About to board an Iran Aseman Airlines Fokker F100 at DXB. Iran Aseman are the only airlines that fly direct to Shiraz, Iran from Dubai, and was also a good opportunity to fly a new aircraft/airline too. No online booking and had to buy the ticket with cash at their agency in Dubai. They also only set their schedule ~3 weeks in advance so made planning the trip a bit more difficult, but apart from that I had no major issues.
The flight was less than an hour long but was still served a decent meal for dinner. Me and an Emirati guy were the only tourists on the flight.
Sunset over southern Iran.
Disembarking at Shiraz International (SYZ).
After getting my visa on arrival, travel insurance and some rials, picked up my lone bag at baggage claim.
In the taxi through the busy streets of Shiraz.
Got to the Niayesh Hotel at ~9:30pm and had a quick meet and greet with my guide Ali in the hotel courtyard. The hotel was >100 years old, but had been recently refurbished and was a great place to stay for 2 nights.
Traditional Iran breakfast of jam, eggs & bread in the hotel courtyard. Also got to have carrot jam again for the first time since my Afghanistan trip.
I then met up with my guide Ali to see the sights of Shiraz. First stop was Eram (heaven in Persian) garden. Qavam House, built in 1879.
A lush green place with lots of people enjoying the park.
Next stop was Qur'an gate. The gate was built ~1000 years ago and had a copy of the Qur'an at the top of the gate to bless travellers as they entered/exited Shiraz.
We then went to Arg of Karim Khan, a Citadel built in the 18th century.
Some beautiful windows.
Inside was a small orchard of fruit trees & ponds.
Bath for the king.
We then headed into central Shiraz and got to meet the travel agent I had been organising my trip with.
Then to the currency exchange to get some more rials. Apparently the rial had dropped ~10% in the last few days so people were rushing to cash in their dollars & euro's at the better rate.
We then went for a walk around the streets of Shiraz.
At Nasir al-Mulk Mosque.
At Vakil Bath, an old public bath in Shiraz.
We then went for a wander around Vakil Bazaar, the main bazaar in Shiraz, established in the 11th century.
Was a great place to explore and take in the atmosphere of the place.
Rugs & smile.
The people were very friendly and welcoming.
We then went for lunch at a local restaurant.
They was a three-piece band playing traditional Persian music.
Great lunch of chicken and lamb kebab.
We then went to Shah Cheragh. The interior of the shrine was covered in mirrored tiles, and was a sight to behold.
Some local school girls having lunch while visiting the shrine.
We then visited the tomb of Hafez, a celebrated Persian poet from the 14th century.
At the mausoleum of Saadi, another famous poet. The mausoleum is also featured on the 100,000 rial note.
After resting for a bit back at the hotel, I went for a walk around central Shiraz again.
A mural memorialising martyrs from the Iran-Iraq war.
Some Shirazis enjoying the evening. For dinner I had some beef kebab at a local restaurant for 150,000 rials.
End of prayers.
After going for a morning run in Shiraz and breakfast, I hit the road with Ali for the ~400k journey north to Isfahan.
After about 45 mins driving, we stopped at Persopolis, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (~500 BC).
Some ~100 year old graffiti.
Persopolis was captured, looted and partially destroyed by Alexander the Great in ~300BC.
A symbol in Zoroastrian for Nowruz (Persian New Year) — eternally fighting bull (personifying the moon), and a lion (personifying the Sun) representing the Spring.
Afterwards we visited the nearby tombs of Naqsh-e-Rostam.
The triumph of Shapur I over the Roman Emperor Valerian, and Philip the Arab.
Stopping for petrol before heading north to Isfahan. Petrol was 7000 rials a litre, ($0.82 a gallon). Each car owner gets a card that allows them to purchase 200 litres a month at this price, and have to pay higher for more. The govt was raising the price however, and tomorrow it increased to 10,000 rials a litre.
We stopped off at a road side restaurant and had a tasty lunch.
Also got to try some local beer, non-alcoholic of course though.
Stopping at a rest stop on the ~400k drive north.
We got to Isfahan, a city of ~1.9 million at about 5:30pm, and went to see the Siose Bridge.
The bridge was built in 1602 with 33 spans.
It is a popular place for locals to relax...
We then walked down to the Khaju Bridge.
Due to drought and water diversion, the Zayandeh River has been dry for three years.
We then headed to Naqsh-e Jahan Square. In the background is Keisaria gate which opens into the Isfahan Grand Bazaar.
Imam Mosque on the other side of the square.
Some of the locals playing a Jenga type game.
For dinner we went to the Bastani restaurant on the south side of the square. One of the waiters in traditional dress.
Chicken and rice.
After a busy day, got to the hotel just after 10pm at the end of day 2.
For the start of day 3 we went to Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque.
The white script on dark blue are verses from the holy qur'an.
