Our last day in Tehran was pretty uneventful. We got to know Sara our guide who is delightful, and my sort of person as she absolutely bubbles over with energy and enthusiasm wanting to fit in as many activities as possible, which is why my trip journal is a bit behind. Our group of 7 are also getting along really well and We are enjoying their companionship.
Our very long overnight train trip was relatively comfortable in shared cabins with meals brought to us.
The scenery en route only became more interesting as we started to get closer to Shiraz. Many sheep, goat and a few cattle farms, vineyards (sadly as far as I am aware, not used to make a decent bottle of Shiraz), wheat crops. The mountains were beautiful, especially waking up to them on the train with the sun rising.
We are impressed with our delightful traditional hotel which is an old house in the heart of the old quarter of Shiraz and is arranged around two delightful and coolish courtyards. A pleasant and quiet place away from the bustling bazaars etc. They serve not cold beers but interesting and refreshing cold herbal teas.
I am surprised at how how interesting all the local herbal drinks and teas have been and enjoyed them when I am able to steer away from the the really sweet ones. Sugar is used liberally here.
Shiraz - the Pearl of Persia, the city of poets, the centre of Persian culture and I believe Iranian romance and I must admit, I actually saw a young couple holding hands yesterday.
Sara took us on an orientation walk of the city, we visited the main Jame Atiq Mosque, huge and most elaborate, a peaceful place where families and people just hang out in harmony.
The ladies had to wear tent like coverups which I almost got lost in trying to hold it on, over the scarf with just my face peeking out, way over the top. And after all of that, I hadn’t realised it had fallen onto my shoulders and an extremely pleasant female clothing policewoman, in her uniform and with a green duster, dusted me and politely asked me to cover up (2nd brush with the law).
I must say, the books regarding how strict life is here were totally ‘over the top’, it’s nowhere near that strict in regard to every aspect. The clothing is a pain in this extremely hot weather, the scarf is a total menace and feels like a pair of underpants that are constantly riding up your bum, we are forever tugging our scarves back on our heads, readjusting, fiddling with, forgetting to put on, but people are very relaxed about it all and a gentle reminder is fine.
We wondered through the obligatory Vakil Bazaar and eventually returned to our lovely peaceful hotel for our first shower since leaving Tehran and cold refreshing herbal drinks in our peaceful and relatively cool courtyard.
Sara actually lives in Shiraz so she invited us all back to her apartment for late afternoon tea, as opposed to drinks before dinner.
We met her charming husband and got to experience how a newly married young Iranian couple live their lives. We checked out their apartment (very westernised), drank strange teas, fruit and nuts and Sara taught us how to cook a traditional Iranian dish. We played a few hilarious games of Jenga and a very interesting card game.
I was intrigued when Assam (husband) touched a panel of one of the decorative walls, it opened into a secret tiny
cupboard with shelves, just wide enough to hide the obligatory bottles of whiskey, vodka etc . A common feature in most Iranian homes.
Once fasting was over, (the government ensure that most restaurants etc close during Ramadan but not everyone actually fast) (although Assan was fasting but not for religious reasons, complicated), about 8 pm, we all jumped into taxis and went out for dinner.
This was our best meal so far in Iran, many shared dishes, all accompanied by rice which is often cooked like a true Spanish paella with the crispy bit on the bottom. We had lamb and chicken dishes, all with entirely different ingredients and flavours, a memorable meal in an expensive restaurant (cost us $9 each) and interesting watching all the local people enjoying their first meal of the day (it seems that the people out at the restaurants and picnicking are the ones that have actually fasted).
We collapsed into bed rather late after dinner and now ready for a trip to Persepolis and to explore Shiraz a bit more thoroughly.