Shiraz ... 14/09 -16/09
We arrive in Shiraz very tired after a night in the bus. We agree with Dimitri & Bruno to meet in the center as they have their bicycles and we don´t. Our paniers are difficult to carry and we walk a while before we find a bus for the centre. Once again, it would be too easy to have a shuttle between the bus terminal and the centre!
Most hotels are close to the main street, very busy and noisy. The city is not as pleasant as Ispahan. Dimitri and Ben find a cheap one (3$ per person) for the 4 of us with a bathroom outside. The room is noisy but it is the only one with a window. Shiraz is not as relaxing as we thought. The city is noisy, very warm and has heavy traffic. The main 6-lane boulevard which splits the city doesn´t help.
Persepolis, on the other hand, amazes us. The site is about 50km north-east of the city. We start with the tombs of Naqsh-e-Rostam. The four tombs carved into the rock quite high on a cliff are supposed to be those of Darius I, Artaxerxes I, Xerxes I and Darius II. In the morning light, the tombs take a golden colour. It reminds us of the pyramids of Egypt...
Persepolis was destroyed by Alexandre the Great but what remains is enough to imagine the magnificence of the site. A double flight of stairs leads to the site: one side for the visitors of foreign nations, and the other one for the dignitaries of the country. We then reach a huge plateau full of columns half destroyed. The roof of the reception hall was supported by one hundred columns. We can only imagine the number of guests during receptions!
The walls are carved with bas-reliefs: foreign dignitaries offering presents to the king, warriors with curly hair and beard... A motive comes back quite often, an eagle with its wings spread open and a man´s head. It is a zoroastrian symbol, each part indicates a learning or belief: the 3 rows of feathers symbolise the good deeds, the good words and the good thoughts; the circle in the right hand means that everything comes back to you, good and bad actions, etc.
We spend 3 hours on the site, walking around the columns, and the bas-reliefs... It is amazing to think that people used to live here thousands of years ago. Before getting back to the hotel, we decide to visit the tomb of Hafez, one of the most famous iranian poet. Iranians come here like on pilgrimage. Sat on benches in the garden, close to small ponds and fountains, couples read verses of Hafez. The place is very serene.
We buy a picnic, thinking we will have to hide in the park as it is Ramazan. But Shiraz is a very open city, several families and couple are already picnicking in the park. As Ben likes to say about Iran: "Unbelievable!".
We try to get back to the center by bus but nobody understands us. At last, Ben shouts "Sa´adi street" to the bus driver who says "yes, ok, get in". But we soon realise we are going in the wrong direction, north, towards the suburbs... A woman tells us to get off saying "Sa´adi, Sa´adi"! She tries to help us but she doesn´t speak english. She calls her friend who does. The woman ends up inviting us at her home. With her husband, Hasan, they leave in a small flat with a beautiful view on the valley. We all sit down in the living room, on carpets. Hasan´s niece arrives, she is an english teacher, we can finally communicate and thank Hasan and his wife for their warm welcome. We taste a delicious dish: breaded meat balls with tomatoes and rice. Hasan is a musician and plays santour for us. It is an instrument with loads of cords (like kanun that Cem played for us in Turkey). We wonder how he can remember which one to touch. The music is very soft, like water drops. Hasan and his wife are quite open, she does not wear her veil even with three young men in the room whereas her niece keeps it. They do not fast and don´t go that often to the mosque. We spend a great afternoon. Hasan even drives us back to the hotel to make sure we don´t get lost.
The next morning, we try to visit the famous Bargh-e-Eram garden but the price for foreigners is 8 times the one that locals have to pay and 8 times more expensive than Persepolis.There is no way we are playing that game and we try to negociate the price down. A policeman tries to bargain for us but nothing will do, the best we get is 20% reduction.
In the afternoon we take the bus for Yazd. We have decided to take the day bus so we could see the road. It´s a beautiful road going through the desert, it would be so nice to cycle it :o). We meet Parvin and Elham, two nurse students. They are from Shiraz but study in Yazd. Their english is very good, they learnt it in a private institute. When we visit, we see mostly the architecture. But we miss a lot of the daily life details. Parvin and Elham explain us that Yazd is much mor traditional than Shiraz. In Shiraz, they can get away with just a headscarf. In Yazd, one of them wear the chador. The other one, a black head veil and a black coat. To avoid angry stares ...