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Getting around

Part 3: Shiraz, Pasargadae, Abarqu, Yazd

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

14.8: Shiraz
Eram hotel, Shiraz
Weather: same as yesterday, hot, dry, no rain, no clouds in the sky.

After breakfast, at 9am I meet Farzaneh (my guide) in the lobby and we start our tour of Shiraz. The first stop is at the Nasir-Ol-Molk mosque, which we reach at 9:05am. This is a relatively small mosque, originally the private mosque of a rich man. The special thing about this mosque is the winter praying hall which has colourful stained glass windows, through which in the morning coloured light beams are projected into the hall. Very beautiful and very photogenic. Interesting architecture. The mosque is sort of quake-proof because pieces of wood are placed strategically here and there to act as shock absorbers (Shiraz lies in an earthquake zone).

We are done shortly before 10am and then drive to the nearby Naranjestan museum (Bagh-e Naranjestan). This is the former palace of the local governor. In the inner court there is a beautiful Persian garden. The main halls have some interesting decorations and some have walls with thousands of mirror fragments.

While in the Naranjestan museum, Zohreh, one of the girls I spoke with yesterday, sends an SMS and suggests to meet at the Eram gardens at 3pm. Some discussion with Farzaneh, who agrees to pick me up at 4:15pm at the Eram gardens.

At 10:45am we drive to the next place, the Vakil mosque (Masjed-e Vakil). Nice mosque, with an impressive hall with columns carved with a spiral pattern. No high minarets, because Shiraz is in an earthquake zone and high minarets would collapse in an earthquake.

After the mosque, at 11:10am, we enter the nearby bazaar (Bazaar-e Vakil). This is full of people, lots of shops selling very colourful stuff, cool architecture. Attached to the bazaar are two caravanserais, of which one has been reconverted to shops and the other one is in the process of being reconverted. Lots of handicraft, clothes, carpets etc. for sale. Very lively, full of people.

We are in the bazaar until almost 12pm, then drive back to the hotel. There I have lunch until 1pm (and today I'm not the only one eating here for lunch). Then I buy a recharge for the mobile phone (50000 Rials) at the kiosk, since I managed to drain the airtime yesterday due to email use. Then I head back to the room, where I rest a bit and download the images to the computer.

Shortly before 3pm I take a taxi to the Eram gardens (30000 Rials). It's now hot like an oven and the sun is very strong. At 3pm I'm at the park entrance (ticket: 40000 Rial) and look for Zohreh and Salma. There they are, inside the park and they are not alone. There are two more girls and one boy, all quite young and relatives of Zohreh. As I later hear the boy is around 16, three girls are 19-20, Zohreh is 26 and the mother of Salma is 40.

It seems that Zohreh and Salma are cousins. What a honour, all the family came to see me. And the girls dressed up nicely, tight stylish manteau, stylish headscarf, good styling, make-up etc. At least one or two of these girls are quite photogenic and could work as a model.

So we are all there, walking in the park hot like an oven. Tons of questions, one of the girls says she wants to marry a non-Muslim man, all are quite interested in foreigners and not in Iranian men.

They ask how the relationship with a foreigner is. I tell them it really depends on whom they find, some relationships work, some do not. Anyway, this pattern of young Iranian girls wanting to date and marry foreigners is amazing. It's not so much a financial issue, I get the feeling that some of the girls want to leave Iran, others want freedom and a cultural change. One of the girls wants to go to Canada.

Non-stop talking until 4:15pm (my throat gets dry in this hot and dry air). Then I realise it's 4:15pm and call Farzaneh on the mobile phone telling her I'm coming soon. Time to show to my attractive guide the attractive girls who have adopted me. So I walk back with my harem of five women and a boy and meet Farzaneh. Really amazing, Iran is the country of the mullahs, and I'm surrounded by attractive young women.

At 4:20pm the afternoon sightseeing program starts. We first drive to the fortress, the Arg-e Karim Khan. This looks much more impressive from outside than from inside. There is an inner court with orange trees. Apparently once in the rooms there were great frescoes which got lost for some stupid reason (the fortress was converted to a prison and the prisoners destroyed almost all frescoes). Only in one room there are the remains of the old frescoes, very nice.

All the time Farzaneh continues with her intensive course of Persian history and culture. I'm now an expert in this field.

There is a hammam (public bath) in the fortress which is nice. But the next hammam which we soon visit, the Vakil bath house, is even more impressive. Inside there is an octagonal bath house with very cool decorations. Not to miss if you visit Shiraz.

It's 5:30pm and my guided tour is Shiraz is finished. We didn't visit the Jameh mosque, because it is closed for restorations right now. We drive back to the hotel.

In the evening I'm again at the Quran gate for some sunset/blue hour shots. Tomorrow the driver will pick me up at 8am for the trip to Yazd.

15.8: Shiraz -> Pasargadae -> Abarqu -> Yazd
Yazd Traditional hotel, Yazd. After discount only 270000 Rial (=18 Euro) for a room in traditional style with a well working and powerful A/C (adjustable with a remote control), TV, fridge, bed with soft mattress. Bathroom with bathtub and shower, dryer also included. Very stylish place, in the centre of Yazd, traditional look, richly decorated internal courtyard. Wireless Internet access for 10000 Rial/hour.
Weather: as usual sunny and hot, with Yazd being hotter than Shiraz. Surprisingly there are clouds over Yazd in the evening.

At 8am the driver picks me up and we start driving towards Pasargadae, the UNESCO World Heritage site, arriving at 9:40am. We stay in this place much longer than I thought - until 10:50am, well over an hour. There is not just the Tomb of Cyrus, there are also some other ruins of temples, tombs and a fortress at the Pasargadae site.

