Mobile phones
Getting around

Part 2: Shiraz, Persepolis

11-12.8: Munich -> Dubai -> Sharjah -> Shiraz
13.8: Shiraz, Persepolis
14.8: Shiraz
15.8: Shiraz -> Pasargadae -> Abarqu -> Yazd
16.8: Yazd
17.8: Yazd -> Meybod -> Chak Chak -> Kharanaq -> Yazd

18.8: Yazd -> Abyaneh -> Kashan
19.8: Kashan -> Tehran -> Polour
20.8: Polour -> Camp 2 -> Camp 3
21.8: Camp 3 -> Mt Damavand summit -> Tehran
22.8: Tehran
23.8: Tehran -> Mashhad
24.8: Mashhad -> Tehran
25.8: Tehran -> Kuala Lumpur

11-12.8: Munich -> Dubai -> Sharjah -> Shiraz
Eram hotel, Shiraz (three stars). 60 USD for a big room, quite decent, clean, TV, fridge, telephone. The A/C is too weak, even at the maximum the room temperature is at 27C. Wireless Internet for 20000 Rials/hour (slowish connection, many sites are censored). Mattresses hard like stone. Good location in the centre of Shiraz.
Weather: 24C in Munich, unbearably hot in Sharjah, hot but bearable in Shiraz (35C 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.

The plane 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 juice).

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 go 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 very backward.

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 airport.

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 Hafez.

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.

13.8: Shiraz, Persepolis
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 morning in 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 sites.

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 for my 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 helpful.

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 room, 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 possible directions.

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 hot. 

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.

Copyright 2011 Alfred Molon