A month in Iran: reportage 14: The Scent of Shiraz

Image may contain: airplane and skyMehrabad airport is in the city area, not far from our home but the flight to Shiraz is very early in the morning. Although Tehran is not sleeping, its heartbeat is slower while our Snapp dashes in the dark and relatively desert highway. Iranian rock loud on the radio. 
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Arg of Karim Khan. 
Snapp will be our best friend in Shiraz, because the city is hard to visit in foot due to heat and to the fact its monuments are scattered in a wide area. Buses are also available but rare. Regular taxis are definitely available...! well: taxi drivers are very proactive in Shiraz! but Snapp is cheaper and it works quite well.
Honestly I didn't enjoy my first day in Shiraz. It was too hot. We arrived at 12 am and according to my traveler experience I would have spent the afternoon sleeping in the hotel room, but my Iranian friends decided we go straight to Arg of Karim Khan
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Arg of Karim Khan: garden
The fortified palace dominates the main - modern - square. Inside its high walls connected by four round brick towers there is a lovely garden, rich in flowers and fruits, a fresh water funtain in the midle. An image of the sweetness of the Islamic paradise contrasting with the harshness of the outside. The Zand dynasty had here its heart: this was the house of Karim Khan and also his military headquarter. Few remains of the beautiful decorations and probably the best conserved part is the bath. 
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Arg of Karim Khan: bath
Iran in summer is done for lazy travelers. Let's enjoy a nap in the shadow of the naranja trees!
Pars Museum, by the other side of the square, is small but nice, moreover there is airconditioning. It's located in the old Nazar Garden, that was "one of the largest gardens of Shiraz during the Safavid rule (1501–1722). During Zand dynasty (1750–1794) Karim Khan built an octagon structure which was called Kolah Farangi. It was used to receive and entertain foreign guests and ambassadors and hold official ceremonies." In 1936 the pavilion became a museum hosting handwritten Qurans and paintings of famous Persian artists. 
Vakil Mosque is not far, but closed at the moment. Instead it's possible to visit the annexed Vakil Bath, absolutely stunning. Public bath are usually part of mosques' complex because ritual bathing is required before each prayer. 
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Tomb of Saadi
The day has been hot so I'm grateful for the sunset. We are traveling on a crappy public bus toward the tomb of Saadi, just outside the city, and fortunately there is a only women part. The place is right, the building not so much. At the end of his life (1291) Saadi was buried here but the mausoleum dates from 1950. I find especially distubing the fact the you can't actually touch the grave, completely shielded by a glass case. The crowd is busy taking selfies and Saadi's spirit seems quite far.
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Tomb of Hafez
A completely different atmosphere surrounds the tomb of Hafez. Situated in the Musalla Gardens, where the poet was buried in 1390, the present buildings dates from 1935. It's night when we arrive, but the crowd is huge and passionate, packed around the marble grave, eager to touch it, someone silently crying, others praying or reciting verses. Powerful poet and master of the irfan! I'm moved. 
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Qur'an Gate
I'm also hungry and very tired. We get to Qur'an Gate in the crazy fever of the Friday night: cars, motorbikes, taxis... many many people are enjoying a walk or a piknik. "The Gate was first built during the reign of 'Adud ad-Dawla. By the time of the Zand dynasty, it had sustained a lot of damage, so it was restored and a small room on top was added, in which were kept hand-written Qur’āns by Sultan Ibrahim Bin Shahrukh Gurekani. The two Qur’āns are known as Hifdah-Man. Travelers passing underneath the gates were believed to receive the blessing of the Holy Book as they began their trip or journey from Shiraz." Nowadays fortunately traffic runs beside the gate. And what a traffic! We need a snapp and it isn't easy to find....
Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and indoorNasir al-Mulk Mosque must be visited in the morning to apreciate its amazing coloured windows. And it's really amazing. Unfortunately it's full of tourists and they are not very respectful of the holiness of the place... By the other side of the street there is Qavam House also known as Narenjestan e Ghavam: it was the house of a rich merchand, finely decorated and surrounded by a beautiful garden. 
Image may contain: sky, outdoor and waterIt's midday and a very hot one, so we are happy when the new director of Narenjestan invites us in his airconditioned office to explain us his projects, drinking chai and eating icy faloodeh! Reluctantly we leave... just to go sleeping in Shah Cheragh, the beautiful shrine of two sons of Mūsā al-Kādhim and brothers of ‘Alī ar-Ridhā. Taking a nap in a shrine in the hottest hours of the day is an accepted popular behaviour, especially for aged people. A shrine is a cosy, confortable place where people feel at home. Yes, we pray, we go touching the tomb of the beloved Imams, but there is much more here and I enjoy it all.
Later we cross the animated Vakil Bazaar and we go visiting the Vakil Mosque, famous for its 48 monolithic pillars carved in spirals and for its minbar cut from a solid piece of green marble with a flight of 14 steps. There is almost nobody, probably because it's Saturday (a bit like Monday in Europe) and we have the place just for us. 
Image may contain: indoorThe last day in Shiraz is dedicated to Persepolis and Pasagorde - see the next article - but it will end in the splendid Eram Garden where we wait for the sunset in a joyful, relaxed atmosphere. Shiraz is famous in the world for its lovers and its roses, here both can be found. Exhausted I realise that this place has got a special beauty, made of mundane pleasures and instense sensual spirituality, like the scent of a rose.


