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Iran Trip Report Part 2

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Shiraz was very interesting most particularly because of Persepolis, a UNESCO world heritage site 100km from the city.

Much like a Greek ruin although in its own architectural style Persepolis is the ruins of a ceremonial center, almost a city which was destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330BC. Nearby the necropolis has the impressive carved graves designed in the rockface of Darius and others dating from 5th century BC.

From Shiraz, where we also saw lots of other stuff including a beautiful bath complex converted into a restaurant with live traditioinal music, we headed south to kerman. Close the the Afghan border we visited Bam a deserted Silk Road mud city with undefined origins. It seemed like the largest sand castle in the world and at about 110 degrees it was baking!

In the desert city of Yazd we were captivated by the traditional wind towers used to cool the mus houses. We were equally fascinated by the Zorastrian Fire temple and the Towers of Silence where the Zorastrians used to place the bodies of the dead to be eaten by the birds so the didn't pollute the earth.

Iran really an extraordinary place to visit we never felt threatened and people were constantly inviting us to visit them or even to stay! We sat in the park and chatted to women, met young university students at dinner and found everyone friendly and open. With the guide we felt free to talk to anyone because he did a wonderful job translating.

At the Shia religious shrines I had to borrow a chador to cover myself and entered through the women's entrance. The decorative mirror works were unlike anything I have seen and at a shrine in Tehran they were so happy to see foriegners that they gave us a gift of lavish datebooks for 2004!

The museums in Tehran were incredible particularly the Jewellery Museum in a bank vault and the Raza Abbassi Museum which has a wonderful collection of ancient gold peices (1000 + years old) and great Persian minatures.
Throughout the trip I had to were the hejab to cover my hair, which was hot but one got used to it. I wore loose long linen shirts but was happy to find out I could wear ankle length pants and open toed shoes without socks.

We really loved the trip, I cannot recommend the tour company (www.irangashttour.com) highly enough. The guide was in his late 50's a really history buff with a great sense of humour. He had been a fighter pilot and spent several years training in the US in the 1970's. He ensured we had a wonderful time and even took us up to the roof of one tomb and paid someone so we could climb to the top of a minaret!

I you are considering a trip to Iran I really recommend organizing something directly with an Iranian travel agent. The trip cost less than half the price of a US tour, which would have been with a group of perhaps 12-15 strangers, and it was entirely customized. I know Iran isn't the most average destination and our families and friends thought we were crazy but it really was an incredible holiday.

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