Our Trip to Iran in 2000

Old Nov 16th, 2007, 07:27 PM
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Our Trip to Iran in 2000

My wife and I made a trip to Iran in Feb/Mar of 2000.
We entered and exited Iran via Turkey. I will try to
pass on some information that might be of some help to
someone planning a trip to Iran.

Visa: My wife and I have Canadian passports and
received our visas through the Iranian Embassy in
Ottawa, it took about 4 weeks. We asked for a 21 day
tourist visa and received a 21 day tourist visa. My
wife had to have here hair covered in the visa photo,
but the passport photo did not matter.

Getting to Turkey: We flew from Victoria BC to
Seattle, then from Seattle to London (LHR) and then to
Istanbul. Seattle to Istanbul was by British Airways.
Immigration in Seattle ran a security check on us when
they noticed the Iranian visas. They said that they
just wanted to make a photocopy of the visa, as they
had never seen one before, it took about 30 minutes to
take a photocopy.

We had an overnight flight to London. In LHR we had to
change terminals, which did not create any problems
and we had plenty of time between flights. We arrived
in Istanbul about 10pm, purchased our visas on arrival
($45US) We had pre-booked a room at the Ambassador
hotel, which included a car pickup at the airport. It
was less than an hour from the time we landed to the
time we were in the hotel room.

Turkey: We had visited Istanbul on a previous trip and
only spent two nights on the way to Iran. Prior to
arriving in Istanbul we asked to hotel to make train
reservations and obtain a rail ticket for us from
Istanbul (Haydarpasa) to Erzurum, a city in Eastern
Turkey. The ticket was available when we arrived at
the hotel.

Our route across was to be by rail from Istanbul to
Erzurum, then bus from Erzurum to Dogubeyazit and then
bus to the Iran border.

Haydarpasa is the rail station, across the Bosphorus,
on the Asia side of Istanbul. It is easy to reach the
station from the ferry terminal at Karakoy. A taxi to
Haydarpasa would be very expensive and slow. The train
was scheduled to depart at 9:30am so we had no
difficulties getting to the station on time. We were
on the Dogu Express and went as far as Kars near the
Armenian border via Ankara, Silvas, Erzincan and
Erzurum. The cost for a sleeper compartment was about
$24US for the each of us, a journey of a day and a

The train left a little late, the compartments were
for 2 people and were very comfortable, clean and
warm. Cost was about $24US each. The train had a
restaurant car and snacks and meals were available.
Not much was available at the small railway stations,
but some food could be obtained at the larger

As we went east the temperatures soon dropped and the
ground was covered in snow.

We arrived at Erzurum at about 5pm, I took the time to
purchase my our return rail tickets, before we left
the station. We had no prior hotel reservation and
being that it was definitely off-season expected no
difficulties. We chose a hotel near the railway
station, within walking distance, Hotel Sefer. We only
spent the one night in Erzurum. The hotel was
comfortable and warm.

The next morning we took a taxi to the bus station and
asked around for a bus going to Dogubeyazit, we were
soon put on a bus and on our way. The bus that we were
on was going to Van, which we did not know at the
time. We made a stop at Agri and were then put on
another bus to complete our journey to Dogubeyazit.
The time from Erzurum to Dogubeyazit was about 5 hours
at a cost of about $7US.

Dogubeyazit is a small town located about 35km from
the Iran border. not an impressive town and because of
the thawing snow was very muddy. A number of mountains
are near the town, including Mt Ararat, the supposed
resting place of Noah's Ark.

We stayed at the Ishak Pasa Hotel at a cost of about
$9US. One of the main reasons we stopped at
Dogubeyazit was for my wife to purchase the
appropriate clothes for crossing into Iran. We
purchased a head scarf as well as a long dark coat,
the shop keeper wanted to sell us a chador, an
all-encompassing black robe, which is not really
required. I also made a purchase of some Iranian Rials
at a very poor rate.

We only spent the one night and we were up early to
get an early start at the border and to put on the
appropriate dress for Iran. Minibuses make the run
from Dogu to the border at Gurbulak, the cost was
about a dollar. The bus stop is not really at the
border but at the entrance to the truck parking lot.

