Esfahan and Shiraz: gem cities
Qazvin (Iran) to Shiraz (Iran), Jul-17-07 / Jul-27-07
We are sitting at this moment in the bus from Shiraz to Yazd. We spend the last two weeks in the cities of Esfahan and Shiraz. The temperature rose further and further while travelling south. At this moment the temperature reaches easily the 40 degrees Celsius, already very early in the day. This means that we also make use of the daily siesta, roughly between 1pm and 4 pm.

Two weeks ago we said goodbye with pain in our hearts to the family we met again. The goodbye was, especially at the women. In conformance with Iranian traditions, water was thrown on the ground just behind the car when we left. This is a sign of hope that we will ever visit them again in healthy shape. Our destination for that day was Esfahan.

Our visit to Esfahan was as expected: terrific. The city is really beautiful and has a lot of beautiful remains of the Old Persian Empire (click here for the photo impression of Esfahan). The fact that Esfahan is an absolute highlight means also that there are many tourists in the city. In one average day in Esfahan, we saw much more tourists than in the total of 4 weeks before. We stayed in the Amir Kabir Hostel. The hostel is nothing special (bad price/quality), but it is a meeting place for backpackers. It is a great place to exchange information with other travellers. It is amazing to see how many people are ‘on the road’ for a long time. Some have no real travel planning (like us), while others have to be in China at the end of September. We also met some crazy guys who were to Afghanistan and did consider also a journey to Iraq.

Beautiful archeological carvings in Persepolis.
We went also to the Alien Police in Esfahan to try to extend our visa. The fact that we are still in Iran means that we succeeded. After all it was just an easy procedure to follow. It took us 2 hours and most of the time was used to go to the Melli Bank to deposit 8 Euro each on the bank account of the government. With the receipt, copies of our passports/visa and two passport photos, we could start the procedure. Our visa is now extended till August 22nd, but we will probably not use that time. We expect to leave Iran for Pakistan somewhere at the beginning of August; if we go to Pakistan. Because of the recent violent developments in Pakistan (as result of the assault of the Red Mosque in Islamabad), we are in a doubt. Besides that, a leader of Al-Qaeda said in the media that the Pakistani people should start a holy war to make Pakistan a real Muslim state. We will follow the news next couple of weeks via Internet, to see what the further developments will be. At this moment the violence is mainly directed to the police and the army and is almost solely in the North Western provinces that are close to the border with Afghanistan (and have some kind of ‘independent status’ in Pakistan). However, some bombings also took place in Islamabad. In case we decide not to visit Pakistan, we have two alternatives. The first alternative is that we take the plane from Tehran to Delhi (India). The other option is that we still go to Pakistan, but that we travel as soon as possible to the Indian border. The issue is however that we do not have an Indian visa yet. We have to arrange it in Tehran or in Islamabad.

We used Esfahan also to get rid of the virus on our laptop. Our first plan was to visit a computer store with the question to remove it. However, the laptop was still functioning, so we used plan B first. We downloaded a virus scanner from internet and used our memory stick to install it on the laptop. It was not easy because the virus prevented the installation to proceed. With a lot of effort we managed to install the software and with the next boot-up, the virus was removed. From now on, we keep our virus scanner up-to-date. This is not always easy because the laptop is not connected to the internet. We have to download updates once in a while, and use the memory stick to install it on the laptop. But we are happy that we installed the virus scanner, because in an internet café in Shiraz, we got the same virus on the memory stick.

Hafez tomb in Shiraz.
It was by the way great to be back in Shiraz. It is still a nice city with as ‘must-see’ the archaeological site of Persepolis. Persepolis is a site with beautiful remains from the Achaemenid Empire, whose work began under Darius I (the great) in ± 518 BC. If you happen to visit Iran, this is one of the places to go. The grandeur of Persepolis can easily be compared with that of the Pyramids in Egypt, the Coliseum in Rome or Angkor Wat in Cambodia. A small disappointment in Shiraz was that the traditional and beautiful teahouse at the Hafez (very famous and loved Iranian Poet (1324-1389)) tomb was closed. We loved the teahouse when we were in Shiraz in 1998 and looked forward to it to visit it again. However, it isn’t there anymore.

The planning for the last week of our visit to Iran is as follows. We want to stay for a couple of days in Yazd. Then we travel via Kerman to the historical city of Bam. Bam was world news in December 2003 when it was hit by a heavy earthquake. Result: 26,000 deaths and an almost completely destroyed historical city (Sassanian period: 224-642 AD). We saw the city before the earthquake and are curious to see how it looks today. It is not a highlight anymore of Iran, but we still want to visit it. After Bam we will travel to the Iranian border town of Zahedan, our last stop in Iran.


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