Iran in 2 weeks
Iran was one of the countries that surprised me. I had such a great time with the people and seeing such beautiful places within the country that could possibly be the reason why it’s one of my favourite countries in my travels by far. Sometimes when you expect one thing out of cultures based on the media or your impression of what it could be like, it could very well open your eyes to something completely unexpected.
People are generally kind, some are incredibly friendly and generous. I got offered food by the locals, some even buy me drinks or pay for my bus fare willingly. No matter how much you decline the offer they will always be more persistent than you. This is the culture of Taarof in Iran.I really liked how welcoming the people were and they try their best to help you if they know you’re a tourist. There are, however, creeps and perverts who take advantage of the Iranian hospitality. Some people come up to greet you, and of course you think they’re being friendly as usual but they might only be trying to get a sneaky illegal handshake, sell you a tshirt, or entice you to see a show at night so they get make some $.
The food is pretty mediocre. Everywhere you go you’ll see shops selling sandwiches, burgers, ice cream, fresh juice and cup corn. Go to markets and you’ll see a lot of meat.. It’s always a challenge to look for food that isn’t fast food, and when you do, most of the time you have no idea what the dishes are. Persian food is very interesting though, there’s kebabs, freshly barbecued skewers, goat head stews, strange dishes/dips boiling in huge pots that is still a mystery to me. However, being more of an omnivore, I found it extremely hard to have a meal without meat. The smell and taste of the lamb is actually enough to put me off. But then again that’s just me. I found many people loving the kebabs and stacks of meat, so to each his/her own.
There’s heaps to do and see in Iran, here’s a few places that caught my interest.
Siosepol, the bridge of 33 arches is one of the 11 bridges in Isfahan. Built over the river, it can be seemingly endless if you stand at the correct angle to get a picture. *think vanishing point in perspective drawings*. The drought caused the river to be dried up during my time there, but I assume it would’ve been more pleasing to look at if it was reflected on the waters. Still!
I attempted to visit Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque repeatedly over 2 days but it was always closed, such a shame. I blame it on bad timing, the many public holidays and siesta hours. Nevertheless, the exterior was just as beautiful with such intricate details.
It was a pity I didn’t see the interiors, but I guess it’s ok because I fell in love with the interiors of another mosque in Shiraz (read on below!) On top of that, the weather was beautiful to be sitting aroundÂadmiring beautiful architecture and chatting with some friendly locals.
One of the biggest highlights for me in Shiraz was the Shah Cheragh mosque (which means ‘King of Light’ in Persian). Men and women are separated and everybody had to deposit their shoes at a counter before entering. I went through the gateÂ and walked into what I thought would just be yet another mosque. Little did I know that this was going to be the most stunning mosque I’ve ever laid eyes on. The beauty of the reflected light bouncing off each surface of tiny fragments of mirrors, the grand chandelier that hung from the ceiling, the sparkles that followed my eyes everywhere as I panned across the interiors of the mosque. It was surreal, so surreal. My jaw dropped as I rubbed my eyes to make sure I didn’t have any glitter on my eyelashes. It was such an unreal experience, the amount of sparkling created by nothing but light and mirrors. Imagine walking into a giant kaleidoscope, that would have been it. Inside, people were kneeling, praying earnestly, some in tears. Photography was technically not allowed but I… just… couldn’t… resist.
Another stunning mosque was the Nasir al-Mulk. Also known as the pink mosque, the interiors come to live when sunlight beams through the colourful glass on it’s facade. The reflected mosaic tiles on the classic persian carpets make it a such a visually stunning place to visit. Not only is it beautiful, the mosque premises are also really peaceful.
70km away from Shiraz lies the ancient city of Persepolis. Exploring around the ruins of this ancient land made me feel incredibly small in this massive world.
The Zoroastrian Towers of silence, situated in the Southern outskirts of Yazd was vast, quiet and strangely eerie. According to the Zoroastrianism, these towers erected onto two desolated hills were the place to leaveÂ dead bodies while vultures picked the bones clean. This purification ritual has been going on till the 60s. The history and purpose of these towers are really quite interesting. It’s easy to get there by hiring a taxi and directing the driver to “Dakhmeh-ye Zartoshtiyun”, where he’ll wait about an hour or so while we explored the area.
One thing I’ve noticed though, the people take a siesta around 1pm to 3pm and most shops will be closed at that time! This was peculiar because the only reason for the siesta was for people to get out from the heat during summers, where temperatures get really high in this desert land. But even when it’s not summer, they seem to keep up with the siesta :\
Silk Road Guesthouse is one of the best places to stay in Yazd. The vibes are good, they serve up delicious eats and the square is a great place to meet other travellers. We had a nice Christmas buffet at followed by some merry carols!
This island was such a hidden gem, I’m still amazed at the coincidences that landed me here. With exotic looking rock formations and untouched natural caves spread out across the vast desert island, Qeshm Island is definitely one of the most unique places that I’ve spentÂ New Years in.
Iran is definitely one of the coolest destinations I’ve been to. It has so much to offer on a visual & cultural level and people there are by far the warmest and friendliest locals I’ve ever met throughout my travels, almost on par with the people of Myanmar! All the hassle that I had to go through while planning to go to Iran was well worth my short experience there.