Asia / Iran / Middle East

Shiraz. The Persian jinx.

By the look of things, Iranians are definitely jinxed. Imagine you are one of the greatest empires, imagine Parisian joie de vivre and debauchery at sumptuous parties held by the Shah, imagine you are basking in your moment of glory when suddenly someone turns off the light and the party is over. Iran should really consider making their own version of Cher’s “If I could turn back time”. It would be a real banger.

Darius the Great is still alive! At least for some Iranians. To better understand the Iranian dream of a reborn Persian empire we travel to the most prominent tourist attraction of Iran – Persepolis.

Unfortunately Persepolis didn’t live up to my expectations (my husband loved it though). I put the blame on our tour guide who was the worst tour guide ever. Most of the time I was under the impression he was about to fall asleep. His lack of energy was contagious so after 4 hours with him we felt DRAINED. We paid him 50 euro. Smells like a scam.

Persepolis – The Gate of All Nations.
Persepolis – inside the complex.
The reliefs on the staircases allow one to observe the people from across the empire in their traditional dress.
Mario and I in Persepolis.
Necropolis – a perpendicular wall of rock, in which four similar tombs are cut at a considerable height from the bottom of the valley. 

The sleepy guide recommends us a restaurant for lunch. The place is expensive and mediocre (like guide, like restaurant) but at least they have wi-fi. Our Iranian SIM card is not working so I get in touch with our CS-host to let them know about it and cancel our stay.

We don’t want to take a cab (50 EUR still hurts!) so we have to hoof it to the city centre to find a place to sleep. Luckily we always travel light so walking long distances has never been an issue.

I love traditional hotels in Iran. They are usually inside traditional houses with rooms overlooking a big patio. You come inside one of them and it’s like entering a different, parallel world of dreams. You’ll never want to leave!

The traditional hotels of Shiraz are beautiful, but they are also fully booked. All of them! It’s the last week of Norouz – Persian New Year. We manage to get a room in a simple, featureless hotel on the main street. A basic place but they had THE BEST RECEPTIONIST EVER. He not only gave us a huge discount but also booked bus tickets for us and then spent an hour trying to call Irancell to figure out why our SIM card was not working. We’ve been to many better places during our trip to Iran but that guy… he was a life-saver.

Persian cuisine at its best – I ordered a stew (dizi) and Mario meatballs with rice. 

First thing to do in the morning? A crusade to find a coffee place. Once Mario gets his daily dosage of caffeine we  visit the Pink Mosque. It’s awesome. It’s marvelous. It’s amazing. Forget about contemplating its beauty in silence though. Every passing hour brings new hordes of tourist to its carpets. Everyone wants a picture. For the best experience come as early as you can. Pink Mosque – checked! The rest of the day we can spend tilting at windmills – trying to fix our SIM card.

We waste 2 hours (in traveler’s dictionary it’s an ETERNITY!!) before we manage to get to someone who can help us with it. We are fuming! 

First we try to find IranCell customer service point. Once we get there, a young girls sends us (using google translator) to a different place. We get lost, then we find a shop with cellphones and someone there takes us to a different shop to see someone else. Do you understand it? No. Me neither. A tip for you – if you buy a SIM card in Iran, always triple check if it works before leaving the shop.

My lovely husband in the Pink Mosque.
Inside the Pink Mosque.
Visiting Iranians mosques will be a real feast for your eyes! 

When our mobile finally works I text the girl who was meant to be our CS host to explain the situation. She invites us for lunch so we grab some dates and cookies. We did our homework – in Iran, when someone invites you to their place, always bring some sweets! Easy. Now we need to figure out how to get there – it seems to be on the other side of the city. Suddenly we are approached by a middle-aged lady. A friendly chat turns into an unexpected adventure when she offers to give us a lift. Do you remember when I told you about random acts of kindness in Iran? Well this was our first one!

On the way the lady asks us what do we think about Iran. “IT’S A FAIRY-TALE!” we burst out. Her reply is rather sad.

Iran may seem a fairy tale but instead of happily ever after (after the Shah – she meant), the Islamic Revolutions was like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Our life now is far from being a fairy-tale!

Our CS hosts are already waiting for us. They put a small beautifully decorated cloth, Ghalamkar, on the carpet as a “table”. Marzieh serves Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh – it’s her signature dish and it’s yummy! Did you know that in Iran most tables are set with a spoon and fork only? I made a faux-pax by mentioning it – I didn’t mean it but Marzieh quickly got up and went to the kitchen to bring me a knife. If you get a chance to try home food in Iran consider yourself lucky. From my experience every Persian woman is a masterchef!

Delicious food by Marzieh.

We haven’t seen a lot of sights in Shiraz, but we had so much good food and we spent a fair amount of time with some local folks – trying to fix our problems, talking or being invited to their houses. Getting into trouble seems like the best way to learn how kind people can be. It was incredible. Now we are on the bus to Kerman. The adventure continuous!