| Part 2: Shiraz,
-> Sharjah ->
Eram hotel, Shiraz (three
USD for a big room, quite
clean, TV, fridge, telephone.
The A/C is too weak, even at the
maximum the room temperature is at 27°C. Wireless Internet for 20000
Rials/hour (slowish connection, many sites are censored). Mattresses
hard like stone. Good
location in the centre of Shiraz.
unbearably hot in Sharjah, hot but
bearable in Shiraz
(35°C peak) because the air is dry. It
hasn't been raining for a while in Shiraz.
The Emirates flight is not bad, but with a duration of six hours is too
short to get enough sleep
because in the first two hours you are busy with the meal, then
effectively you have less than 3 hours to catch some sleep.
lands punctually, even a bit ahead of time in Dubai. It's 7:30am and
apparently there is no bus from Dubai airport to
Sharjah airport. So I take a taxi (85 dirham, 25 minutes) to Sharjah
airport arriving there at 8am.
Sharjah airport is the smaller, cheaper cousin of the Dubai airport.
There is a food court, a duty free area, but everything is
smaller and not as flashy as Dubai airport. This is the hub of the
budget airline Air Arabia, with lots of budget flights to the Indian
subcontinent and Africa.
I'm quite hungry and have some food in a Chinese restaurant in the food
court (40 AED for rice+chicken+vegetables meal and a fresh orange
At 10:45am there is the call for queueing up at the security
check for the Shiraz flight.
While I'm in the queue a guy, probably
Iranian, says 'you are not from Shiraz' ... 'no' ... 'why.. why do you
to Shiraz?' ... 'tourist, I'm visiting the city' ... 'oh... you are the
only tourist'. He looks surprised.
And indeed I'm the only western
tourist in this queue. The other people look Iranian, and there are
quite a few Indians or Pakistanis, or let's say dark skinned people who
look like Indians. I wonder why Indian people are flying to Shiraz. It
turns out that some Iranian people from the south look like Pakistanis.
The Air Arabia flight leaves punctually and lands before 2pm in Shiraz.
Shiraz airport is, well, not so flashy and modern. Actually it looks
Surprisingly I manage to secure the visa and pass immigration
within 20 minutes (was expecting a longer time). Then I retrieve the
luggage quite speedily and
proceed to the exit. Some queue mess at the X-ray scanner into which
you have to put all luggage.
Once I'm outside I cannot find a place where to change money. Perhaps
there was such a place inside the security area, but now I'm outside. I
also need to buy a SIM card, but didn't see any counter here at the
So I fetch a taxi and by 3pm I'm in the hotel. I check in, get into the
room, then get some sleep until 5:30pm. Then I go out, buy some food
which I eat in the room because it's Ramadan and nobody eats or drinks
anything between sunrise and sunset (in the
public). I give a call to my guide and
arrange for her to pick me up tomorrow at 7:15am.
At 7pm I go out again and take a taxi (20000 Rials) to the tomb of
Hafez, the famous poet. The tomb lies in a nice garden on the other
side of the river (which right now is dry). Nice setting, lots of
people, people taking pictures with the hand on the sarcophagus of
I'm at the site until 8:30pm then start walking back to the hotel.
Shiraz is now quite interesting. Lots of life on the streets. People
having picnics in the parks. Nice Persian gardens on the way back to
the hotel. Weird feeling of walking in narrow and dark alleys with 2500
Euro cash and several thousands of Euro of photographic equipment.
Still, Iran is a safe place. Everywhere people stop me and ask where I
come from. Germany? Are you from Hamburg? I get involved into several
discussions with local people. I'm back in the hotel at 9:30pm.
Eram hotel, Shiraz. As I
find out today
the breakfast is nothing special. I talk with the
guide and it appears that she booked the hotel at a lower rate (around
$39, she got a discount for me).
Weather: not hot in the
Shiraz, but quite hot around 11am in Persepolis. Very hot in Shiraz in
the afternoon, no rain, no clouds in the sky, more fresh in the evening.
