10.21.2017

A month in Iran: reportage 14: The Scent of Shiraz

Image may contain: airplane and skyMehrabad airport is in the city area, not far from our home but the flight to Shiraz is very early in the morning. Although Tehran is not sleeping, its heartbeat is slower while our Snapp dashes in the dark and relatively desert highway. Iranian rock loud on the radio. 
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Arg of Karim Khan. 
Snapp will be our best friend in Shiraz, because the city is hard to visit in foot due to heat and to the fact its monuments are scattered in a wide area. Buses are also available but rare. Regular taxis are definitely available...! well: taxi drivers are very proactive in Shiraz! but Snapp is cheaper and it works quite well.
Honestly I didn't enjoy my first day in Shiraz. It was too hot. We arrived at 12 am and according to my traveler experience I would have spent the afternoon sleeping in the hotel room, but my Iranian friends decided we go straight to Arg of Karim Khan
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Arg of Karim Khan: garden
The fortified palace dominates the main - modern - square. Inside its high walls connected by four round brick towers there is a lovely garden, rich in flowers and fruits, a fresh water funtain in the midle. An image of the sweetness of the Islamic paradise contrasting with the harshness of the outside. The Zand dynasty had here its heart: this was the house of Karim Khan and also his military headquarter. Few remains of the beautiful decorations and probably the best conserved part is the bath. 
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Arg of Karim Khan: bath
Iran in summer is done for lazy travelers. Let's enjoy a nap in the shadow of the naranja trees!
Pars Museum, by the other side of the square, is small but nice, moreover there is airconditioning. It's located in the old Nazar Garden, that was "one of the largest gardens of Shiraz during the Safavid rule (1501–1722). During Zand dynasty (1750–1794) Karim Khan built an octagon structure which was called Kolah Farangi. It was used to receive and entertain foreign guests and ambassadors and hold official ceremonies." In 1936 the pavilion became a museum hosting handwritten Qurans and paintings of famous Persian artists. 
Vakil Mosque is not far, but closed at the moment. Instead it's possible to visit the annexed Vakil Bath, absolutely stunning. Public bath are usually part of mosques' complex because ritual bathing is required before each prayer. 
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Tomb of Saadi
The day has been hot so I'm grateful for the sunset. We are traveling on a crappy public bus toward the tomb of Saadi, just outside the city, and fortunately there is a only women part. The place is right, the building not so much. At the end of his life (1291) Saadi was buried here but the mausoleum dates from 1950. I find especially distubing the fact the you can't actually touch the grave, completely shielded by a glass case. The crowd is busy taking selfies and Saadi's spirit seems quite far.
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Tomb of Hafez
A completely different atmosphere surrounds the tomb of Hafez. Situated in the Musalla Gardens, where the poet was buried in 1390, the present buildings dates from 1935. It's night when we arrive, but the crowd is huge and passionate, packed around the marble grave, eager to touch it, someone silently crying, others praying or reciting verses. Powerful poet and master of the irfan! I'm moved. 
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Qur'an Gate
I'm also hungry and very tired. We get to Qur'an Gate in the crazy fever of the Friday night: cars, motorbikes, taxis... many many people are enjoying a walk or a piknik. "The Gate was first built during the reign of 'Adud ad-Dawla. By the time of the Zand dynasty, it had sustained a lot of damage, so it was restored and a small room on top was added, in which were kept hand-written Qur’āns by Sultan Ibrahim Bin Shahrukh Gurekani. The two Qur’āns are known as Hifdah-Man. Travelers passing underneath the gates were believed to receive the blessing of the Holy Book as they began their trip or journey from Shiraz." Nowadays fortunately traffic runs beside the gate. And what a traffic! We need a snapp and it isn't easy to find....
Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and indoorNasir al-Mulk Mosque must be visited in the morning to apreciate its amazing coloured windows. And it's really amazing. Unfortunately it's full of tourists and they are not very respectful of the holiness of the place... By the other side of the street there is Qavam House also known as Narenjestan e Ghavam: it was the house of a rich merchand, finely decorated and surrounded by a beautiful garden. 
Image may contain: sky, outdoor and waterIt's midday and a very hot one, so we are happy when the new director of Narenjestan invites us in his airconditioned office to explain us his projects, drinking chai and eating icy faloodeh! Reluctantly we leave... just to go sleeping in Shah Cheragh, the beautiful shrine of two sons of Mūsā al-Kādhim and brothers of ‘Alī ar-Ridhā. Taking a nap in a shrine in the hottest hours of the day is an accepted popular behaviour, especially for aged people. A shrine is a cosy, confortable place where people feel at home. Yes, we pray, we go touching the tomb of the beloved Imams, but there is much more here and I enjoy it all.
Later we cross the animated Vakil Bazaar and we go visiting the Vakil Mosque, famous for its 48 monolithic pillars carved in spirals and for its minbar cut from a solid piece of green marble with a flight of 14 steps. There is almost nobody, probably because it's Saturday (a bit like Monday in Europe) and we have the place just for us. 
Image may contain: indoorThe last day in Shiraz is dedicated to Persepolis and Pasagorde - see the next article - but it will end in the splendid Eram Garden where we wait for the sunset in a joyful, relaxed atmosphere. Shiraz is famous in the world for its lovers and its roses, here both can be found. Exhausted I realise that this place has got a special beauty, made of mundane pleasures and instense sensual spirituality, like the scent of a rose.
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TO BE CONTINUED

Image may contain: table, pool, sky, tree and outdoorHave also a look to Part 1Part 2,  Part 3Part 4 Part 5Part 6 , Part 7 , Part 8 Part 9Part 10Part 11Part 12 and Part 13.
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