Then to the western side of the square to the Ālī Qāpū Palace. Polo used to be played in the sqaure, with the king looking on from the palace. Unfortunately as it was Friday the Imam Mosque (top right) was closed for prayers.
Special acoustic design for music and singing for the King.
Next stop was the an Armenian Cathedral in the southern part of Isfahan. Beautiful paintings of the story of Christ, and quite a contrast to those in the mosques, where literal illustrations are forbidden.
We then walked around to the Vank Armenian Cathedral.
Again, very beautiful artwork and architecture.
After a busy morning sightseeing, we stopped off at an Armenian cafe for a break. Ice cream and cappuccino for less than $4.
We then went to a park where the locals were relaxing on the day off and having picnic's etc.
For lunch we grabbed some Isfahan beriyani, a bread and lamb dish. The place was very popular with a queue down the road.
After lunch we went to Chehel Sotoun Palace, built in the 14th century by Shah Abbas II.
The central mural depicts the Battle of Chaldiran, where the Persians, with only swords & arrows, were routed by the Ottomans with guns and cannons in 1514.
We then went for afternoon tea at the 300 year old Abbasi Hotel, relaxing in the shade and resting the legs.
After a bit of a break, we went for a walk around the Isfahan Grand Bazaar. A lady wearing a chador centre, and a manteau on the right.
Great place to just walk around and window shop.
A small hand-painted copper vase I bought as a souvenir.
Fesenjān & rice for dinner. A traditional persian dish made with pomegranate syrup, ground walnuts and chicken. Very tasty!
After dinner we went to the Siose Bridge again to see it all lit up.
And back to the hotel at 10:30pm after a great day in Isfahan.
After going for a run through the tree lined streets of Isfahan, we headed down to the square again to check out the Imam Mosque, since it was closed the day before. Outside there was a concert underway, with lots of school kids.
The mosque was undergoing refurbishment and was covered in scaffolding.
Inside they had built a big mould with which to organise and layout the newly refurbished coloured tiles which will go on top of the dome.
Stonecutters cutting the intricate shapes of the individual tile patterns.
Stopping to get some Gaz, a candy from Isfahan made from nougat and pistachio nuts.
Back in the Peugeot again for the journey north. The terrain wasn't quite desert, with some green scrub and rocky mountains.
On the road to the mountain village of Abyaneh. On the side of the road we saw a few anti-aircraft batteries, as we were getting close to the Natanz Underground Uranium Enrichment Facility. Unfortunately I wasn't foolish enough to take photo's of the facility as we drove past the entrance.
All the buildings in the Abyaneh were a rusty, red colour.
Abyunaki woman typically wear a white long scarf (left) and baggy pants for the men (right).
Some sub-terrean homes.
We then drove on to Kashan, a city of ~300,000, and stopped for lunch.
Bagh-e Fin in Kashan, where Amir Kabir, "Iran's first reformer", was killed on order of the King.
Tabātabāei House, built in the 1880's.
With beautiful stained glass windows.
Agha Bozorg Mosque.
We then headed north again, stopping off at a rest stop about 100k's south of Tehran.
At the toll gate about to head into Tehran.
The tomb of Imam Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution in southern Tehran.
At the Ferdowsi Grand Hotel, our final stop for the day in central Tehran.
At the Grand Bazaar, Tehran on Sunday morning.
The Bazaar was massive, with ~10k's of alleys to get lost in!
Emamzadeh Zeid in the Old Bazaar, where the tomb of Lotf Ali Khan is, the last Shah of the Zand dynasty.
Money changers at the bazaar negotiating the days rate.
Shahr Park in Central Tehran.
We then visited the national museum. A school group also about to visit.
A statue of Darius the Great, the third king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. The statues were scattered across his empire of what is now present day Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey & Greece.
At the Glass & Ceramic Museum.
The museum was initially a private residence built in the 1800's, then the Egyptian embassy, and later converted into a museum in 1976.
We then headed for a ride on the Tehran metro.
Very modern, clean, and busy.
We got off at Teleghani station to visit the old US embassy. Numerous murals were painted on the brick walls of the embassy.
Embassy of the United States Of America.
It was taken over shortly after the Iran revolution. 53 hostages were held for 444 days during the Iran Hostage Crisis (As seen in the movie 'Argo'). The wreckage on top is from one of the helicopters that crashed during the failed Delta force rescue mission.
A mural of Imam Khomeini on the embassy walls, with the Iranian flag in the background.
After lunch we headed to the Central Bank to see the Iranian crown jewels. Lots of grape and walnut sized gems surrounded by oodles of gold from the various royal dynasties, very beautiful! Unfortunately no photo's allowed though.
Bookshop. I had a few hours to kill before my flight home in the evening so went for a walk through the city.
20,000 rials (~60 cents) for fresh carrot juice.
I had a few rials left so bought some more candy for my colleagues back in Dubai.
At IKA for the Emirates flight back home after a memorable five days in Iran.