Two weeks in
When in February 2015 I told family and friends that I was going to travel to Iran, many asked me if I was crazy. Truth is, Iran is a very safe country to travel. Crimes rate is very low and terrorism is basically unheard of: the country has such a strong military that Talibans and Isis don't dare enter its borders.
The Visa was the only issue I had. If you have an Italian (or European, I think) passport, you can get a 14 day visa at the airport at your arrival; you just need to show confirmation of the hotel for the first night. I had booked the hotel 10 days before departure (it was a last minute trip, with the flight booked only two weeks earlier), but on the evening before the flight I received an email from the hotel, saying that they could no longer guarantee for me for the visa. During the night I contacted another hotel, which eventually sent me a confirmation, but I didn't sleep much.
At the airport in Milan-Bergamo there was another little setback: the hostess didn't want to check us in, as she had old information in the system and sustained we could not depart without the visa. Eventually she spoke with her supervisor who confirmed that we were right, but I found all this a bad omen and I got a bit anxious.
But things were about to change soon. In Istanbul, while we were waiting for the second flight, we met a lovely couple (she Italian, him Iranian) and he offered to guarantee for us. So no problem at all at the arrival in Tehran. And all my worries were wept away. The first taste of the Iranian kindness.
We stayed in Tehran only one day. The Golestan Palace was my first encounter with the maiolica of the country. Love at first sight.
The bazaar in Tehran at the end of the day
Kashan was our next stop. It's famous for the beautiful traditional houses with the amazing inner coutyards surrounded by rooms. Some have been converted into boutique hotels. Kashan also has a big bazaar and the mosque pictured on the cover of this story.
The sumptuous Fin Gardens are a Unesco World Heritage Site
The hammam in Kashan is one of the most beautifully renovated in the country
Roofs in Kashan.
At one point the bazaar in Kashan opens into a mosque.
When we traveled to Kashan we didn't even enter the station in Tehran to catch a bus; we picked one that was leaving in that moment. So we thought it would have been quite easy to go to Yazd too. We were wrong. We had to wait two hours along the highway out of Yazd, as most buses from Tehran that pass through Kashan go to Isfahan, not Yazd. But eventually we made it.
The old town of Yazd is a labyrinth among mud-brick buildings. Typical of the town are the chimneys, "windcatchers", that bring air to the building in the hot Summer days.
A mosque in Yazd, not far from our guesthouse
Zaiee Square in the old town of Yazd
Yazd is an important Zoroastrian centre. When we visited the temple, we sat on a bench and an Iranian family asked if they could take a picture with us. We agreed eagerly and the man took a picture of the two ladies and us.
Then we asked the man if he could take a picture for us too; the four of us posed on the bench and he shot. It was only later that we realized that he had zoomed so that only my boyfriend and I were in the picture 😞 Here we are, but no souvenir with the two women.
After Yazd we decided to visit Fahraj, a town bordering the desert. Really small, made of sand and stones, with a mosque that is 1400 years old, an ancient fort and some crops.
In the afternoon we toured the desert. When we came back it was about 7 pm and the only restaurant in town was closed. So our guest cooked us some spaghetti; I always try to eat local when I travel but didn't want to disappoint him.
A stop on the road between Yazd and Shiraz. Just desert, mountains, few trees. I know that there are some green parts in Iran, but I didn't see them. In towns you can find gardens and crops because water is brought through "qanat", the water transportation system typical of desertic areas invented by Persians centuries ago.
Shiraz has some beautiful mosques, a castle and a huge bazaar. Masjed-e Nasir-al-Molk with its colorful windows is one of the most photographed mosques of Iran.
To enter the Shah-e Cherag, a shrine where are buried two brothers of Mir Ahmad, I had to cover myself with a chador/sheet (I'm the one on the right) and everyone was extremely kind.
Playing football in Shiraz
I was taking a picture of an entrance door that I liked when the owner of the house passed by and invited us in. We sat on the floor of a room with various mattresses in a corner and a fridge in another. We had cheese, bread and tea. The fact that we couldn't communicate didn't matter. The house was old and in bad conditions, but you could still appreciate its ancient splendour.
One day we rented a private taxi to visit Persepolis. Going by bus was too time-consuming and an organized tour was too expensive. With a taxi driver you can bargain, and at the end for 4 people (we met two girls at the hotel) it cost us less than going by bus.
I had seen these bas-reliefs many times. Seeing them for real was quite impressive. I could see myself queuing with the princes and nobles to pay my omage to the king of Persia.
I had big expectations about Isfahan, and I was not disappointed. We arrived early in the morning, after a night on the bus. We rested a couple of hours at the hotel, then rushed to Naqsh-e Jahan Square. I couldn't wait any longer. Naqsh-e Jahan Square is the second biggest square in the World, after Tien'ammen. It hosts the jewels of Isfahan: Masjed-e Shah and Masjed-e Sheikh Lotfollah (two mosques), Kakh-e Ali and Qeysarieh Door.
Masjed-e Shah. Horse Carriages do continuous touristic tours of the square.
Pol-e Khaju, a bridge built around 1650 AD, is a favorite destination for a stroll in Isfahan.
A square near the bazaar in Isfahan
Masjed-e Jameh, the biggest mosque in Iran
In the Armenian quarter of Jolfa you can find some great coffee, just in case you get tired of tea...
We really enjoyed the Iranian food. Breakfast was always with egg, cheese, tomato, cucumber and this lovely bread.
This tahcin barreh, lamb and crunchy rice, was delicious! A special dish of a restaurant in Jolfa, Isfahan.
When you order a tea you are often offered some dates too. And that pottery!!
Spices are the favorite subjects of photography at the bazaars and great cheap souvenirs 😊
In the bazaar in Isfahan
This visit of Iran was unforgettable. It is a really big country and I visited only a small part of it. Hopefully I will go back one day, maybe taking the train that goes from Istanbul to Tehran (I'm a slow-travel fan). Iran is a country rich in history, with amazing architecture, strong traditions and lovely people. Hope you enjoyed my story and travelled a bit with me, as I also went back there while choosing the pictures and re-reading my travel diary. 👉👉👉
Goodbye with a sunset right outside my hotel in Yazd