| Part 3: Shiraz,
Pasargadae, Abarqu, Yazd
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.
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
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
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.
Shiraz -> Pasargadae ->
Abarqu -> Yazd
Yazd Traditional hotel,
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Yazd Traditional hotel,
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
Reza quotes 650000 Rial for the Meybod loop and $100 for the car trip
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.
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
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
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
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.