I meet my guide after breakfast at 7:15am in the lobby. She is a lady,
no idea what age but maybe around 30, charming and attractive. Outside
the hotel the
driver is waiting for us. We leave for Persepolis and arrive there at
8:15am. The road to Persepolis is a four-lane motorway, the same road
which leads to Yazd. We have to wait a few minutes because the ticket
counter is not open yet. The ticket costs only 5000 rial - almost
nothing given the importance of the site. Compare that to the 10 Euro
(30 times as much) they charge in Barcelona for some insignificant
So we start exploring Persepolis, the ancient capital of the Persian
empire. Not too much is left, but what is there is quite impressive.
Some carvings on the walls are very well preserved - quite a thing
given that they are 2500 years old. Shortly before 10am we briefly
visit the small museum. This is not too interesting, as there are very
few things inside. Looks like the really interesting stuff has been
shipped away to museums elsewhere in Iran and abroad.
At 10:15am we drive to Naqsh-e-Rostam, where there are the tombs of
four Persian emperors carved into the rock walls of cliffs. A bit like
Abu Simbel and Petra, although these two sites are more impressive
because of the wealth of details. At the site there is also something
which looks like a Zoroastrian temple structure.
At 11am we are finally done and it is starting to get really hot. We
drive back to the hotel, arriving there at 12pm noon. I get off the
car, and have some lunch in the restaurant of the hotel. Unsurprisingly
I'm the only person eating here, because it's Ramadan and people are
fasting from sunrise until sunset.
This Ramadan period is a bit unsuitable for travelling, because it
means that most
restaurants are closed during the day and you are not supposed to eat
or drink in public places. As a traveller I'm allowed to eat, but in
practice I only manage to get one decent meal per day, because I can't
eat a lot very late in the evening. So effectively I'm fasting too and
it looks like I'm going to lose a few kg in Iran.
After lunch I go to a nearby shop and buy a SIM card of MTN Irancell
mobile phone (passport needed to get the SIM card). For some reason the
Internet does not work - some
settings perhaps are wrong, or something else is blocking the Internet
access. Never mind, I'll use the Internet connection of the hotel. In
any case I lose one hour getting this SIM card, because the shop guy
tries for a long time to get the Internet to work. Very friendly and
At 2pm I'm back in the room and download the images to the
computer. I rest until 4pm then take a taxi (30000 rial) to the Setareh
mall, which supposedly is a big shopping complex in Shiraz. I'm there
at 4:20pm and find out that the mall is closed and opens at 5pm.
So I just walk to the next grocery, buy some food and take a taxi
(40000 rial this time, nobody uses the meter, taxi drivers just guess
the fare) back to the hotel. There I eat something in the
process a bit the photos and at 5:30pm I meet again my guide.
We drive to the Imamzadeh-ye Ali Ebn-e Hamze (5000 rials entry), a
shrine dedicated to
some important religious person who is buried here.
The dome is very nice and in the courtyard there are tombs of rich
people. The interior of the shrine is amazing, as the walls are
clad with countless small mirrors which reflect the light in all
At 6pm we drive to the next place, the tomb of the poet Sadi (Aramgah-e
Sa'di). The tomb is the former house of Sadi, which lies in a big
Persian garden. In the basement there is a pond with fish.
Then we drive to the Quran gate. This lies a bit out of Shiraz, along
the road to Yazd. In the past all traffic in and out of
Shiraz passed through this gate. Now is has been converted to a
pedestrian area. The gate
is nothing so special, but from here there is a nice view of Shiraz.
At 7:30pm I'm at the Arg-e Karim Khan, the fortress I spotted
yesterday. There I say bye-bye to my guide and wait for the sunset. At
8pm the light is right and I start taking photos of the fortress. I'm
done about 15 minutes later and while I am pondering
what to do next, some young people start talking to me. But they only
speak Farsi, so the communication does not get very far.
So two girls, both somehow fluent in English, and a woman jump in and
we start chit-chatting. Same story which I already experienced last
year in Isfahan. Students, quite attractive, have no boyfriend. are
studying something, one is interested in archaeology, the other wants
to study English. The mother of one is
there and smiles. We talk non-stop until 9:30pm. In the end
one asks for my email address and we exchange mobile phone numbers,
agreeing that we'll meet again tomorrow.
Not quite clear what we can do, because tomorrow I have time between
12pm and 5pm, we can't go to lunch together and outdoors it will be
Still this is typical for Iran, where there are lots of young people,
very interested in foreigners, very friendly. On the way back to the
hotel again I'm greeted and approached by other people.