Neolithic pottery. These guys have their arms stretched to the heaven, asking for rain very likely!
Neolithic pottery. These guys have their arms stretched to the heaven, asking for rain very likely!
We arrived in Shiraz early this morning and immediately set off for the Zand Complex, the Capital of Iran during the Zand Dynasty from 1747-1779.
From the outside, the complex looks relatively boring, as do most Iranian buildings it seems. There is very little color or architecture, the buildings all appear like they have been in a dust storm. But the insides are quite different.
We started at the Arg-e Karim Khan which was where the royal court lives and worked. From there we went to the Pars Museum and Bagh-e Nazar where foreign dignitaries were welcomed.
The Hammam-e Vakil was excellently displayed with men dressed in traditional clothes of the era and shown doing business or relaxing…or getting a tooth pulled. It turns out Bath houses were used for many purposes!
Finally we saw the Masjed-e Vakil, the Regent’s Mosque with beautiful tile work and a calming presence.
I am so frustrated that I can’t upload photos. I think it has to do with the slow internet speed 😦 But if you find me on Instagram or Facebook, there will be photos there!
We also went to Bagh-e Eram, a world Unesco botanical gardens. There was little in bloom, but it was clear that it was a relaxing and beloved place for locals who were lazing in the shade with friends and family. I really want to see a snow ball tree in bloom…
Dinner was at a 150 year old mansion, we sat on the upper porch over the garden. Best meal I have had yet! I will write more about the food later!
Tomorrow…Persepolis and Hafez tomb!
We have just returned to the hotel in Tehran after visiting the National Museum of Iran and having lunch. My tour guide is a delightful woman named Tiam. She has been a guide for 9 years and has a Master’s degree in Archaeology. I could tell within moments of meeting her that we were going to get along just great. It will just be the 2 of us for the trip, apparently an Australian couple were also scheduled to join but cancelled.
Originally, the plan today was to meet at noon and then go to the National Musum and then the Jewel Museum, but that turned out to be closed today. I don’t really mind, I would rather rest and regain my stamina for our trip to Shiraz tomorrow.
Tehran is a dirty city, but it is not without its charms. The air pollution here is quite bad, for that alone I am glad we are not staying long. There are some interesting buildings that help distract from the grayness of the place.
So far, I have learned how to cross an Iranian street without dying (seriously, they are crazy drivers here) and I learned that when you sneeze, you should pause for 3 seconds before continuing in motion. Why? I have no idea.
The highlight was definitely the National Museum. I think it would be better to call it an archaeological museum. It does an excellent job of informing about the history of the people from the Neolithic time and onward. Tiam has done some digs in Iran, and was a wealth of information about the different time periods and some of the pieces. I am still having problems uploading photos. When I can, I will show you one of the first ever animations drawn into a chalice. You spin the chalice and the deer jumps!
This afternoon I will rest and then we will leave early in the morning to fly to Shiraz!
Your reading this will mean that I have successfully made it to Iran and found wifi. I am more worried about this second bit, though I will confess that nerves have fully set in (along with the excitement)!
I am currently on the plane to Tehran after having met a lovely woman in the airport who showed me all of her photos of Yazd, a city I will be going to. We communicated in broken English and lots of oohs and ahhs. She was quite excited that this is my first time in Iran…and my first hijab experience.
Speaking of hijab, I will look like I am wearing a blanket on my head compared to all of the other women in their stylish scarves. I look forward to mastering the art of wearing it, but I also am certain I will be glad to remove it. Most of the women on this flight are not wearing it. Should be interesting to see the frenzy as we all put them on before landing.
Now, the adventure truly begins. To all of you who love me in spite of my so called insanity, who have supported me even when you sometimes had to fake it, I am eternally grateful. And I promise that I will be safe, careful, and respectful of Iranian laws and customs.
With my trip just over 3 weeks away, some friends have been inquiring about my actual itinerary, so I thought I’d share with you all! I’ll post updates from each city as I am able (depending on wi-fi connection and such), but here’s a general introduction to what I’ll be up to!
Day 1: Tehran
Most international flights come and go from Tehran, but most tourists don’t stay in Tehran for long. We’ll be there for just one night, spending our time visiting the Iranian Jewel Museum, shopping at a Bazaar, and going to the National Museum. From what I’ve read, visiting Tehran is a little bit like going to Dallas. Not much to speak of. Though I’m kind of looking forward to the Iranian Jewel Museum with items dating back to the 1500’s!
Day 2 & 3: Shiraz
We’ll take short flight to Shiraz that morning where we’ll spend two nights. Shiraz was the Capital of Persia 250 years ago, so we’ll be visiting the Zand Complex including a grand citadel and palace with walls at 15 meters high, it looks like a fortress from the outside.
