The flight from Karachi to Tehran was 6 AM in the morning, with 11 hours of connection waiting in Doha by Qatar airway, a cheap flight by USD 150, so Madeeha and her mother took me to the airport at 3 AM, so basically I didn't sleep that night, so my plan was to sleep in Doha airport during my 11 hours of waiting time, but I couldn't because I met a Chinese guy going to Chile with the connection in Brazil, he hadn't the return ticket, so the Brazilian custom didn't allow him to board, later I knew the Brazilian custom is asking for the return ticket because a lot of people go and stay in Brazil, my lovely country! Anyway, the Chinese guy didn't get the connection flight to Brazil at first moment and Qatar airway was going to send him back to Beijing, so I used my whole time in Doha airport to help him because he badly can speak English, that was similar to the movie The Terminal.
Arriving in Tehran airport, the procedure of the visa on arrival was simple, but that day was so much people arriving for the Muay Thai Championship, and that
took 2 hours to process and issue my visa, my plan was to take a public transport to my host's house in Karaj, city next to Tehran, but that will take a long time, so I got a taxi to there, the place was really far from airport, about 40 minutes, that cost me 500000 rials, around USD 40, gosh! Too expensive!!! I should go to city center stay in a hotel then go next day to host's house, that should be cheaper. Just a information about exchange rate in Iran, the official exchange rate was USD 1 to 12500 rials, but the cell phone seller exchanged to me by 13000, and 5 days later I exchanged in a travel agency by 18000, so the conclusion, exchange money in travel agency is the best way.
My host Mohammad in Karaj, he is a party guy, he loves to dance, and he took me to some private parties there, and I could see how Iranian people like to dance, to be free and to have fun like everyone, I also could see a performance of traditional Iranian music, very nice one! That was a meeting of couchsurfers in Tehran, the
locals and travelers, then I stayed a night with a female host, Shirin, once again I felt how the new generation in Iran is fighting against the Islamic limits, Shirin hosted me and in a local bus she asked me to sit with her at female side, and she said the Islamic women can't show anything that can seduce a man, that is why the women is Iran should use scarf, but the Iranian women do a lot of makeup and hairstyle, that is also a way to fight for their space. Actually I saw a lot of beautiful women in Iran, that was a very good surprise, the most of them are really beautiful.
I stayed in Tehran/Karaj for 6 days, meeting people there with my hosts, walking around to visit to museum, and doing the visa for UAE, the funny thing was the UAE embassy doesn't issue the visa, only by travel agency, and the UAE visa cost me USD 142. One of things I learned there was about the shared taxi, that was very confuse for me in the beginning, there are a lot of private cars doing the same thing like a taxi, but in
the same time those cars work like a bus, because everyone can stop it and jump in if the car is going to your place, and to get a share taxi you must be on the main road to the direction you want, and then go together with another passenger. Also the price in Iran must pay a little more attention, the official currency is Rial, but the people normally use Toman, 1 Toman equal 10 Rials.
From Tehran to Isfahan, the bus takes 7 hours and cost only around USD 5 to USD 6 depends on the exchange rate. When I was approaching the city, my host called me to know when I was, because his place is before the city, so I passed my phone to someone in the bus, and by coincidence, the guy was going to the some place as my host's house, so he gave a ride, after we got off the bus in the middle of highway. Morteza, my host in Isfahan, he hosted me for 2 nights. Time in Isfahan was short, actually I stayed too much days in Tehran/Karaj. But anyway I could see a lot of things in Isfahan.
