From Tabriz to Esfahan to Shiraz (have a drink for me)

Having come from Esfahan, Karin and I are now in Shiraz, the town the famous grape is named after. Tomorrow we will take a tour to the ancient city of Persopolis before catching a bus to Yazd in the afternoon.

One thing I forgot happened at the Tabriz park Friday morning was the fortune-telling. For 2,000 rials a boy would take his small bird (canary, budgerigar, lovebird or similar) out of a portable cage and make it choose one of the envelopes in his hand. The envelope chosen contained a piece of paper detailing one’s fortune. I can’t remember what mine was meant to be but that is not important. The novelty factor was more interesting to me.

Also in Tabriz:

-I called work in Turkey at 1,700 rials per minute. The sound quality was excellent.

-Nasser suggested we pay 10,000 for a taxi to the Tabriz bus terminal but the driver insisted we pay only 5,000.

-At the terminal a newly-wedded couple (we guess they were such) were been farewelled by some family members. They ended up sitting next directly behind us on the bus.

The Journey to Esfahan

-On the “Volvo class” (best class) bus they showed a Bollywood movie dubbed into Farsi.

-Around 9pm we passed a truck on its side. Its cargo (probably crates of tomatoes) was on the ground.

-The bus company was “Ham Safar”. The irony of the first name should be easily observed.

-The journey time was 13+1/2 hours not 16 as the Lonely Planet guide indicated.

Esfahan

Esfahan is one of the most historic and beautiful cities of the Middle East. There are a number of famous mosques, bridges and other buildings. The main square is particularly good.

In Esfahan:

-The main square is surrounded by a walled bazaar, a couple of mosques and other architectural treasures. On some concrete bollards “DOWN WITH USA” and “DOWN WITH ISRAEL” are written. These are the only overtly political statements witnessed so far.

-We saw an Iranian movie at the cinema. The theatre’s lighting was bright enough to see other audience members but still dim enough to enjoy the movie. Although it was in Farsi we could understand the basis of the plot. I believe it was centred on a woman who went to Tehran to look for her younger sister. The movie was quite intriguing, gripping and violent at ocassions. At no point was a woman shown without a headscarve. We hope to see another movie before we leave Iran.

-For Karin’s birthday we went to a upmarket restaurant. We both chose a local dish: I had lamb (shanks!) with barberry rice and Karin, chicken with barberry rice. Barberry is a small berry that adds a nice sharp flavour to the rice. I also tried my first Iranian alcohol-free beer. It was good but probably would not compare next the the real stuff. The “Turkish” coffee at the end was similar to Turkish Turkish coffees. All up the great meal in a fancy setting cost 88,000 rials. The remainder of the patrons were locals except for a table-full of Japanese.

-On the first morning we walked past a beautiful bridge to the Armenian Quarter. The churches looked rather interesting on the outside but we did not go in as it was too early. Many of the entry gates in this area, as well in other parts of Iran, contain door-knockers. The one on the left is for females and the right door-knocker for males. Afterwards we sat at a nargile cafe under the bridge and drank tea.

-One evening we made it to another historic bridge for the sunset. A couple of young girls were fishing and their attempts to catch a fish were very funny. Several men sang and chanted, enhancing the atmosphere.

-Monday was Iman Ali’s birthday. He was a very important person for Shiites. Many shops were closed but I didn’t witness any public events for this day.

-It was another Ham Safar bus ride to Shiraz. The 6+1/2 hour journey was smooth although we sat in seats 1 and 2 and had limited leg room and listened to the driver’s loud Iranian music.

Shiraz

We arrived in Shiraz shortly 5.15 this morning. Shiraz is a more conservative city than Tabriz or Esfahan. Although the people are still friendly there is a slightly more hostile atmosphere and there are more beggars (although not many) here. The food is different with falafel and delicious fried triangle thingies sold on the streets.

Shiraz has a brick fort. It also contains 2 mausoleums of Imans (Ali is one I believe) very important to the Shiites. At the entrance to one of the mausoleums we were not allowed in because we were not muslims. This is the first time I ever recall being not allowed entry somewhere because of my religion.

Like Tabriz and Esfahan, Shiraz has a great bazaar. I guess every Iranian city has a great bazaar!

General Observations

-There is hardly any music in public spaces at all. The only places we heard western and Turkish music was in Tabriz “Coffee Nets”. I guess playing this music is a rebellious behaviour.

-The foreigner entry fees to museums and other historic sights were reduced to the local rate 2 months ago. A museum that was 30,000 rials is now 3,000; 25,000, now 2,500; etcetera. The only exception so far is a religious architecture school in Esfahan where the religious authorities have kept the price at 30,000.

-After thick and heavy pillows at the first two hotels the hotel here in Shiraz has a ‘normal’ pillow and my neck and head should feel better tomorrow.