Crossing the Border: The truck lot is large and it is
some distance to the buildings. Leaving Turkey is not
difficult, the regular customs and immigration posts
are located together in the first building, it is not
well marked, just follow the people. After the last
Turkish post you stand before a locked door. After a
while the door is opened and you enter a large room.
One end of the room is Turkey and the other end is
Iran. You walk across the room and you are in Iran.
Once you leave the room you meet you first Iranian
official at Iran Immigration, it was not difficult.
they filled out the entry form, stamped or visas and
passports and we were on our way. We then followed the
crowd to Customs Building. Many of the travelers were
merchants with large bundles and they allowed us to go
ahead of them. At customs we were asked to open one of
our packs, but they didn't even look inside, after
customs we pass through two doorways, one for men, the
other for woman to the outside world of Iran.
(to be continued)

Garfield is offline  
Old Nov 16th, 2007, 07:30 PM
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Part 2

Into Iran: In Iran we planned to go from the border to
Tabriz. Then to Tehran and onto Kerman and go as far
as Bam. From Bam we would return to Tehran passing
through Kerman, Yazd, Shiraz, and Esfahan. From Tehran
we would return to Tabriz and then back into Turkey.

The border crossing took about an hour, then watches
are put ahead 1.5hrs. Once you have crossed the border
it is easy to exchange cash money at near official
rate of 8000 rial for $1US. Iran has a strange
exchange rate, on the world market you will see a rate
of 1750 rial for $1US, but inside the country it is
8000 rial.

To Tabriz: On the Iran side you do not have to walk
through the truck parking lot, a minibus will take you
down the long hill to the gate of the lot. Once we
were outside the gate we were able to get a taxi to
the nearby town of Maku, 22km. I forget the cost but
it was not expensive. In Maku we purchased a bus
ticket to Tabriz, about 4000 rial. We had no
difficulties, the Iranians were very eager to help us.
We met a young university student who could speak
English and he offered us assistance if we required
it, he also taking the bus to Tabriz. We had some time
before the bus departed and had our first taste of
Iranian food, a burger. The weather was above freezing
and sunny, with patches of snow

The distance from Maku to Tabriz is about 240km and
took 4-5 hours. We were planning to spend the night in
Tabriz and catch a train the next day to Tehran. Iran
Railway have a very good web-site so I was aware of
the rail schedule. It was about 5pm when we approached
Tabriz and the afternoon train left at 6pm. From
looking at the Lonely Planet map of Tabriz it looked
like the bus might pass near the rail station. I asked
the student, to ask the driver, to stop near the
station, which he did. The student help us get our
bags from the bus and flagged down a taxi. He told the
driver to take us to the station. The station was only
a couple of minutes away. At the station the driver
asked if I had a train ticket, I told him no, and he
indicated that he would help me. By the way he could
not speak English and I could not speak Farsi. I
indicated to him that I wanted to purchase the
compartment, which would be four tickets. With the
complete compartment my wife would not have to keep
wearing the head scarf. The taxi driver went to the
front of the line and I soon had my tickets - total
cost 100,000 rial, $12.50US. The driver then arranged
for a porter to take our packs from the taxi to our
compartment on the train.

The train was very clean and with a 4 person
compartment very comfortable. We had dinner in the
dining car. The journey from Tabriz to Tehran took
about twelve hours.

Tehran: We arrived in Tehran just past 6 in the
morning, the station was not crowded at that time of
day. From the Lonely Planet I picked out the Omid
Hotel, located on the west side of the city near the
Tehran University. Outside the train station was a
taxi stand, it took some time before someone who knew
the location of the hotel, again everyone was willing
to help.

The city traffic was still not heavy and the taxi
driver had no difficulty getting to the hotel. We
arrived at the hotel, just after 7am, they had a room
but it would not be available until after 8. The
reception desk could speak good English, the hotel
manager was a woman. We were offered a free breakfast
as we waited for our room.