Isfahan is famous by architecture and handcraft. Iman's square, the center of the city, there was a field to play polo, nowadays is a huge park to local and foreigner to visit. Some mosques around the square, and one of the most special was Sheikh Lotf Allah, a mosque for women, that haven't the big columns outside of mosque, those columns symbolize men's power. Ali Qapu palace also in Iman square, that was a place for the entertainment of king, and the music room there has the most impressive design for me, a very exotic design and excellent acoustic effect. The bridges are very famous there as well, Si-o-se pol means bridge 33, there are 33 arches, and Khaju pol or Khaju brigde, both are very famous and popular place even for the local people, they used to go there and spend time. Isfahan was divided in 4 areas for 4 religions, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Zoroastrian, the last one was the main religion of the ancient Persian empire, but I didn't visit any place of Jewish and Zoroastrian in Isfahan, only Muslim and a Armenian Christian Church, the Vank Church, and there are a lot of Armenian living in
Isfahan because of Turkish genocide in Armenia in 97 years ago. Only 2 whole days in Isfahan, but I met 3 local people to talk, 2 couchsurfers, 1 university professor who I met on street and he walked with for almost 4 hours explaining the local culture to me.
The bus from Isfahan to Shiraz was a night bus, I chosen the VIP one with larger and reclining seat, USD 5 more expensive than normal one, but I should take the normal, because I couldn't "lock" my legs, and my suspended legs weren't comfortable to sleep. Arriving in Shiraz, I took a local bus to my host apartment, once again I could fell the kindness of Iranian, I asked to a woman in the bus stop how can I go to the place, and she took me to the place, and I was sure she was only waiting the bus. My host from Shiraz is Albi, a man with a impressive language skill, learning about 8 language by himself, and while I was hosted by Albi, there was another guest from France, Jean, a 55 years old man, but with the energy of thirty, traveling around and also a
photographer, my dream life style.
Shiraz, a city famous by wine, wine? wine in Islamic country? yes it is, but I didn't have the chance to try, just met a very crazy guy Sami, who always was drinking some alcohol, even that was a sin for Muslim, but he don't care. And he took me to visit very nice places, like Nasir-Al-Molk mosque where had a very beautiful mix of red color in the architecture, what was unusual in Muslim mosque, always the main color was blue, another place was Holy Shrine, inside of the building was full of mirrors, wonderful place, but somehow the place wasn't in my guide book, thanks Sami! There was a very famous place near to Shiraz, Persepolis, the ancient capital of Persian empire, very nice palace where you can feel the ancient air surrounding, but that was hot, there is no tree, almost nothing green to protect you from sun and to give some shadow, and I also was expecting a huge place because of the Persian empire, but it was not, maybe after Alexander's attack the most of the buildings were destroyed, or maybe the population was not that huge.
Ali Qapu palace
The music hall of Ali Qapu in Isfahan, a excellent acoustic designer
Shiraz to Bandar Abbas I took a normal bus, I have only one night in Bandar Abbas, because next day I will take the ferry to Sharjah in UAE, then go to Dubai. Actually this time I didn't get host from couchsurfing, so I already thought to sleep anywhere just for a night. I arrived in Bandar Abbas on May 15th, one day after my birthday, and there was my best gift, I got a ride from a taxi driver to the city center, another one took me to cross the city, and finally I met Ehsan on the street, who took me to buy the ferry ticket, also hosted for a night and gave me wonderful foods from his family. Bandar Abbas was very very hot, so we didn't go to a lot of places, the most of time we stayed inside of the house, watching the TVs, videos, traveling pictures, playing musics and talking a lot; We only went to the beach at night time for a walk, and next day before my ferry, Ehsan took me to see the local bazar, and I could take some pictures of local women, who uses the mask for the religious
Handcraft from Isfahan
Isfahan is very famous by handcraft
reasons, not for the carnival.
Finally I am leaving Iran, by ferry, and the Iranian people for me were wonderful by their hospitality, also their women's beauty, I was really impressive, but I met a Japanese girl in the some ferry to Sharjah, she didn't have a good experience in Iran, she got a lot of sex harassment in many cities in Iran, maybe because she is a woman, and a woman traveling in Muslim country should be careful, anyway, for me Iran is really lovely place, I got nice hosts and friends there, actually there are some many places I didn't explore in Iran, like Khasan city near to Isfahan, one of the oldes city in the world, around 7000 years ago, well, I will come back to Iran someday in the future for sure.
Final account of Iran:
- 14 days
- Total USD 375 (Visa on arrival cost EURO 50, and flight was USD 150)
- Average USD 26.79 per day
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