Looking at the town map of Shiraz in the guide book you see a main street running east to west through the main part of the town. After Esfahan, I had high hopes of a slightly peaceful tree lined boulevard. Sadly what I got was a dual carriageway with the opposing lanes separated by a raised strip of grass. This being Iran, the dual carriageway had between 4 and 7 lanes of traffic travelling on it at anyone time!
I arrived here in the mid afternoon and at least this hotel has a window (It also has aircon that I have no control over and so I was forced to use a blanket to keep me warm during the night). In the evening a lazy walk around the neighbourhood was all I felt like doing. I did happen to walk pass a cake shop…mmm.
On the Sunday I was up early for the 25 minute walk to the botanical gardens of Bagh-E-Eram or Garden of Paradise. The name is a bit of a stretch but some of the plants and their settings were worth the walk. However having to pay 40000 rials to get in was a slightly high price to pay. The evening meal I had the night before cost less than that!
From there I went to a place of pilgrimage for many Iranians and this time it wasn’t to a mosque or a religious shrine but rather a simple tomb. It was the final resting place for the Iranian poet Hafez. He was born here in Shiraz in about 1324 and even now in the present day his poetry evokes strong emotion and devotion in the population. Many people when they visit perform “faal-e-Hafez“. This involves opening a page of his poetry book at random and finding a guide to the future from within the pages. Whilst I was there, many people stood at his tomb, ran their fingers over the inscription and then opened the book and became lost in deep thought.
A short walk away is the Imamzadeh-Ye-Ali-E-Hamze. This is the shine for the nephew of the 7th Shitte Imam. It is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever been inside. I was unable to take any pictures and for once I am happy that I wasn’t able to. I really feel that my camera would have struggled to match what my eyes saw. Once inside all you can see are multicoloured mirrored tiles which……and I’m not going to tell you anymore about it! Get off your fat arse and come and see for yourself!
One thing that I have learnt in my time here in Iran is that if you sit down anywhere for more the 5 minutes someone will join you and start up a conversation. Because I was walking around everywhere and the sun was shining I had a lot of conversations today. Not that I mind but sometimes all you want is to sit down for 5 minutes in the shade and not 45 minutes.
In the late afternoon I visited the Arg-E-Karim Khani. It’s a square fortress with a circular tower at each corner. One of the towers has more of a lean than the one at Pisa and the guys from Italy weren’t able to help with this one! Inside is a small citrus orchard divided into four equal squares with a long narrow pool in the middle. It was, at one point in its history used as a prison. Once I had left the fort I sat down outside in the shade, can you guess what I did for the next 60 minutes…
The next day (Monday 5th) I, along with a fellow English guy called Kes who is staying at the same hotel (www.kesblog.co.uk) shared a taxi and the expense to travel to 4 archaeology sites near Shiraz
The ancient city of Pasargadae began life under Cyrus the Great in about 546 B.C. What is left of the city today covers a large area. So it was nice that the taxi driver drove us between each monument. Out of the 6 of them the most impressive was the Tomb of Cyrus. Standing large in the flat landscape it seemed to be bigger than it was. It’s no where the size of the mausoleum in Bodrum but at least it is still standing. Guess no fort building Christian soldiers got this far!
At this site are the 4 rock hewn burial chambers of Darius I, Artaxerxes I, Xerxes I and Darius II. Each of them follows the same basic design of a large cross shaped relief with the burial chamber entrance in the middle. Sadly there was no way to get inside, well unless you carry a long ladder with you at all times and were able somehow not to be noticed by the site guards. Below each of them was carved relief’s depicting the more dramatic scenes of their reigns.
Across the main road from the rock tombs is this little site with some nice carved relief’s cut out of or into the rock face…I can never tell which way round it is
The best was saved till last. This city was the hub of the 1st Persian (Achaemenid) empire and construction began here in 518 B.C under the guidance of Darius the Great. The city was “lost for centuries under a cover of dust and sand before being rediscovered in the 1930’s. For a more detailed description check out a website.
As Arthur Upham Pope wrote “the beauty of Persepolis is not mere size and costly display; it is the result of beauty being specifically recognised as sovereign value”
In the evening an enjoyable meal in a nice restaurant with Kes was had and afterwards we went to a coffee shop and I had my fingers crossed! Now it’s been 20 days since I have had a coffee and man, did I really want one! Inside the empty coffee shop I asked for an espresso and my hopes faded a little when I was brought a large cup of black liquid. Turns out it was a really good coffee and it was an espresso…a damn big one…happy days!
For my last full day in Shiraz and therefore Iran I just walked around and ended up talking to an old man (an ex lawyer) who had mad starring eyes and at the end of every sentence would lean forward and poke me in the chest with his bony finger by way of exclamation. So, just for fun when he asked me what my religion was I answered “Sfauism”. I then proceed to tell him all about the long and detailed history of Sfauism and how in fact Islam had been influenced by it! I know, it was wrong but it was far too much fun not to do it!
So there you go…that was Iran. An absolutely great country with some of the friendliest people on the planet. I fully recommend that if you have the chance to come here you should, it’s something that you will not regret.