Iran – The Curious Land

Iran is hot.
And when I say hot, I mean trapped in a sealed box with a piece of the sun, in the Sahara Desert during summer.
But I mustn’t complain, for my mum and my sister have had it worse as they were both fully covered and had to wear hijabs throughout the days.

The heat is exacerbated by the shortage of water all over Iran. We sat eating on a bridge in Esfahan where the river was completely dry. Most fountains had no water either, but were covered in dirt and leaves instead.

Locals are so curious about tourists in Iran. If I had a dollar every time someone looked at me as if I’m an alien, I would be as rich as Mark Zuckerberg. Many times during our stay in Iran, locals would come up to us and have a five minute conversation and pose for pictures. There was even this lady who filmed her son talking to us as if we were some sort of celebrities. Every time we crossed the road, people would even shout hello from their transport vehicle while asking where we were from.

Indeed it is so true what we had heard about Iranians – they are very friendly. Already on the bus from Yerevan to Tehran, a big Iranian family came over and striked up a conversation with us. They offered us food and invited us to visit them in their home. Later on during the journey, we witnessed a backgammon match between two men on the streets. They noticed my dad’s interest and offered him a chance to play. It was a tough match, but unfortunately the opponent won.
At some point I also got a chance to join two local boys who were kicking the ball on the streets. They were Iranian and I was Italian, but we had one common language – football.

Whilst in Iran, we visited 5 cities – Tehran, Kashan, Esfahan, Shiraz and Yazd, in that order.

In the big cities, what struck me, was the predominance of transport vehicles (i.e. traffic!). On entering Tehran, I saw a man pushing his car, attempting to start it, before jumping inside and steering it. In Esfahan, several boxes collapsed out of an overfilled truck, onto the road. In Shiraz, an out-of-control car was speeding on the highway, chased by a man on foot. We can only assume the driver was unconscious. What happened next? I’ll leave you to guess🤐😜 * cue suspense music *

Of course, apart the traffic there were other interesting things to see in Iran.

In Tehran, we visited Golestan Palace, which is impressively decorated with glistening diamonds and mirrors in most rooms. The city is also home to the 5th tallest communications tower in the world – Milad Tower. It was pretty high. Near the Milad Tower was a big air bag. To be able to do the big jump was, of course, the highlight of my day.

In Kashan, I particularly enjoyed running around the historical houses. Actually, all of us really liked Kashan as a whole. We also visited the ancient baths. It is pretty clever the way it had been designed – they built twisting corridors, so it would take longer for the heat of the hot tub to escape.

Kashan was also where, for the first time, we sat at Iranian tables – if you could call it that. It was a sort of a hard big bed, with no table and carpet instead of mattress – for respect and tradition, you take off your shoes (which could be embarrassing if you have smelly feet!). I enjoyed eating on those “beds.” I think it should be internationally welcomed.

On our way to Esfahan, we stopped by Abyaneh. On the way, we observed a castle perched high on a hill. Funny enough it looked like the sandcastles I would build on the beach at Villa Gea. Once on Abyaneh I understood why: constructions there are made of mud and straw.
It was impressive, the whole village of Abyaneh is red mud and straw. Built more than 2000 years ago, they have all managed to stay firm and still.

While in Esfahan, Iran went in a state of mourning for Hussein, the third Iman, who died gruesomly in a battle. Therefore, all the shops and mosques closed, which was unfortunate, because we couldn’t see much. On the other hand, this gave us plenty of time to relax and for me to do lots of studying. So not much happened in Esfahan. This didn’t mean we couldn’t participate in the ceremonies though. Locals invited us to events and (*cough* without our consent *cough*) took pictures of us wearing religious trinkets which were given to us. In addition, we were constantly offered free tea and dates on every corner of the streets, which was paradise for my mum.

The morning we were meant to leave the city though, we managed to quickly tour the beautiful square with its several mosques and Palace. We also managed to make a stop to the Armenian church. For us it was strange to learn that in Esfahan there were Christian Armenian quarters, considering how seriously Iran enforces Islam within its border. The Armenian Church was fully decorated with painting, including a massive depiction of Hell.

In Shiraz, of course, we visited Persepolis and Necropolis. I was surprised of Persepolis, because I expected it to be a bit bigger as it was the old capital of Persia, founded by Darius the Great. Two stone griffins stood guard at the entrance to Persepolis, the Gate of all Nations, still imposing after all those years (553 BC) and despite the great number of graffiti spoiling their base.
While walking around Persepolis, I also couldn’t help but notice how the carvings were so extremely detailed, the carved soldiers even had different clothes.

Talking of detail, I was mostly impressed with the delicately and beautifully carved trees by a professional carver in a park back in the city. No words can describe the beauty and detail of the elegantly shaped trees.

Shoutout to the amazing carver.

Necropolis consisted of just four tombs, which were really high up, right in the middle of the mountains.

Shiraz is also home to many interesting mosques e.g. one had tiles all of mixed colours and another was lit up at night.

There is also the so called Pink Mosque, which at sunrise, fills up with the reflected colours from the stained windows, like a giant caledoiscope!

So Shiraz was very interesting. But one word of warning: watch out in its Bazaar – there are always motorcycles and people with boxes coming from the opposite direction.

Eventually our time in Shiraz was over, and we made our way to Yazd, also stopping by Pasargard on the way. Pasargard was quite a dissapointment – it was very antique but, compared to Persepolis, there wasn’t much left to feel impressed by.
After Pasargard, we visited the oldest living creature in the world (according to the Iranians, but upon some research it turns out it is only the second), Sarv-e Abarqu, a cedar tree, still living, even after 4000 years.

I liked Yazd as much as Kashan. I was particularly amused by a red fountain, near the marvelous Amir Chakhmagh (I’m sure is actually blood…😦I unveiled your secrets, government🕵️‍♂️🤯🤐oh well🤷‍♂️).

Yazd is the home of wind catchers – they are everywhere.
It even has the tallest wind catcher in the world (which, while not looking much in terms of height was producing really powerful wind).
Another impressing fact – Yazd is still an important center of zoroastrianism (ancient religion of Persia strongly linked to nature) and in their temple still burns an eternal fire.

Finally we returned to Tehran to take a bus to Baku. But first, we stopped by Maybod, which was in any case on our way. We visited a castle (posed for pictures) and the Ice House, a massive dome with a massive hollow hole underneath, which was used to store ice in the ancient times. Even the tiniest whisper would echo around the walls. Creepy. * shudders *
Oh yeah, we also rescued a pigeon stuck inside.

After Maybod, we went straight to Tehran. It was there that our two-week stay in Iran finished. While I must admit it was fun in general, it was difficult to roam around in the scorching heat that envelopes Iran from sunrise to sunset.

P. S. Melon juice is a must–have drink in Iran. The same goes for syrup juices with flowers. So, if you ever have the quenching desire to have a nice, fresh melon juice or a syrup, come to Iran. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

P. P. S The night we returned to Tehran, for dinner, I overate lamb and sure enough, the next morning, I wasn’t feeling so well.
In which case, I felt like:

Sorry Marvel fans.

I feel your pain.