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Published: October 23rd 2007
Iman's mosque in close up
This is one of the most beautifull mosque we visited so far. The tile work is fantastic.
Forget about everything you have heard or read about Iran. It's probably wrong.
The media is not objective and never gives a full scenario about it. People listening to the media just get more and more scared about all the Iranians, which are described as terrorists and religious fundamentalists. Although their government tries to impose a strict religious conduct in the country, the reality there is different.
In respect to religion, Iranians are much more relaxed than in the Arab/Islamic countries. The government actions don’t match at all with what people think and their behavior. For example, the Shilaba is enforced by law, even though it looks more like a European winter clothes than a religious dress. They are short, ending in the thigh and tight to the body with usually a very colorful scarf loose over the head. You can even find young people having boy/girl friends before marriage (can you imagine that in Yemen?)
People are friendly and hospitable as we never seen before. In every corner they come to you, in a friendly and polite way, to chat with no second intentions. So many times we were approached by students to discuss one or all
As the Iranians say, half of the world!!!
of the three favorite subjects: Religion, politics and of course, sex. Countless times we listen "What do you think about our country?" and “People in your country think we are terrorists?". Most of the time this conversations lead to one invitation for tea, lunch or even stay over. Which we accepted twice.
Iran hides many beautiful places and history, lots of history. Many don't realize that Iran was Persia. But once you do, you will be fascinated by its sights and history. The benefits of these fantastic backpackers friendly country doesn't stop here. It's light on the budget, has delicious food and great public transport system - Busses are plenty, fast and comfortable. Trains are new, luxurious and have scenic routes for ridiculous cheap prices -
One of the first places we visited was Bushehr, where the polemic Russian Atomic power plant is being built. (Hehehe... Of course they didn't let us go there neither take any pictures of it!!)
Leaving Bushehr, in the bus we met Milad, a law student that invited us to stay with his family in Shiraz. He knew everything about the Iranian politics and Iranian law (of course)
, once even got jail
One of milions mosaics in Iran. They are not good only in carpets
for protesting against the government. He was very open minded (even a bit communist...hehe)
so he gave us a broad perspective of the actual Iranian situation, including the 3 "famous subjects". We had traditional dinner and breakfast with his family. - Very good food! - During the morning in the first day in Shiraz he and his cousin took us around (so lucky, we paid local prices to the attractions, because they bought the tickets for us)
and we went in the afternoon to Persepolis. The ruins are amazing, and in the night they had a lights show (was in Farsi, but even this they translated for us)
Only thing we unfortunately couldn't get there was the wine made from the grapes named after this city. After the Islamic revolution, any kind of alcohol is prohibited in Iran.
Next destination: Esfahan.
After so long traveling off the beaten track, I was delighted for arrive in a hostel and find it pack with other backpackers, all discussing what to do and what to see in the city.
Esfahan's sights are all walking distance from all the budget accommodations and many of them are just around the gorgeous Imam Square. This
pick one and go to pray
is where we always came back to chat to families while they had pick-nicks sitting on Persian carpets (of course!)
laid in the gardens in front of the Imam Mosque. Great times!
If you are kind to walk a bit more, like we did, you can go to the old bridges and even drink a tea in one of the traditional tea houses, with a nice view to the river. If it's warm enough (Iran can get very cold, with snowfalls in the winter)
don't miss the ice cream sold on the street, it is delicious and you get a huge pot for a few cents. For the ones not very interested in religious stuff, there are plenty of museums, parks and castles to be visited.
It was hard to leave Esfahan, but there was more waiting for us in Yazd.
This city has a different vibe, it is hotter, dry, and the architecture changes to a beautiful maize of mud brick houses and wind towers.
Yazd was an important stop over in the silk route so, besides the nice Water Museum (free entry!)
and other mosques, one of the highlights are the old cavanserai.
Caravanserai are the ancient
Who is there?
Diferent knocks for man and women. You know by the sound who should open.
places where the caravans could stop to rest and feed their animals in safety. It is known for being built around 1000 of these places in that era, one every 30 km (the distance covered in one day by walk)
. Only a few of them were restored and turned into nice hotels. If you go there ask for the dormitories. It can look very fancy but the price is the same as any other budget accommodation. For the super low budget you can sleep in the roof for a real bargain!!
On the way to Bam, we had a break in Kerman. There we were invited by Ehsan and his cousin to stay with his family. At night we had the nice surprise to see his whole family, including cousins having dinner together. During dinner all of them were laughing a lot from their own English. Funniest night in ages!! Thanks guys!
Bam had an impressive fortress, but destroyed in 2005 due an earthquake, now it is field for restoration workshops.
Finally we arrive in Zahedan. We went to the Pakistani embassy to get our visas. There we got the latest news about Pakistani visas: As of
Carved in wood it's as wonderfull as the tile mosaics
a few months ago they could only be issued in Tehran!!!
- Oh no, we will have to go 1200km back to get our visas!! Well, it's part of the game, let's do it as soon as possible. -
And then, the strangest thing happened. When we tried to leave the embassy we were "abducted" by the police!! Because the frontier city is known for smugglers and other "dangers", the police will escort you everywhere you go! At the beginning was a motorbike and one armed soldier following us everywhere. In the restaurant, in the internet cafe, in the travel agency, in the hotel... After we packed our bags, the motorbike was gone, but the soldier remained. We jumped in a taxi and him with us, giving instructions to the driver. Then the taxi stopped at the police station and the soldier gave us instructions to change into the police car. We couldn't understand what was going on, but at least we got a free ride in the police car to the bus station!! Only after we were seated in the bus, the police escort left.
After 24 hours on a bus... Welcome to Tehran!
The first hours
Claudio being "iluminated" in Regal's Mosque
in the capital city was a race against the time, if we can apply today there is a chance of getting it ready before the weekend!! Let's run to the embassy!! But we weren't that lucky, to get all the papers they ask for and to go trough all the bureaucracy, it took as a few days!!
If it was winter we could have gone skiing (There are two ski slopes in Tehran, I could never guess!)
but as was summer we walked around the city and visited the former American embassy to see the anti-American protests painted on the walls.
For the visit to be complete we ate kebabs served with raw onions, every night in the little restaurant next door to the hostel. I can't complain, they were delicious and I even miss it afterwards!
Back to Zahedan, this time with visas in hands, we had to say good bye to Iran, wishing to come back one day!
Now, just a little message to a long time friend:
Mr. Bush, before you say Iranians just want the nuclear technology to send it "Air mail" to your lovely country, you should learn that many Iranians are
The old hammam was turned into a modern but traditional looking Tea house.
against the power plant, not only because it's bad reputation in the world, but also because they are concerned with the environment. Something you are not, after all Kyoto is bad politics...
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