The room cost was $45US, which included a buffet
breakfast. The rooms were large and modern, with
kitchen, eating area, bedroom and bathroom. The room
had fresh flowers and later in the day fresh fruit was
put in the fridge. The hotel had internet service
available for the guests.

We had no definite plans for Tehran on this visit as
we would be passing through again, we were only going
to spend the one night. My main objective for the day
was to get rail tickets to the city of Kermin.

I left my wife in the hotel and I walked back to the
train station, it was some distance, but was fairly
direct, and was downhill most of the way. North of the
city the snowcapped Alborz mountains could be seen. I
noticed that the city seemed very clean, however the
vehicle traffic was very heavy, with not much
pollution, this time of year, in summer a heavy smog
hangs over the city.

Most of the train services in Iran pass through, in
fact it is the same with domestic air. The train
station is a large impressive station. Arrival times
and departures are listed on large electronic boards
in both English and Far si. The main ticket office is
located upstairs, do not go by the location indicted
in LP. With the use of a language guide and much
pointing and assistance from the people I was able to
purchase train tickets to Kerman for the next day.
Again I purchased a 1st class compartment, this time
for six, the total cost was just under 200,000 rial
$25US. The journey is about 1100km. Air travel within
Iran is also not expensive, however the schedules make
it difficult to get a flight, I was told that an Iran
Air flight from Tehran to Kerman would cost 71,000
rial, under $10US. The price of a litre of gas was 4
cents US, it had recently been raised from 3 cents.

After obtaining the tickets I walked backed to the
hotel. One of the things that I noticed was that woman
were very visible. On previous travels I have visited
Islamic countries, in countries like Syria and
Pakistan you do not see many woman alone on the
street. In Tehran the woman would walk alone on the
street and drive cars. Some will say hello and in one
case started a conversation with me. On the city buses
woman and children had there own seating area and
doorway, actually this seemed reasonable, as the men's
area on the buses were always very crowded.

We had lunch at one of the local cafes and did not
experience any difficulties. After lunch we walk to
Laleh Park, a large park located near the hotel. In
the park you get more of a glimpse of the local
people. Couples were walking hand in hand and the boys
were playing soccer, young girls were also gathered.
We also found a local market place selling all sorts
of handicraft. We did not make any purchases as we
would be returning to Tehran. Also within the grounds
of the park are the Museum of Modern Art and the
Carpet Museum. A small mosque attracted our attention,
it was built in a modern contemporary style and did
not look like any other mosque that I had ever seen.

After our walk we returned to our hotel, stopping and
looking in the shops on the way. We had our dinner in
the restaurant of our hotel. They had an English menu,
the meal was excellent, reasonably priced and we
received excellent service.

The next morning we returned to Laleh Park and visited
the Carpet Museum. It houses more than 100 pieces from
all over Iran, dating from the present back to the
18th century. The quality of the carpets is excellent
and many were priceless, woven with gold.

We checked out of the hotel around noon and took a
taxi to the train station. Our train to Kerman was not
until 5pm so we checked our bags. We then wandered
away from the station towards the bazaar. At one time
the bazaar was the business center of the city, but is
now declining in size. However it is still a great
place just to wander around. It still contains many
mosques and contains areas specializing in particular
trades, such as gold, spice, fabrics, copper and of
course carpets. None of the sales people were overly
aggressive. We stopped of at a local cafe and then
returned to the station in time for our train. Shortly
after our departure nature put on a spectacular
lightning and thunder display, followed by heavy rain.

(To be continued)

Garfield is offline  
Old Nov 16th, 2007, 07:37 PM
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Iran Part 3
Kerman: We arrived in Kerman at about 9am the next
morning. We had breakfast on the train before we
arrived. Kerman, a desert city, is located roughly in
the middle of Iran at an altitude of 6,000 feet. For
many centuries depended upon its place on the Asian
trade routes. The surrounding terrain is very barren,
with not much agriculture. Today the main industry of
the city is the manufacture of carpets. The population
is about 300,000. The temperature was much warmer in
Kerman than in Tehran, the morning temperature was in
the low 20C range, later in the day it was high 20's,
with sunny skies.

