January 2017 - Shiraz to Tabriz - Iran at last! (part 1)

?After 2016, we were even more determined to get to Iran.

As always, lots of preparatory research gave some ideas of what treasures we might find and where  but sanctions (still mostly in situ) meant logistics might be problematic. DHL Tehran’s phone number redirected to a Birmingham office whose staff a/ were unaware of a Tehran office and b/ thought Tehran was in Iraq! 

Another hurdle -  visas are only issued to Brits on organised tours – useless for us so we negotiated a private driver/guide to explore more freely. Arriving in Shiraz at 3am we met Afshin, a Qashqai (nomadic Iranian tribe, not the car) and had chosen well. He quickly understood how we wanted to travel – no expensive hotels, showy restaurants or tourist shops. Having just bought a flat he felt he needed to apologise (unnecessarily) for his preoccupation, so we were invited to his father’s house for dinner. A huge spread, the whole family and the first experience of what became our overriding impression of Iran and its people; the warmest, kindest welcome by cultured, educated people who know full well how they are portrayed in the west.

A typical "quick" Iranian lunch

Although our itinerary was guided by the search for treasures, we couldn’t miss visiting Pasargadae and Persepolis, 2500+ year old cities created by Cyrus, Darius and Xerxes – much of which looks freshly built. 








Then to Yazd, one of our favourites, the city of wind-towers via ancient caravanserai in the desert, 3500 year-old Zoroastrian fire temples and tombs attesting to Iran (& Iraq) being the centre of the ancient, and not so ancient, world –

3500yrs old - 

everywhere names and places that reside in the back of our consciousness but are hidden by modern geo-politics. Through the immense desert to overnight in a lodge wherein a man carving delicate little Persian gazelle from desert scrub (our first purchase). On through more desert, camels, strange deserted fortresses and a barbecue en route (picture a Brit and Iranian competing to light the fire in the middle of a desert .. then it started snowing)


John & Afshin enjoy a pedicure


stopping off at a secret water spring where the stream is populated by cleaner fish – a real fish spa.  

But we were heading north towards Esfahan, the jewel of our trip, known as “Half the World”, a living museum of traditional Iranian culture and a city of artisans.