On our second day in Shiraz, we’ll head out to Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the empire until about 330 B.C.E. The city was sacked and burned by Alexander the Great, for which many Persians have never forgiven him. You can still see some of the epic statues and carving though. We’ll also go to Naqsh-e Rustam, a necropolis holding the tombs of the great Achaemenid Kings including Daris I, Xerxes I, Artaxeres I, and others. If you’re familiar with the Old Testament, these names will ring a bell. We’ll also see the tomb of Hafez, in central Shiraz, Hafez being a celebrated 14th century poet in the Persian culture. I’ve read much of his work, it’s simply stunning.
Day 4, 5, and 6: Kerman
We’ll be driving to Kerman where we’ll experience a bit more of the desert culture of Iran. Here I’ll finally get to see some of the ancient Zoroastrian fire temples and burial mounds that I learned about in Graduate School. This is much of why I wanted to go to Iran in the first place. Zoroastrianism played a large role in Judaism and Christianity, so in a way it’s connecting me to my roots.
We’ll also take a day trip to Mahan, a center of culture for Sufi’s, and we’ll spend time in a famous garden which will be a great contrast to the desert surroundings.
Day 7: Zeinoddin
Zeinoddin is a 400 year old Caravansary that sits on the Old Silk Road, a major trade route between Asia and Europe. Caravansaries were built by the governments to help protect traders and soldiers. They were built approximately every 20-30 miles along the route. Not many survive today, and there are few that travelers can actually visit. The Zeinoddin Caravansary was restored and now allows travelers to experience the Silk Road very similarly to how the caravan travelers would have.
Day 8 and 9: Yazd
Another major Zoroastrian city, Yazd has a history of over 5,000 years. Much of our time will be visiting Zoroastrian sites, but we’ll also see a historical Qanat, basically a method to transport water that was developed around 1,000 BCE. We’ll visit the Masjed-e Jameh mosque which was built in the 15th century and has one of the tallest portal entrances in Iran.
We also get a free day in Yazd, though of course I will have to have my guide with me. At this point, I haven’t decided what I want to use this day for, I think I’ll probably plan a couple of things but leave it mostly open to see where the wind blows.
Day 10, 11, and 12: Isfahan
Isfahan was one of the largest cities in the world for about 700 years and is know as “Half the World.” There, we’ll visit the World UNESCO Site Naghsh-e Jahan Square, an example of Iranian and Islamic architecture. We’ll see a royal mosque and spend some time in an Armenian section of Iran, which should be very interesting after visiting both Islamic and Zoroastrian cultural sites. We’ll also get some leisure time, for shopping and what not.
The tour actually will continue without me from there, but as I only have 12 days, my tour guide will drive me back to Tehran where I will fly to Dubai and spend a couple of days visiting friends, learning about the UAE, and relaxing on the beach. I think it’ll be an excellent way to end my journey!
It takes just one step to start, right? The journey of your dreams, you only get there by taking steps. Sometimes small ones, other times large.
The last couple of years, I’ve had in the back of my head the desire to go to Iran and see Ancient Persia. Maybe it will be this year, maybe it will be in 5 years. It’s hard to say. But it’s important to me to start taking steps on the journey.
Why Iran? You ask. I’m sure it’s not everybody’s dream destination. But for many of us, it embodies everything one could ask for in an adventure:
1. Ancient History, specifically the history of the cradle of civilization. When I was in Graduate School, I had the opportunity to take a class at Harvard on Zoroastrianism. I had previously done some independent study on this ancient religion while in college when I wrote a paper about the effects of Zoroastrian apocalyptic on the Israelites. I dream of seeing the ancient Fire Temples and burial towers. If this isn’t quite your thing, remember that Peresepolis, built in 518 BCE by Darius the Great as the seat of the empire is in Iran.
2. Culture. I’ve always been drawn to cultures that are misunderstood by our own. I see a trip to Iran in some ways as an act of defiance against our perceived notions of Iranians. I say, “Iranians are no more their Government than we are ours here in America.” Remember, when Bush declared Iran part of the so called “Axis of Evil,” many were surprised (even analysts) because the Iranian people are so warm and welcoming.
3. Off the beaten path. When I was in Turkey, another solo traveler said, “when I’m old, it’ll still be easy to go to Europe.” The thought is that while he was young, he should travel to places that aren’t as easy to get around when your knees are creaky and you want a nice bed at night. He had a really good point.
So what’s my first step? Research. Figure out how much time I’ll need…and more importantly, how much money.