We are back on the motorway to Yazd at 11am, meaning that the detour to Pasargadae has added almost one and a half hour to the trip. The road by the way, is mostly a well-paved two-lane motorway.

It's 12:40pm when we arrive to Abarqu. Abarqu is a biggish city, with a few attractions. There we visit a few structures and the 4000 years old cypress tree.

Shortly after 1pm I have lunch in a restaurant which is open despite the Ramadan (76000 Rial for a big meal with drinks).

At 2pm we continue driving towards Yazd. Shortly before Yazd the road has to pass some mountains and climbs up to 2600m. We are in Yazd at the Mamalak Moshir hotel at 3:30pm.

Mina, my local contact in Tehran, has booked this hotel for me. It's the best hotel in Yazd, the only problem is that it lies quite far away from the old town and you have to catch a taxi every time you want to go somewhere. So I pull out the guidebook and quickly select the Yazd Traditional hotel which still has rooms available.

After checking in and paying the driver (190 Euro including tip) I go to the room and settle in.

Shortly after 5pm I start exploring Yazd. It's still very hot even if it's late afternoon. Yazd has an amazing architecture, with lots of houses with dried mud walls. The women here dress much more conservatively than in Shiraz.

Yazd has quite a few interesting places and I run into many western tourists. The Jameh mosque is undergoing restorations. Apparently (unlike Shiraz) Yazd is a major tourist destination.

I'm back in the hotel at 7pm, then go out again at 7:30pm for some night shots of the Amir Chakhmaq complex. While there a local guy, quite fluent in English approaches me and offers to make the Meybod loop for $50.

16.8: Yazd
Yazd Traditional hotel, Yazd. The breakfast is almost the same as in the Eram hotel in Yazd: very thin bread (like pancakes) which you eat with jam and cheese. My room has no windows to the outside, only a door window to a hall, which this evening is full of people. Noisy until after 10pm.
Weather: as yesterday, hot and sunny, but somehow today it feels more bearable than yesterday. Some clouds appear in the late afternoon, then disappear in the evening.

I get up at 8am and have breakfast. At 9:15am I leave the hotel and start walking towards the Hosseinieh, which looks like a good spot for taking photos of Yazd. I make a brief stop at the Jameh mosque, then reach something which must be the Hosseinieh. Good view of Yazd, but in the morning the sun is on the wrong side. Will have to return in the afternoon or evening. Then I walk to the tourist office, where I have a chat with Reza, the tourist office staff who happens to be there when I arrive.

Reza quotes 650000 Rial for the Meybod loop and $100 for the car trip to Kashan with a stop in Abyaneh. The Meybod loop costs more than the $50 I was offered yesterday. After I inform Reza about my website, he mentions he can bring me on the roof of his hotel for some photography.

After that I walk to the Lari house (2000 Rial ticket). This is a restored old house in traditional architecture with an inner court. Quite interesting.

It's 11:20am when I start walking back to the Jameh mosque, where I want to catch a taxi to the Ateshkadeh Zoroastrian temple. After getting a taxi I manage to be at the Ateshkadeh shortly after 12pm and see that the doors are being closed. According to the Lonely Planet guide you can visit this place by invitation only or you can try to talk to the caretaker. As I later find out this information is inaccurate.

Since I can't get in I take a taxi to the hotel. In any case it's very hot right now and the light is not suitable for photography.

Taxi drivers in Yazd charge between 15000 and 30000 rials for trips within the city. They are not metered and you are charged whatever the driver feels appropriate. Some drivers charge more, others charge less. Still the amounts are very reasonable and taxi drivers are relatively honest and are not trying to cheat you. Perhaps the Ramadan plays a role (during the Ramadan Muslims are supposed to be more honest).

Once in the hotel I take a rest, have a look at the pictures and have lunch. Reza (the tourist office guy) has emailed me telling me he has seen 60% of the photos of the site (a bit unlikely, since the site has over 20000 photos).

I email him asking about the Ateshkadeh temple and he replies giving me the correct opening times (8:30-12 and from 4pm onwards). I call the driver of yesterday for the Meybod trip and he tells me his car is broken and is being repaired by Saturday. So I ask the hotel staff about a car with driver and get involved in a discussion about Iran. The friendly lady even offers to be my guide in Yazd tomorrow morning, when she is not working.

I leave the hotel again at 4:30pm, expecting to find unbearable temperatures, but surprisingly the temperatures are bearable. I take a taxi to the Ateshkadeh Zoroastrian temple which by now is open (ticket: 10000 Rial). Nice temple with a circular pond and the eternal fire.

After less than 20 minutes, shortly after 5pm I'm done with the Ateshkadeh temple and take a taxi to the Jameh mosque. There I explore a bit the area, take a few more pictures of the mosque, then walk to the Hosseinieh. I'm there at 5:40pm and take some panoramic shots of Yazd. Then I walk to the tourist office, looking for Reza to bring me to the hotel roof. Can't find Reza, but manage to get to the roof anyway.

I walk back to the Hosseinieh for some more shots. It's now 6:30pm and the light is getting better. While on top of the Hosseinieh I meet a Taiwanese girl, a German and a Flemish couple, who all for some reason or another are travelling in Iran. Quite a few tourists in Yazd, more than you would think in the hot summer during the Ramadan. I'm on top of the Hosseinieh until 7:40pm, then decide to get to some other place for the blue hour.

Copyright 2011 Alfred Molon