We only stayed in Kerman long enough to get a bus to
Bam. We had no problem with getting a taxi to the bus
station or obtaining bus tickets.

Bam: We had expected the bus trip to Bam, a distance
of about 200km to take about 3 hours, however we
arrived in just over 2 hours, the cost was 12,000 rial
($1.50). The highway was excellent and was divided
most of the way, traffic was light and we only made
one stop along the way. The bus was a very modern,
comfortable new Volvo.

Bam is a small desert oasis town, complete with date
palms. The highlight of a visit to Bam, and really the
only reason to visit Bam, is its incredible ancient
city Arg-e Bam. The citadel and the original city was
built during the Sassanian Period, 224-637, some of
the surviving structures were built before the 12th
century, but most of what remains today was built
between 1500 - 1700. Between 9000 and 13,000 people
once lived within its walls. It was first abandoned in
1722 with an Afghan invasion, it was reoccupied and
then abandoned again in 1810. From then until the
1930s, the remains of the city was used as an army
barracks and remained completely deserted. It now
appears that some restoration is taking place and some
development, which looks like it may include a hotel.

We arrived at the local bus station and we had a taxi
take us to the Bam Inn. The rooms have balconies and
were clean an quiet, the hotel also had a restaurant
which was convenient as the town did not offer much.

After we were settled in the hotel and a quick lunch
we were off to visit Arg-e Bam, it is located about
3km from Bam. It is a very impressive sight, rising
high above the desert. The fortifications shelter a
ghost town of half collapsed houses. Once past the
first set of walls, one climbs through the old bazaar,
remains of mosques can been seen. Towards a second
wall, which surrounds the citadel are ancient
fortified residences, stables which once held 200 to
300 horses, an armory and a dungeon. The citadel which
was the residence of the Garrison's commander provides
an excellent view of the surrounding area. It is
advisable to take a flashlight when you visit the site
if you wish to look around inside the citadel. Parts
of the old city remain closed to visitors as
archaeological research is being carried out.

We only saw a handful of visitors on the site, most
were Iranian, we did meet three non-Iranians who had
come into Iran from Pakistan, Bam is on the main route
from Pakistan and would be one of the first stop that
travelers would make.

We remained at the site almost until sunset and took
many photos, with the colours changing with the
growing shadows.

We took a taxi back to the town, the driver could
speak English and gave us a running commentary as we
went along. At the end of the trip the driver asked my
wife if she might have some eye makeup for his wife,
unfortunately my wife did not have any. We had noticed
that most Iranian woman use makeup.

As for visiting Bam, I certainly would recommend a
visit, however I would recommend that a visit be made
as a day trip from Kerman, Kerman is a much nicer
place to stay than Bam. The cost of hiring a taxi for
the full day would probably be about $20US.

The next morning we were back on the bus on our way
back to Kerman.

Kerman: We arrived back in Kerman well before lunch.
We took a taxi from the bus station to the Akhavan
Hotel. The hotel was a good choice, the manager spoke
English and provided good service. The restaurant had
a good range of tasty meals. On our first visit to the
restaurant we were taken on a tour of the kitchen, the
kitchen was clean and modern.

During the afternoon we took a taxi to the Friday
Mosque, one of Kerman's most interesting monuments. It
is a large with four lofty eivans decorated with blue
and white floral tiles. It was originally built in the
mid 1300s. As with most mosques in Iran it is no
problem for non-Muslims to go inside. The back
leads directly into the Vakil Bazaar. It is one of the
most interesting and ancient bazaars in this part of
the country, it is almost 3km long. You could spend
hours wandering around, just looking and taking
photos, and maybe even a bit of shopping. One of the
best teahouses in the country is located in the
bazaar, the Chaykhune-ye Vakil, it is no doubt one of
the most atmospheric places in the city. It at one
time was a bath-house and is located down some steps
in the bazaar. The teahouse, with its elegant
brickwork and traditional decor, makes a good stop for
a pot of tea. The bazaar also has a number of
courtyards which are a good place to take a rest and
people watch, also an easy place to get lost.