Image may contain: table, pool, sky, tree and outdoorHave also a look to Part 1Part 2,  Part 3Part 4 Part 5Part 6 , Part 7 , Part 8 Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12 and Part 13.
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A month in Iran: reportage 13 - Tehran: Laleh Park, Contemporary Art Museum, Carpets Museum... and a Persian Party

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Laleh Park

Too hot today! I'm melting under my mateau... fortunately Tehran is full of beautiful parks. My favourite is Laleh park, a large green area including also some important museums: the Contemporary Art Museum and the Carpets Museum.
The park itself is worth a visit and I love this area of the city, rich in book shops and crowded of students. 
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Laleh Park
Not far from here there is the University and many alternative locals are flourishing, with original art galleries and alternative theaters. 
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Contemporary Art Museum
It's a fascinating world, but you have to find it and it isn't easy. If you are curious I suggest you book a tour with Tehran_Art _Discovery (look for it on Instagram!), you wont regret.
Today we go straight to the Contemporary Art Museum. It's a bit disappointing: in the garden there are some very interesting sculptures by important artists... but it's impossible to visit it. 
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Contemporary Art Museum
Inside the building there are temporary exibitions by young Iranian artists. But the collection is no more there! It seems it's touring in the USA... 
I have already visited the Carpets Museum and I'm eager to show it to my son. The building itself is very beautiful, one of the many exemples of contemporary architecture in Tehran. 
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Carpets Museum
Unfortunately the museum is under maintenance and its amazing collection of carpets from all over Iran, dating from the 16th century to the present has been random relocated in the ground floor... Amazing anyway. 
Today we are not lucky. It's almost 3 pm and we are definitely hungry. 
The subway to Pasdaran Boulevard, in the Northern part of the city, is almost empty and a we know that a huge tasty lunch is waiting for us.
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Carpets Museum
"Friends of my friends, you are my very special friends!" could be the motto in Iran. Afsaneh, my friends' school mate, open the door of her wonderful house and ask if we prefer to eat on the carpet or on the table. On the carpet of course! 
We eat to much, and then we dance. "Let's take a picture all together!" my friend Najmeh says, "Not without a make up!" So Afsaneh does make up to everybody, me included... You can see me transformed in an Iranian beauty!
Time to go home. Fortunately we have to walk from the subway station in Eram to our place, because my friends are coming and my adoptive mother Monir must cook a huge tasty dinner. Don't go to Iran if you want to lose weight!


Have also a look to Part 1Part 2,  Part 3Part 4 Part 5Part 6 , Part 7 , Part 8 Part 9Part 10Part 11 and Part 12 

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Lavish building in Pasdaran

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All marble hall for this building
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I'm just WOW
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Huge delicious lunch on the carpet
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Iranian beauty ;)
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Guy and girl at the Persian party :D


A month in Iran: reportage 12 - Southern Tehran: Golestan palace, the Gran Bazar and the ex USA embassy.

