From Mashad to Shiraz

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Middle East » Iran
October 19th 2007
Published: November 5th 2007
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Saffron is one of the specialties in Mashad.
Crossed the border from Turkmenistan to Iran on the 15th October. A much easier undertaking compared to the previous one, except now the ladies had to cover their hair with scarves and wear long shirts/coats. First stop was Mashad where the ladies in the group hit the shops to purchase long robes or manteaus (knee-length coats) and head scarves. Considering that the only form of self-expression fashion-wise is the different coloured head scarves you wear, one could easily develop a bit of a scarf fetish in Iran.

The main attraction in Mashad is the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (the 8th Shiite Imam and a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed), which is the holiest pilgrimage site in Iran. There was a lot of construction activity as they are spending millions to build the Shiite equivalent of Mecca. As non-Muslim foreigners we were only able to access the main courtyards and Main Museum (with some strange exhibits like musicians made of mussel shells). No bags or cameras are allowed inside; but they will let you bring in mobile phones with inbuilt cameras. The ladies had to wear a "chador", which is essentially a large sheet with an elastic band at
Not a bad imitation of an Iranian womanNot a bad imitation of an Iranian womanNot a bad imitation of an Iranian woman

Except my head scarf kept slipping.
the head that you have to hold together with your hands. Quite hot and uncomfortable. We were stopped a number of times by the fashion police (chador patrol) as they kept on slipping.

Afterwards we visited Tus (the birthplace of Firdowsi - the famous medieval Iranian poet); plus Omar Khayyam's private garden (renowned historian, astronomer, mathematician and poet).

Then it was onto Shiraz. Major highlight was the magnificent Achaemenian palace complex of Persepolis, which was commenced around 518 BC by Darius I. Conceived to be the seat of government for the Achaemenian kings and a center for receptions and ceremonial festivities, the wealth of the Persian empire was evident in all aspects of its construction. However the palaces were looted and burned by Alexander the Great in 331-330 BC.

Alcohol is strictly forbidden in Iran. You can only get this revolting malt-based non-alcoholic "beer" drink, which is slightly improved by adding lime juice and salt. Card and dice games (like backgammon) are also outlawed; but chess is okay. You'd still see people flouting the laws by playing cards in tea-houses.

Yankee products are also banned. But since there are no copyright laws in Iran, there's no stopping them ripping off the KFC brand. Didn't see any Macca's though - obviously considered too American. The great irony is that they still bottle Coca-Cola under license, and the manufacturing plant is owned by the mullahs from the Mashad Holy Shrine!!! Plus the almighty greenback is king - don't even consider bringing any other currency to exchange.

Additional photos below
Photos: 35, Displayed: 23



Built in the 15th century
Village viewVillage view
Village view

From the rooftop of the caravanserai
Lamb Chops all for me....Lamb Chops all for me....
Lamb Chops all for me....

I couldn't fault the food in Iran, which was delicious.
Funky hairFunky hair
Funky hair

Our friendly bus drivers in Mashad. All the Iranian men had hair that defied gravity.
Ghadam GhahGhadam Ghah
Ghadam Ghah

This is another pilgrimage site outside Mashad where the Imam Reza rested for a day and drank the waters. A mosque was built above the Holy Well, and pilgrims come to kiss and touch the chamber which encloses a large stone with 2 footprints believed to be those of the Imam Reza.
Holy laundryHoly laundry
Holy laundry

Pilgrims believing that the Imam Reza's special blessings will pass onto any clothes washed in the holy waters.
Imam-zadeh-ye Ali Ebn-e HamzeImam-zadeh-ye Ali Ebn-e Hamze
Imam-zadeh-ye Ali Ebn-e Hamze

Tomb of the nephew of the 7th Shiite Imam with an unusual onion-shaped dome.
Dazzling disco wallsDazzling disco walls
Dazzling disco walls

Mirrored tile interior of the Imamzadeh-ye Ali Ebn-e Hamze, which is supposedly a smaller example of the Imam Reza Holy Shrine in Mashad (which we couldn't access). There was a funeral whilst we were there. The family members passed around ice-cream to everyone in the mosque including our group.
Aramgah-e Sa-diAramgah-e Sa-di
Aramgah-e Sa-di

Tomb of the great 13th century poet named Sa'di. His poetry verses line the walls.
Budgie fortune tellerBudgie fortune teller
Budgie fortune teller

Even if you don't want it, who can resist a budgie?Here he is picking out my fortune. It read as follows -"You have a kind heart which is full of love, but you are not always appreciated by others. But never fear, God will show his appreciation."
Aramgah-e HafezAramgah-e Hafez
Aramgah-e Hafez

The tomb of Shiraz's favourite son, and Iran's greatest poet. This is a revered pilgrimage site for Iranians. The marble tombstone is engraved with a verse from one of his poems.
Bazar-e VakilBazar-e Vakil
Bazar-e Vakil

Traditional handicrafts in the bazaar in Shiraz.
Iranian sweetmeatsIranian sweetmeats
Iranian sweetmeats

Sold by the kilo. Contains layers of sesame, coconut and pistachios.
Huffing a hookah Huffing a hookah
Huffing a hookah

Our driver Amir, our guide Mehrdad (enjoying a puff), and friend at a roadside teahouse waiting for the group to finish shopping in the bazaar.
Xerxes' Gateway, PersepolisXerxes' Gateway, Persepolis
Xerxes' Gateway, Persepolis

Also known as the Gate of All Nations, which was the impressive entrance into Persepolis

22nd September 2008

gesine cheung, your page blog about iran is a fantastic history class. thanks for taking me out of my ignorance. happiness for you. joão antonio
2nd April 2010

Trip to Iran
Nice site; great pictures. I went on the same route as you in 2009 and then went to Yazd, Isfahan and Tehran. 8 of us in a group but only me (English) and 2 Americans were fingerprinted. Ozzies and kiwis were not. What did you think of the people? I found them so very very friendly and generous. Waves, greetings, bear hugs, bread, apples and fruit.
2nd April 2013
Zoroastrian symbol

Beautiful .
Thank u for the display

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