Day 1 in Iran
Day 1 in Iran
The SUNRISE over the snow capped mountains in Northern Iran
I arrived to Shiraz this morning on a very early flight after almost missing my first plane and spending a sleepless night in the airport, waiting for a connection. The fatigue and general annoyance dissipated, however, when I saw my beaming tour guide Nadia waving enthusiastically. Both flights were quick and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the SUNRISE over the snow capped mountains in Northern Iran.
Nadia and I both took a quick nap at our hotel, The Mahmonir House, which is a beautifully maintained traditional house with an interior courtyard and a terrace to enjoy a bit of tea and sunshine. After a home cooked breakfast, the group went to the stunning 5-Star Zandiyeh Hotel located right outside the old city walls. The hotel is the definition of luxury with rich marble floors, huge bouquets of fresh flowers, highly attentive porters and plush velvet couches.
We were escorted downstairs to the female only traditional Iranian bath where we received a striped towel to change in to, soap, a loofah (you choose hard or soft) and a refreshingly cool and sweet rose water. I was the first to be soaped up and scrubbed, which entails getting doused with warm water, having your head shampooed and massaged, and then having your entire body rubbed with both scented bath salts and your loofah. Needless to say, I felt squeaky clean and ready for a massage post-scrub!
The massage was wonderful and was followed by luxuriating on the heated marble floor, basking in the relaxation. This was exactly what I needed after my long, sleep deprived evening spent on an airport bench!
After a “Wellington-grade” coffee and chocolate cake in the lounge, we made our way to the Tomb of Hafiz, a striking mausoleum constructed for Iran’s most famous poet, the Divan of Hafiz. He wrote poems about love, heartbreak, resiliency and self-acceptance, and Iranian lore has it that you can read your future by blindly selecting a poem out of his anthology! The Tomb is notable for its ornate blue and white tile mosaics, flowered gardens and, of course, the intricately carved tomb itself. Make sure to touch it for luck in love in your future! After our visit to the tomb, we had lunch at Parhami Traditional House -another beautifully maintained house with a courtyard and balcony- which serves traditional Shirazi cuisine at very reasonable prices. Our table shared kabab koobideh (saffron rice with spiced, minced lamb), sabzi polow mahi (herbed rice pilaf with fried fish), estamboli polow (tomato pilaf with beef and potatoes), kashke bademjan (eggplant-yoghurt dip), mast (cucumber-yoghurt dip) and dizi (lamb and chickpea soup) as well as the fresh herb garnishes and flatbread that accompany most meals. As it started to drizzle (‘tis the season in Tehran!) and everyone was feeling the incipient food coma, we decided to head back to the comfort of the hotel for a little break.
Post-siesta, the group met to wander the bazaar for dinner and to visit The Holy Shrine of Seyyed Mir Muhammad (Shahecheragh). We passed traditional sangak makers – a type of rectangular whole wheat leavened flatbread that gets cooked in a hot stone fired oven and topped with sesame seeds – and were invited in to watch the whole process. This type of bread is ubiquitous around Iran, and you’re sure to find a baker just walking through the streets….you’ll know by the smell before you see the bakery! The shop we visited was a father and son team where the father made the dough and the son stretched it and masterfully placed it in the oven. The shop had been open for 65 years and the son estimated that he made around 1,000 pieces a day! After that, we continued on to Shahecheragh through a local bazaar that sold fabric and lace trimmings, catering to brides coming in from the countryside to get material for their weddings. Shahecheragh was truly a hidden treat; the first building of the holy shrine is believed to have happened between 929-950 AD, although it was been rebuilt after four earthquakes and expanded upon extensively, most recently after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The Shrine gets beautifully lit up at night, and the light plays of the hundreds of thousands of pieces of mirror that create the mosaic covering the walls and ceilings. That, in addition to a sepulture made entirely of silver, extensive stained glass and one of -if not the- most beautiful domes in Iran make this an unmissable sight!