Image may contain: 1 person, sky and outdoorWe woke up late. Now we are in a hurry and thanks god for the new Tehran subway! it's still uncompleted but it covers almost all the city allowing to move in a decent time. It's crowded, and that gives an idea of the huge ammount of people living, working and daily moving in Tehran, because the streets are permanently blocked by the traffic jam. 
Image may contain: 1 person, shoesThe rush time is crazy, especially on the lines crossing Azadi Tower area, because there is located an important bus terminal. Fortunately - for me! - on the Tehran subway women have got a dedicated space. That isn't true for men, indeed the subway trains are mixed, but women can opt for the only women part, that's less crowded the most of the times, and in rush time it's preferable to be squeezed among other women than in a crowd of men... well... at least I prefer! The subway is a moving bazar: any kinds of vendors get in and loudly advertise their merchandise, and people buy. It's perfectly legal. Male vendors shouldn't get in the only women train... but they do anyway.
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Image may contain: flower, plant and outdoorGolestan ('place of  flowers') was the official residence of the Shah, who used to listen to his subjects sitting on his majestic marble throne. I have already been here but it strikes me again the joyful concept of this 'hall of throne', open on a beautiful garden rich of flowers and refreshing fountains. Golestan complex includes several palaces and I'm looking forward to visit again the stunning 'mirrors palace', all decorated in small pieces of mirrors reflecting the light and creating an incredible athmosphere. Pure splendour.
No automatic alt text available.It's midday, the azan (or 'adan') softly comes from the nearest mosque. A family pray on the grass and I silently join. Now we are hungry: Golestan Restaurant, inside the palace, is not cheap but very very good. Traditional Persian dishes are well cooked and potions are large. 
Image may contain: 1 personIt's very hot in the early afternoon and we are sitting on the grass when a man in a uniform comes to us. I recognise him: he is a 'pasdaran'. Very kindly and in a good English he tells us that it's forbiden to sit on the grass. We thank him and move to the nearest bench. 
Wow! times have changed! I remember that in my last stay pasdarans were very strict and almost unfriedly: a political fight was in act opposing the liberal President Khatami and the Supreme Guide Khameni, so Pasdarans were sent around enforcing the dressing code and laws regarding drinking, music, men and women public frequentation... Now they are all smiles, especially with tourists. The democratic President Rouhanni has been elected for the second time. He signed an historical pact with the International Community about nuclean energy development for civil use obtaining the lift of sanctions. Iran is opening to the world and finally the world seems to understand that Iran is a friendly, safe, peaceful country.
Image may contain: outdoor and waterIn the streets outside Golestan a big crowd is busy shopping in the Grand Bazar and in the many shops all around it. We are in the Southern part of the city, more working-class and more traditional. Here the Revolution had one of its center, the other one being in the University among radical students embracing Islam as a political ideology. Even now in the Grand Bazar you can see groups of people, especially men, sitting on a pile of carpets or standing in front of a shop sipping tea and animately discussing. 
Image may contain: indoorThe Grand Bazar is huge! we have been walking up and down in his corridor for almost two hours and we didn't see it all. And walking it's hard because of the crowd and kinda scaring because of the porters' carts riding full speed. Porters' work is vital for the Grand Bazar as its dimensions don't allow to pick up the acquired stuff directly by car, especially when you bought something big or many items. It has to be carried outside. And given that the porters are paid piece work... they run like hell!
Exhausted, we emerge. Airconditioning makes the subway especially nice! Few stops and there we are: just in front of the ex USA embassy
Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, food and indoorThe last time I have been here standing and taking pictures it was forbiden, we had stopped by the other side of the street discretely shooting from inside our bus. Now I can pose few inches from the wall, covered on anti-American graffiti from the days of the hostages crisis. 
Image may contain: 1 person, standing, tree, crowd, sky and outdoorThe embassy is abandoned. There are project about it, to transform it in a museum or to the place of a students' association. But - just like the hijab - it has got such a symbolic value that its normalisation requires time. Iran is moving on, slowly but steadily. Only, it is moving in its own direction and can't accept any external forcing.



Have also a look to Part 1Part 2,  Part 3Part 4 Part 5Part 6 , Part 7 , Part 8 Part 9Part 10 and Part 11Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, table and indoorImage may contain: outdoorImage may contain: 1 personImage may contain: 1 person