I asked at the hotel about purchase of rail tickets in
advance, I wanted to get tickets from Tehran to
Tabriz. They suggested that I could just go to any of
the travel agencies displaying the RAI logo, to make a
booking and get tickets. I went to an agent near the
hotel and had no problem getting a ticket. The system
is computerized and getting the ticket was much easier
than getting it at the station.

In the lobby of the hotel I met an American couple who
were traveling. They were enjoying the country very
much and were very surprised how well they were
received. They said that they had some difficulty
getting a visa for Iran, they obtained it in Turkey
and it took 11 days to get. They had to have a planned
program and were required to book hotels in advance as
well as hire a car and driver. They flew into Tehran
from Istanbul.

The next day we were off again on our way to Yadz.

(to be continued)
Garfield is offline  
Old Nov 16th, 2007, 08:24 PM
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This is bringing back so many happy memories of traveling as a student in Iran in the 70's. Can women still enjoy the chai-khune in Kerman. It sounds as though there are many more tourist hotels than before. We almost ended up staying in the police station because there were no hotels available in Kerman at that time.

Did you enjoy Iranian cuisine? I loved it. Did you purchase any handicrafts or rugs? I wish I had bought more. Keep up the great report.
ijkh is offline  
Old Nov 16th, 2007, 10:20 PM
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very interesting! but since it was 7 years ago, I wonder how much things have changed considering what's been going on there.
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Old Nov 17th, 2007, 06:45 PM
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Iran Part 4
Yazd: We had no problems getting a bus from Kerman to
Yazd, tickets were only available at the bus station.
Cost of a ticket was 16,000 rial($2US).

The distance from Kerman to Yazd is almost 400km and
takes about 6 hours, the bus does not make many stops.
The bus was not as good as the bus that we had between
Bam and Kerman and was much more crowded. Long
distance buses in Iran are usually two classes, Lux
which is a regular (2nd) class, and super (1st) class.
On the bus women sit next to women and men next to
men, except for married couples. It is not acceptable
for a man to sit next to an unrelated woman and a man
would be expected to stand if no other seat was
available. We also noticed that men would give woman
seats on the shady side of the bus. Free water is
usually available on the bus, but the buses are not
toilet equipped.

Yazd is at an altitude of 4,000 ft, it has a
population of about 300,000. It is surrounded by salt
lakes and built between the Dasht-e Kavir desert and
the Dasht-e Lut desert. It is one of the oldest and
inhabited cities in Iran and dates from Sassanian
times (224-637). The city has always been a great
weaving centre, known for its silks and other fabrics.

We arrived in Aazd in the late afternoon and took a
taxi from the bus station Nabavi Hotel, we did not
stay, the main desk did not seem to want to rent us a
room, I think they were upset because we woke them up.
We carried on to the Aria Hotel and were received much
more warmly and we took a room. The hotel was basic,
but comfortable and included breakfast and is located
on the edge of the old city.

Yazd is an interesting city, most sights can be
visited on foot. The style of architecture throughout
the old city is interesting and is a great place to
explore. The building styles are simple and
traditional, and is the colour of clay, from the sun
dried bricks. The residential areas appear almost
deserted because of the high walls surrounding the
houses, the streets are very narrow. Tall wind towers
can still be seen on the rooftops, these were designed
to catch a breeze and direct them and direct them to
underground living rooms, keeping the areas cool in
the hot summer.

I found a number of sites within the old city being
excavated and restored. Many of the newer buildings in
the old city were built upon older buildings which
were built under the ground. Some of the new buildings
have been demolished and excavation of the underground
sites are being carried out. I had a look into one
site and the workers invited me in, they were very
proud of there work and were happy to show me around.
The site was an old hammum (bath house) and was
completely underground. Before excavation the site had
been filled in, with houses built above it. Excavation
was about half complete, the workers said that the
hammum would be restored to its original condition.
Many artifacts were being found and could be seen
still in the ground. I also saw old merchants houses
that were also being restored, these houses had a
number of underground rooms.

