I have so much to write about – my notebook contains 10 pages of reminder notes for me to expand upon. I am writing from the Mashad Hostel (not Mashad Hotel!) a shortwalk from the Emam Khomeini Square in Tehran.
One morning in Shiraz a reasonably old man with awful teeth approached us offering his services as a guide for no charge. As we were in Iran we went with him. In Turkey or Egypt we would have ignored or walked away from him but in less touristy Iran even the touts are genuine.
The guide showed us around the bazaar and explained the history of the buildings, religious and non-religious. We entered a Madresse. Fig, orange and persimmon trees as well as date palms and rose bushes grew in the central courtyard of the building. Tiles with Nightingales and flowers decorated some of the buildings. Think of the Garden of Eden.
At the bazaar the guide suggested we buy all sorts of stuff we neither wanted nor needed so he could obtain a commission. He also had a very funny looking hand-written business card on a piece of scrap cardboard. After we had enough of him we parted ways with both him and his requested payment of 20,000 rials.
Later at the bazaar we bought some saffron and an unusual mixture of many spices colourfly displayed in a large bowl. The spices will be great with fish, white and red meats and vegetables.
Across the road from the bazaar we bought lemons. I (as the male) asked for ‘half’ a kilo. When seller requested more than 10,000 rials for payment we thought this was very strange. After witnessing him shovelling the lemons into a second bag we understood the confusion. ‘Haft’ in Farsi means ‘7’. Half and haft have similar pronunciations. By the way, ‘hafta’ in Turkish means ‘week’ (7 days).
On our 2nd and final morning in Shiraz we took a Pars Tourism Agency tour to Persepolis, the ancient city ruined by Alexander the Great all those years ago. Although I would have preferred to go by myself, the tour was only USD 7 (or equivalent rials) per person and the convenience could not be beaten.
The only other tourist on the tour was Dean. His surname is the same as a famous Australian cricketer of the 1980’s. Dean is travelling onwards to Pakistan so good luck to him. Given the cricket fanaticism in Pakistan He wants to disclose his surname to as few people as possible there.
On the 50 km journey to Persepolis I witnessed a very funny sign. A business on the side of the road displayed “Rottonest Service”. I do not have a clue what it means but the connotations for the business are not very good.
Speaking of signs, the guide asked us what the acronym “C.B.D.” meant as this was written on some signs on the way to Shiraz. I was the only person who knew the meaning: Central Business District. Even the Englishman didn’t know. I guess the Iranian who designed the signs had studied in Australia, not knowing CBD is a localised expression.
Before the actual sight of Persepolis we visited a another historical sight with a few Necropolises (graves cut into rock) and a funny square temple.
The actual sight of Persepolis is on a massive scale, covering 12 hectares if I recall correctly. The ancient reliefs were very impressive. There is also a small museum on the grounds. I am certain the Internet contains a wealth of information concerning this world heritage sight so I won’t write in detail.
The guide helpfully dropped Karin and I off at the bus terminal where we waited for our 2pm 2nd class bus to Yazd.
The Ride to Yazd
There were no convenient ‘Volvo’ class buses to Yazd that left in the early afternoon so we took a 2nd class bus. Although the ride is slower and less comfortable, we thought it would be good to mix with another group of Iranians. We wanted an early afternoon bus so we could see the countryside.
The wind shield at the top front of the bus was written “BUTYPRINCESS”. We assumed this meant “BEAUTY PRINCESS” and not “BUT Y PRINCESS?”, “BUTTY PRINCESS” or “BUT PRINCESS”. At a similar position near the rear window was written “NATASHA”. In Turkey, ‘Natasha’ is a reference to a prostitute from the former Soviet Union countries.
The interior of the bus was very tackily decorated. Almost all the cliched tacky additions were there except for hanging dice and fox tails. We had seats 1 and 2 so the view through the front of the bus was good. There was nothing between us and the front window (tacky decorations aside). People paranoid about safety would not enjoy such a ride.
The scenery on the journey ranged from green valleys to jagged mountains and desert plains. In one area there were several white marble factories. I do not recall seeing one petrol station along the way. I guess fuel distribution is government-controlled as there are very few petrol stations and the price is very cheap. I have heard it is 1/8 of USD$1 per litre of petrol and 1/44 of USD$1 for diesel. This contrasts sharply with Turkey where there are fuel stations everywhere and petrol is more then USD$1!
At one point we passed a scrap metal truck on its side with some of its load on the road.
We passed through Abakouh, a town with many beautiful ancient walls and a few funny cone-shaped buildings looking wonderful in the evening light. Here the kind woman sitting across from us left the bus before we could access our bags to give her some cezerye and Turkish delight. Earlier this woman had paid some money for a koran for Karin that a boy had given on the bus. The woman also gave me a pair of ‘Lee’ socks and Karin a set of hosiery socks out of the kindness of her heart. Possibly the only occasion Karin will wear the hosiery socks is at a fancy dress party.
Just past Abakouh we stopped for a toilet break. This stop was much longer than planned as the bus had a flat tyre which required repairing. I took the opportunity to walk down a village street. At the end of the street I took a photo of some sunflower flowers with ancient buildings and mountains in the background. I hope it turns out. I then jumped on the back of a motorbike driven by a bespectacled boy no older than 14.
Back at the main road the boy took a photo of me with my camera and then clicked a few times in quick succession. The photos will be wasted but who cares when one has priceless experiences like this.
Another boy then grabbed me and I took a photo of him, two men and a third boy. At least two of the four were wearing ‘shalvar’, the baggy pants often worn in Turkish villages although from observation, less often worn in Iran. The 2nd boy also insisted on a photo with him pretending to use a mobile phone. Mobile phones are becoming more common in Iran but they still have nowhere near the penetration of Turkey or western countries.
As darkness arrived the bus eventually left. The remainder of the 8 hour journey was not very fun as the assistant kept on bumping me as he walked passed whilst I was trying to sleep. The distance between my seat and the middle front seat was very little but at least he could have been more careful. The customer service level on Turkish buses is far superior to Iranian buses.
As the hotel worker wants to sleep (it is almost 11:30 pm) I will sign off for now. I still have a huge amount to write on Yazd and Tehran. I will hopefully both continue my blog writing and reply to comments and emails tomorrow.