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Getting around

Part 7: Mashhad, Tehran

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

24.8: Mashhad -> Tehran
Tehran Grand hotel. Today my room feels like a room in a two star hotel.
Weather: hot and sunny, some cloud cover in the afternoon, surprisingly heavy cloud cover in the evening in Mashhad.

I get up at 9am, get ready and after the breakfast leave the hotel at 11 something am. The plan is to catch a taxi to see the Boq'eh-ye Khajeh Rabi shrine, be back in the hotel by 2pm, have lunch until 3pm, then later in the afternoon visit the tomb of Ferdosi in Tus.

Immediately as I leave the hotel I get adopted by a local guy who actually has no taxi but never mind. While on the way to the Boq'eh-ye Khajeh Rabi shrine he shows a brochure with a dozen places with pictures and is suggesting in Farsi to bring me to these places. Some discussion, several phone calls and finally there is a girl on the phone who speaks English.

She explains that the driver will show me all these places for $80 as a day trip. Not exactly cheap, but never mind, it's not such a bad idea to see more places than planned and to have a local person as a guide.

At 12:10pm we are at the shrine. Nice building with a blue dome, in a well kept garden setting. Inside the building is richly decorated, very photogenic.

I'm there until after 12:30pm, then we drive to the next place. Some discussion, the driver insists that I should visit the tomb of Ferdosi now, but I'm against it because the light right now is too harsh. We agree that he'll bring me there at 5pm.

We then drive to a place where I can have lunch. The name of this place is Shardiz and we are there at 1:20pm. This is a restaurant in a very nice setting: on terraces there are platforms with Persian carpets on which you lie and have lunch under the shadow of many trees. My lunch consists of delicious grilles sheep ribs with rice, salad and other stuff. The bill is very high however: 240000 Rial, twice what I have spent so far for a lunch in Iran. I wonder if the driver is perhaps pocketing a commission. On the other hand, in Euros the price is not too high for what I got.

After lunch, at 2 something pm, we drive to the next place, a bazaar. This bazaar lies in Torgabeh and is quite modern. It sells a good deal of tourist junk stuff but also some intersting articles. However I'm not in the mode for shopping, so we leave this place after about 10 minutes.

Then we drive to the next place, a shrine in the small city of Golestan. This is interesting, quite nicely set up, very photogenic. In the shrine I get involved in a conversation with the local shrine staff.

It's 4 something pm when we leave the shrine and drive to the last place, the tomb of Ferdosi in Tus (5000 Rial ticket). This is the most interesting place so far. Ferdosi is the poet who lived about 1000 years ago and who is  credited for saving the Persian language. Without him people in Iran nowadays perhaps would perhaps speak Arabic. The shrine contains at the bottom wall carvings showing scenes from his poems.

After the tomb of Ferdosi we briefly stop at another nearby place, the Boq'e -ye Hordokieh, then drive back to the hotel. Today's trip was interesting, but overpriced.

In the evening the 21:55 Iranair flight to Tehran is delayed by over an hour,  but at least it lands safely in Tehran. At the Mehrabad airport exit there is the usual set of touts offering taxi trips to downtown Tehran for inflated prices (200000 Rial vs 100000 Rial). I sleep at 1:30am.

25.8: Tehran -> Kuala Lumpur
Overnight in the Airasia plane
Weather: sunny, hot, dry but with some clouds in the sky in Tehran. Comfortably fresh along the river in Karaj.

After breakfast I check out of the hotel and shortly after 11am I meet Reza, an Iranian from Shiraz who lives in Tehran. Together with him and another two friends of his we'll visit a couple of places today. The first stop is the Sa'ad Abad complex, the former residence of the Shah, which we reach at 11:50am.

This is a large site with a number of buildings spread over a large park with beautiful trees. Inside the park are a number of museums and exhibitions, such as the cars of the Shah, the paintings collection of Farah Diba (the wife of the Shah), the Omidvar brothers exbibition (two Iranians who starting in 1954 toured the world for 7 years), a green marble pavillion apparently the
residence of the Shah and more.

We're done at 1:30pm visiting the Sa'ad Abad complex and the next step would be to have some lunch. I suggest to look for a restaurant, but my Iranian friends have a better idea. We'll do it the traditional way.

Over the next two hours we criss-cross Tehran and buy food and groceries with which to set up a barbecue. We drive to Karaj, a place at 1400m altitude to the west of Tehran, where along a fresh river there are platforms with Persian carpets and pillows, on which to have a comfortable picnic. We set up a barbecue and grill the chicken the friends of Reza have bought. Then it's a Persian style picnic meal on the platform. Interestingly the friends of Reza have bought some kind of carbonated yoghurt drink, which I drink for the first time.

It's 5:10pm when we drive back to Tehran. I fetch my bags at the Bozorg hotel, say goodbye to Reza and his friends and drive to the airport.

The Imam Khomeini international airport today makes a much better impression than last time I used it. Today it seems modern, fresh and functional. At the airport I discover that the 9:55pm Airasia flight to KL miracolously is now a 10:55pm flight. According to the staff at the check-in counter the arrival time of 10:50am however is unchanged.

Without problems or long queues I check-in, proceed through immigration, security and make it to the gate. Not surprisingly in the plane the Airasia hostesses are not wearing miniskirts as usual, but loose fitting pants.

Soon as the plane takes off, the Iranian girl next to me takes off her stuff and sports a sexy top which would get her stoned in a city like Mashhad. The plane is almost completely full (how does Airasia manage to achieve such a high load factor?) and most people look like Iranians. I'd even say 99% are Iranians (why would a Malaysian travel to Iran anyway?).

On the plane a dinner is served, which surprises me given that with Airasia usually you have to pay for the meals.

Copyright 2011 Alfred Molon