Also in the old city is an old prison, apparently
built by Alexander the Great, the prison has been.
Nearby the prison are a number of tombs dating from
the 11th century. Also within the old city is the well
preserved Masjed-e Jame mosque dating from the 14th
century. The mosque rises well above the old city, the
high , tiled entrance is flanked with two minarets
which are covered with inscriptions from the 15th
century, the dome is covered with beautiful mosaics.

We were able to purchase bus tickets to Shiraz for the
next day at the office of one bus companies located
within the city.

(to be continued)
Garfield is offline  
Old Nov 21st, 2007, 07:44 PM
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ZINE Re: Iran - Part 5
On to Shiraz: We had no problem finding the bus to
Shiraz at the bus station in Yazd. The Iranian people
are always willing to help, all you have to do is show
your ticket and say your destination and someone will
escort you to the correct bus. The road from Yazd to
Shiraz travels through the desert and passes through a
small oasis of Abarkuhonce a prosperous centre along
the trade routes that linked the Persian Gulf, Central
Asia and Turkey, a few of the ancient ruins could be
seen as we passed through the town. The journey from
Yazd to Shiraz took about 7 hours and was a distance
of 440km, ticket cost was 16,000rial ($2US}. We took a
taxi to the Shiraz Eram Hotel. It was very good value
at a cost of $25US, the rooms were large and
comfortable and breakfast was included.

Shiraz is located in the south-west province of Fars
near the Persian Gulf. Its present population is about
1.1 million ant is at an altitude of 4,800 ft.
It has been a provincial capital since the 7th
century. Shiraz at one time was the capital of Iran
and was one of the most important cities in the
Islamic world. Shiraz has always been a learning
and is the home of a number of universities.

The next day we booked a taxi through the hotel for a
visit to Persepolis, the cost for a half day was $10US. Persepolis
has to be one of the highlights of a trip to Shiraz
and to Iran,it is a most impressive archaeological
site. Originally it covered an area of 125,000 sq
metres. In about 512BC Darius 1, started the
construction of Persepolis, it became a massive and
magnificent palace complex and was to serve as a
summer capital. Alexander the Great entered Persepolis
about 330 BC, the town was sacked and the royal
treasure taken away, the buildings were not destroyed
at this time. However some time soon after Persepolis
was burnt to the ground. Historians are divided about
whether it was accidental op deliberately burnt on
Alexander's orders in retaliation for the destruction
of Athens by Xerxes. The site soon was covered by
sand. Persepolis was rediscovered again by Europeans
in the 17th century, but the first excavations were
not carried out until the early 19th century. The
Oriental Institute of Chicago began digs from 1931 to
1939 and then taken over by the Iranian Archaeological

Persepolis is 57km from Shiraz, just off the road to
Esfahan and Yazd. Having a car certainly made it much
easier to visit the site. On the way we stopped to see
the tombs at Naghsh-e Rostam, which is about 6km from
Persepolis. The site consists of four tombs cut out of
a cliff high above the ground and are believed to be
the tombs of Darius I and three of his successors,
built between 485BC 400BC. There are also other
carvings depicting various scenes of battles.

A visit to Persepolis will take at least a couple of
hours, it is still a massive site. When one first
arrives at the site not much is seen except for some
of the tall columns. The palaces of Persepolis were
built upon a terrace, 1,500ft by 1,000ft. The only
access to the site was originally from the monumental
stair which leads to the gate of the city, the large
decorated Gate of All Nations. Once you are through
the gate you appreciate the sheer size of the place.
Persepolise is not like the ancient cities in Jordan
(Jerash) or Syria (Palmyra), it is a city that was
destroyed. Only the stone columns, stairways and door
ways of the great palaces and halls survived. However
with its destruction almost everything was buried for
centuries under layers of ash and earth, and became
well preserved. A little imagination has to be used to
visualize the original setting. However you will not
be dissapointed at what remains today. The details of
the carvings and decorations on the stairways and
statues are in exceptional condition. Many of the
carvings provide a detailed look in stone of life and
the ceremonies that were once held; procession of
servants going before a ruler carrying various items,
fights between animals, lions, lines of guards
accompanied by cavalry, infantry and archers. A museum
is also available for visit, it contains some of the
ceramics, cloths, carvings and coins discovered in
Persepolis. Most of the treasures were removed by
Alexander to help finance his further campaigns.
Photos were not allowed within the museum.

