From Iranian hospitality to ancient Persepolis
When we decided to go to Iran we had no idea what to expect! Iran has already surprised us on so many levels, with it’s rich culture and vide variety of interesting places. After spending a few days in Iran and getting over the culture shock, we realized that 1 month is definitely not enough time to visit all the places worth seeing here! So we did some heavy scheduling and decided which places to visit next.
Saying goodbye to the lovely family in Lar
After the desert city, Lar, our journey continued up north towards the former capital, Shiraz. Before we left Mohammad and his family in Lar they gave us a warm blessing and made us kiss the Quran (Koran) and walk under it, a tradition for good luck and safe travels. After five hours by bus to Shiraz we could feel a huge temperature change, not only because we were travelling north but also due to increased elevation, Shiraz is 1500 m above sea level.
We arrived in Shiraz in the middle of the night waiting for our host from couchsurfing to meet us. Unfortunately he never showed up so we were wandering around in a dark and creepy bus terminal with quite many locals staring at us, especially one creepy serial-killer-looking guy following us slowly with an emotionless face (maybe the most scary situation we had in Iran hah!) For a moment we were homeless in a bus-terminal, but luckily we were invited to another host. She was in the middle of a party with her husband, but gladly came with her 11 months old daughter and picked us up from the bus station.
Nazir al Mulk Mosque
This time we entered another beautiful Iranian home with big persian carpets covering the living room. It’s not only common for Iranians to eat on the floor, they also like to sleep on it, and if they have beds, the mattresses feel like concrete! So the next few nights were spent sleeping (or trying to sleep) on a persian carpet.
Typical Iranian home; not many furnitures but a lot of space for persian carpets
Shiraz is a beautiful city with many places worth visiting, from holy mosques and shrines to busy bazaars and botanical gardens. Many might be familiar with the city’s name since it is famous for winemaking. Apparently, making wine for export is legal but consuming alcohol in Iran is illegal. According to our second host in Shiraz, more than half of the population drinks alcohol, usually homemade spirits or wines, despite the conservative laws. If you like the popular brands you’ll have to buy them on the “black market”.
Getting around is quite easy by taxi for a fair price, 2-3$ for most rides. What struck us though was how often the locals would stop their car and offer us a free ride. One time we were bargaining with a few taxi drivers, each one trying to persuade us to come to their taxi, but then a man in his sixties stopped his old car and offered us a ride, much to the taxis drivers dislike who kicked his car for steeling a customer. But the old man just laughed and drove us to the bazaar.
One of our hosts in Shiraz was living a kind of a bohemian lifestyle. He was unemployed, loved making wine, reading poets after Hafez and playing his tar and setar, two famous string instruments from Iran. He introduced us to iranian traditional music and showed us the different tone scales they use. At first it all sounds a bit off note to us Westerners, but with time you start enjoying these old exotic sounds and how they beautifully harmonize with their way of singing.
Our host playing his setar and singing persian songs
Like all of our hosts, he cooked a feast for us and invited his friends over. It was interesting to hear their stories. One of them had been prisoned for 10 years under Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, during the Iran-Iraq war. Now he was a successful businessman selling air-conditions.
The first week in Iran we actually felt like we were a bit stuck inside iranian homes, eating and eating, instead of sightseeing. This is their way of being hospitable to guests and we are very grateful for all the different foods we got to taste. But sometimes we felt a bit imprisoned and just wanted to have some private time to discover the country on our own.
In shiraz we enjoyed visiting the tomb of the famous poet Hafez and the beautiful Quran gate.
Tomb of Hafez – In Shiraz
Most places we felt like the only foreign tourists there, it felt like we had the sights for ourselves. Our definite highlight of our four days in Shiraz was visiting the ancient Persian capital of the Achaemenid empire, Persepolis, one of the greatest ancient UNESCO sights in the middle-east. Persepolis is a unique place that actually exceeded our high expectations.
Andri enjoying the sights of Persepolis
Walking around the ruins of this ancient city made our minds drift back to our history class in high school. We had been so fascinated by this era, so being here in own person was a bit surreal. Built over 2500 years ago, Persepolis was the capital of the Persian Empire, back when it reached from Greece to India. The world empire was thought to have inhabited 44% of the world’s population during these times (the highest such number of any world empire). Its glory came to an end when Alexander the Great burned and sacked the city 333BC, leaving Persepolis in ruins ever since.
Gate of all nations, the entrance of Persepolis (left) – 2.500 year old love written in stone (right)
After Persepolis we drove to see to tombs of the great Persian kings, Naqsh-i-
View over the tombs
After spending 5 days in Shiraz we jumped on a bus to the east of Iran to visit the city of Opium – Kerman !
Are you thinking about travelling to Iran? Read our Ultimate travel guide to Iran here!
Find all our blogs from Iran here!
Connect with us on social media