Having the time of our lives in Shiraz
We had heard much of Shiraz before we arrived and after the trials of staying in Isfahan we were really ready for things to go right for us. And thankfully this time we had struck gold. Our couchsurfing host, Shahram, was a wonderful guy and he really made our stay in the city a fantastic experience.
Shahram, and his flatmate Farshid, lived in a modern apartment (with working internet – a god-send in the internet black hole that is Iran) and were both funny, relaxed and interesting guys. We had originally planned to stay in the city for 3-4 days but it soon rolled over to 5 and it was with a heavy heart that we were finally forced to continue our journey. Farshid, a fiendishly good backgammon player had a devil-may-care attitude to life, and we all got on like a house on fire. Both came from villages on the outskirts of the city and Shahram was a master wine-maker with a sharing heart and vino flowed from the very first moment we were there. Furthermore, he was an excellent musician and every time he picked up the tar or sitar one couldn’t help but marvel at his skill.
He also tried to teach Ania a few chords with mixed success…
And tried to teach Jon how to dance (and click) like an Iranian with even less success …
Shiraz is famed within Iran for its poets and although it perhaps lacks the blockbuster sites of Isfahan, we found it to be more charming, intimate and lived in. The people were friendlier, the markets more authentic and the surrounding countryside more beautiful.
Whilst we were in the city we paid a visit to the stunning Shah Cheragh, which houses the tomb of the brothers Ahmad and Muhammad, sons of Mūsā al-Kādhim and brothers of ‘Alī ar-Ridhā which is major place of pilgrimage for Shia Muslims. Security was extremely tight, due to a previous bombing, and we had to walk around separately. There were young English speaking guides there, employed to ‘assist’ foreigners, fill them with tea and propagate the Islamic and Iranian word. I shook mine off quite sharpish but I did have the fun experience of a man pushing his way through a crowd to tell me that he didn’t like England. Thanks mate!
We also went to visit the UNESCO listed ancient city of Persepolis. As a history student it had always been my wish to see this fascinating site and I was certainly not disappointed. Just walking through the ruins of this once great city brought to my mind images of what would have been a thriving, intimating seat of power. In its pomp it must have been an amazing place and quite unlike anything in the world at that time.
Hitchhike to Yazd: a UNESCO let down and a budding tour guide
Once again Iranian hospitality came to our aid when finding the hitchhiking spot as Shahram drove us around the city’s northern limits and onto the motorway towards Yazd. Good man! Our first lift came when a family stopped, loaded us in and drove us 40km up the road. After piling out, a quick round of photos and hearty goodbyes we were soon in another truck heading north.
The truck driver and his friend were a friendly crew and offered to drive us via Pasargarde if we so wished. Now, we love UNESCO sites so this opportunity was too good to miss. Unfortunately, it proved to be a bit of a disappointment which the elegant tomb of Cyrus couldn’t even overcome. There was little there to see, and the barren historical site probably wasn’t worth the price of admission. Still, you live and you learn. The guys had very kindly waited for us so we continued onwards, right until the fork in the motorway, with them going north and us heading east.
The next lift was with a budding tour guide who insisted on showing us the sites of the town of Abarkuh, despite the fact it was getting late and we were still a long way from our destination. He showed us an old Cyprus tree, a Zoroastrian cone shaped building and would have showed us more if we hadn’t implored him to take us to the road as time really was of the essence.
One truck then another truck and by now darkness really had fallen. The second truck was a touch frightening as the driver insisted on turning around in his seat to talk to us, resulting in him nearly losing control of the vehicle on more than one occasion but we had finally reached the outskirts of Yazd.
We were so close and it all it took was one nice young man who saw us looking a bit lost. We called up the friend of a friend we would be staying with and passed the phone over hopefully. After a brief chat we were in his car and being driven to the house. Door to door service!
written by: Jon