After our visit to Persepolis we returned to Shiraz,
we made a couple of stops on the way. The first at the
entrance to the city, Darvaze-ye Quran, the Quran
Gateway. It is a also a burial tomb. At the top of the
gateway is a room which houses a Quran. We had the
driver make a stop at the bus station, to enable us to
purchase a bus ticket to Esfahan, it was easy with his
assistance. The station is large, with many bus
companies and with no English.

The rest of our time in Shiraz we spent visiting some
of the sights in the city. The city has a variety of
sights; Castles, museums, mosques, churches, tombs,
parks and bazaars are just a few. In the center of the
city is the Citadel of Karim Khan, a well preserved
castle, with four circular towers. The Masjed-e Vakil,
the Regents Mosque was also built by Karim Khan, it is
near the entrance to the bazaar, is well worth a
visit. The mosques has two large eivans, (halls), a
magnificent inner courtyard surrounded by beautifully
tiled alcoves. The ceiling of eivan that we entered
was covered in many tiny tiled mirrors. We had no
difficulties entering the mosque and felt welcomed.
Many of the gardens also contain tombs, but are very
pleasant and restful, the one in particular was the
Aramgah-e Hafez, which has the tomb of poet Hafez.
Besides the many mosques in the city there are also
some churches. The Church of St Simon, is Anglican,
the building is very Iranian in character, it is best
known for its stained glass windows. Also in the city
is an Armenian Church.

On the day that we were to leave Shiraz we asked the
hotel to book us a taxi. We had the same driver that
we had when we went to Shiraz. We tried to pay him for
the trip but he refused the money, he said it was his
gift from him to us. With his help we had no
difficulties with getting the bus to Esfahan.

(to be continued)

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Old Nov 27th, 2007, 01:13 PM
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Iran - Part 6
On to Esfahan (Isfahan): The bus trip from Shiraz to
Esfahan took almost 8 hours, a distance of 480km. The
route took us back pass Persepolis, then through the
mountains and desert. We took a taxi to the Saffir
Hotel which is in a good location, directly across the
street from the luxurious five star Abbasi Hotel.

Esfahan is the capital of Esfahan Province, the
population is about 1.3 million. The province is the
geographical centre of Iran and is crisscrossed with
many of the important trade routes in Iran. It is
mostly desert however it also has a number of high

Esfahan was described in Safavid times as 'Isfahan is
half the world', when the city was at the height of
its glory and grandeur. The city still has much to
see. The main sights of the city are essentially the
work of one person, Shah Abbas the Great, who made the
city his capital in 1598. During his rule Esfahan
produced some of the most beautiful architecture, art
and carpets seen anywhere in the Islamic world.

Most of the sights of Esfahan were within a walking
distance of our hotel.

The main street of Esfahan, Chahar Bagh, was built in
1597, and once was linked with many palaces. Among the
few buildings still standing standing is the Chehel
Sotun, this palace was built as a reception hall by
Shah Abbas I in the 17th century. It is set in an old
royal park. Inside the building is a small museum,
however the highlights are the friezes painted on the
inside walls. The palace is surrounded by gardens,
with a large pool.

Nearby is the Emam Khomeini Square, Royal Square, at
500m by 160m, is one of the largest in the world. It
was built in early 1600s, with many of Esfahan's
sights built around it.

The square is surrounded on all four sides by long
walls with double arcades, interrupted at intervals by
the main monuments. The shops under the arcades sell
everything from expensive carpets and brass ware to
tacky souvenirs and postcards.

