm staying 20 minutes in...happy...magnificient place. I have a lot less chances at Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah. That door is properly closed, and I will never make it inside.
The crowds are gathering on Imam Square. Kids are carrying signs of Death to Israel and Death to America. They smile to me, and parents ask
where I am from....but we all speak English...so ironic! I asked the tourist police if they have a military parade later on....answer...no Sir, this is only for the people. They than want to interview me on State television....no thanks....next time! You have to imagine, sanctions are currently getting partially lifted...and you walk surrounded by people who can only say welcome...huge smiles...and they carry a sign....Death to America...what if we told them nobody in America ever carried a sign with Death to Iran on it!
I can't stop of movies like Argo...or the book...never without my daughter....I'm in Iran...surrounded by smiles...and ironic non-sense! But way more is coming over the next few days...and don forget, I've only been here just over 48 hours!
I wanted to visit Chehel Sotun Palace....but it's obviously closed. Officials are in front of the door, with doctors, taking care of those weaker in need...but the door is open...so after my success of Mosque Shah...I push my luck. Sir it's closed....why....no way...I'm going in, and you can join me...the boss arrive. Sir, it will be open tomorrow....Sorry, I'm going on a bus at lunch time to Tehran, it's now or never....show
me the jewel of your city...and come with me! No kidding...it works...a man is designated to take me around...fast....like this Sir....you'll be happy...and you can enjoy our country! I'm not kidding....all this on chant of Death to America! Don't forget, I was in Cairo, on Tahir Square 5 days after Moubarak went down...you remember, when the CNN anchors got charged. So I know how to have a sense of place and moment...and this is one of them. For how long are their going to chant Death to America...and be so welcoming!
More fun, my minder in Chehel Sotun thought I should not rush...and made sure I saw everything....even the very non Islamic paintings! Don't forget...Iran has an history of 3,000 years....you won't erase that! Everything is possible in Ira...you just need to smile....and keep pushing through when you do it!
Than came....the Mollahs! I put my camera in their face...so obviously, they have to stop. Where are you from Sir? Belgium! I have never actually lived officially in Belgium, but as Brussels is on the news all the time lately...this may be interesting! What if I told them, I live in Bangkok, and yes,
visiting Palestine and Jerusalem last August was very interesting! The man in charge stop...nice smile....and ask...what do you think of what is happening here Sir?? It's a very important date for your people....it's part of your history.! I'm not kidding....he freezes...for sure he didn't expected that answer. Next question....do you have a Koran? Answer....no....and I would first need to learn Arabic to deal with it properly....but people have read me more than few lines of it...and it's very interesting. Another freeze...I'm clearly not interesting for him! and at the same time, I see the drawing in my head in many European newspapers of the Christian Priest before he get beheaded by an Isis idiot...when he is told convert...he replies...you first!
I don't know much...but I know that if people want to live in peace, to respect each others....they need first to learn about others. Just follow the path of Singapore...if we have our kids living together, and learning about each others....peace will come. We all want to live in peace...but is the Middle East ready to accept that...you can believe and think differently....and that same point is valid for those in the States or Europe who believe
everything is done following the bible! I'm different from you, I'm interested by your life, your culture, your believes....let's agree that we both can believe in a god, or not...and live in peace together! We don't have to agree...but we have to share the same earth!
Sorry for this, but trust me, walking around Esfahan today gave me all the time to think...and to think too, that people here...want to live in peace...if only they didn't do politics!
So it was time to pick up my bags...take a taxi to the bus station...and get on my way to a very different experience in Tehran! I may be on the rush, but this trip is 1000% amazingly interesting! And as you can see, the winter is on my side!
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