At one time polo matches were played on the square,
the stone goal posts are still visible. The Shah would
watch the matches from one of the palaces on the
squares west side, the Ali Qapu Palace. The palace has
six floors, which give you an excellent vie of the
square and surrounding area. Most of the rooms are
empty, however the walls and ceilings still have their
original frescoes and glazed tile decoration. The
music room on the top floor, the room has fret wood
paneling, with vase shaped niches cut in,, to hold
porcelain vases.

The Imam Mosque (was Shah's Mosque) is on the south
side of the square. It is a magnificent mosque and is
completely covered inside and out with pale blue
tiles, the tiles will take on different shades with
changing light conditions. The main dome is 54m high,
while the twin minarets on either side of the entrance
are 42m high, the entrance way itself is 30m high.
Inside is an inner courtyard which is surrounded by
four eivans (halls), also inside are two madrases
(theological schools). As with most mosques we had no
problem but we found that the lager mosques in Esfahan
charged an entry fee, which was not common anywhere
else in Iran.

Another mosque, Mosque of Shikh Lotfollah, is located
on the eastern side of the square. A smaller mosque,
which has some extremely fine tilework, which will
change colour, depending on the light conditions. At
one time the mosque was called the Woman's Mosque,
because there is a tunnel between the mosque and the
Ali Qapu Palace, allowing the woman to attend prayers
without been seen.

On the north side of the square is the Bazaar
Qaisarieh. It is definitely one of the highlights of
Esfahan, a great place to wander around and get lost.
It links the Emam Khomeini Square to the Masjed-e
Jame, a distance of several kilometres. The bazaar was
mostly built during the 16th century, however some
parts were built much earlier. It is a labyrinth of
domed streets. The bazaar covers a large area and
sells almost everything. Like most Iranian bazaars
certain areas specialize in a particular trade or
product. The bazaar also has mosques, banks, teahouses
and even gardens.

At the far end of the bazaar, in the old town, is the
Masjed-e Jame, (Friday Mosque). It is a magnificent
building, it displays styles from the 11th century to
the 18th century. Parts of the mosque have been dated
back to 8th century. The mosque is not tiled, its dome
is undecorated brick, and the vaulted halls are plain.

Another of the highlights of Esfahan are the old
which cross the Zayande River and separates the city
from its southern suburbs. The oldest bridge is the
Shahrestan Bridge, dating from the 12th century. It is
a ten arch bridge of stone and brick. The longest
bridge, is the Si o Se Bridge (Bridge of 33 Arches),
it is more than 300m. It is a great place to walk and
has no vehicles. The most famous of the bridges is the
Khaju Bridge. It has 24 arches and is 132 metres, it
also serves as a dam. It has two levels of terraces
that overlook the river. The lower level contain
sluice gates that control the flow of water. Most of
the bridges have teahouses which are very enjoyable.

Across the river is Jolfa, the Armenian and Christian
section of Esfahan. It dates from the 17th century the
inhabitants originally from Azerbaijan, it has
remained a predominantly Christian area. The Vank
Cathedral was built between 1655 and 1664. The
exterior of the church is built in the same manner as
a mosque, with a cross on top. The interior is richly
decorated and shows a mixture of Islamic and Christian
styles. Next to the Cathedral is a museum of Armenian

We regretted that we could not have spent more time in
Esfahan. It is a beautiful city and is a place for
relaxing. We had to leave and head back to Tehran.

To see the sights of Esfahan have
a look at an excellent web-site at:


(to be continued)
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 02:27 PM
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Old Mar 28th, 2008, 03:36 PM
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Enjoying your report, very easy to follow and seems full of practical advice for those of us who would love to experience Iran. Although I'm sure those who are planning on visiting soon will put in some additional research as I'm sure things will have changed since 2000.

Looking forward to the rest of your report.
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Old Mar 29th, 2008, 07:35 AM
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Your report is so interesting - love all the detail. Thanks so much for sharing! Is Feb/Mar the best time to visit?
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Old Mar 29th, 2008, 10:17 AM
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I'll get on with doing a final report for our trip. We wanted to go before the weather got hot, so Feb/Mar was a good time. We did have cold in the north and some snow in Turkey.
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