|Iran: Coming home to a place I’ve never been before - Part 4||
Part 4: Shiraz to Isfahan
Thursday morning 10 May, we ate a buffet breakfast in the hotel and headed out to the colorfully landscaped Eram Garden, an exquisitely beautiful botanical garden in southern Shiraz, thought to have been built by order of Seljuk ruler Ahmad Sanjar (1085-1157).
Next, we made a visit to Shah Cheragh shrine, the burial place of Ahmad and Mohamed, sons of Imam Musa al-Kadhim (AS) and brothers of Imam Reza (AS). While there, we had the privilege of a private audience with Ayatollah Mohamed Hassan Dastghaib, son of “the martyr of the prayer niche”, Ayatollah Abdol Hussein Dastghaib, who graciously welcomed us with tea and gifts, and charged us to lead at least one person to Islam.
Afterwards, we visited the nearby Nasir ol-Molk Mosque, built by order of Qajar ruler Mirza Hasan Ali Nasir ol-Molk and completed in 1888. After a delicious lunch of Baqala Polo (Broad beans, dill and rice), it was off to visit the Citadel (Arg) of Karim Khan with its colorful flower gardens and impressive wax figures of Karim Khan Zand and his ministers.
On Friday morning after breakfast, we headed north for a visit to the Persepolis complex and the bas-reliefs of Naqsh-e Rajab and Naqsh-e Rustam near Takht-e Jamshid (Persepolis). Located some 70 km northeast of Shiraz off Route 65, Persepolis was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire with its oldest parts dating back to 515 BC. The sheer size of this massive archaeological site is impressive in itself, but the relatively intact condition of the ruins allows one to easily envision the appearance of this extensive palatial complex as it existed nearly 2,500 years ago. Climbing up the long dual stairways leading to the Gate of All Nations, I felt like a humble visitor to the palace of a powerful Persian king.
Next, we visited the sites of Naqsh-e Rajab and Naqsh-e Rustam. The bas-reliefs at Naqsh-e Rajab contain scenes from the reigns of Ardashir I and Shapur, while Naqsh-e Rustam includes the tombs of Darius I and II, Xerxes I and Artaxerxes I along with 8 bas-reliefs depicting events during their respective reigns. Following our visit to these fascinating sites, we had lunch at the enchanting Laneh Tavus Restaurant.
Returning to the city of roses and nightingales, Shiraz, that afternoon, we stopped at the tombs of the poets Sadi and Hafez. Sadi, Abu-Muhammad Muslih ad-Din bin Abdullah Shirazi, was born in Shiraz in 1213 CE and educated in Baghdad, whose destruction by the Ilkhanids he witnessed in 1258 CE. His poetry reflects the devastation he experienced and speaks of the suffering of the common people displaced by the Mongol invasion. His most famous works are Bustan (The Orchard) and Gulistan (The Rose Garden).
Hafez, Khwaja Shams ud-Din Muhammad Hafez Shirazi, was born in Shiraz in 1325 CE (or 1326) and had memorized the Quran at an early age, hence the title of “Hafez (Quran memorizer). Hafez’ poetry is complex and mystical, with layers of illusions to the Holy Quran and historical events. Hafez’ marble tomb and memorial hall, the Hafezieh, are located in the Musalla Gardens. After paying our respects to the great Iranian poets, we enjoyed some tea and bastani, Iranian ice cream, at the teahouse in the gardens of Hafez’ tomb.
En route from Shiraz to Isfahan (545 km)
We bid farewell to Shiraz on Saturday 12 May and left for Isfahan by way of Pasargadae and Izad Khast village. Pasargadae, about 74 km north of Shiraz and the oldest capital of the Achaemenid empire, is not as impressive as grandiose Persepolis, but the pristine tomb of Cyrus the Great (590-529 BC) situated practically in isolation makes its own special impact upon the visitor.
After a lunch stop at the Laleh Restaurant in Abadeh, we headed north to Izad Khast fortress, which is located about 135 km south of Isfahan (408 km north of Shiraz) and dates back to the Sassanid era (224-651 CE). Also there is a Safavid-era (1502-1736) caravanserai and bridge there.
Continuing north, we arrived in Isfahan in late afternoon, and checked into the Aali Qapu Hotel. After stowing our luggage, we walked down Chahar Bagh Abbasi Boulevard to the Si-o-Se Bridge, arriving there just before sundown. The sight of the 33-arch bridge highlighted by the amber rays of the setting sun whose image reflected off the glistening waters below was something that we shall never forget. My wife and I sat there for over an hour along with Miss Fam, hypnotized by the sheer beauty of the scene. Clearly, Isfahan lives up to its title of “nesf-e jahan”, half of the world.
On Sunday, after a buffet breakfast in the hotel, we were off to Chehel Sotun Palace, named because the reflection of its twenty porch columns appears as forty in the garden pool. Next, we visited Imam Square (Naqsh-e Jahan Square) and saw Aali Qapu Palace, Imam Mosque, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque and the Grand Bazaar (Qeysarieh). We had a lunch of dizi (meat, potato, tomato and onion stew eaten with sangak bread) in the Naghshe Jahan Restaurant in the Grand Bazaar. That afternoon, we visited a carpet merchant and managed to buy one very small but expensive piece woven with the pattern of the dome of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque. In the evening, once again we walked to the Si-o-Se Bridge and sipped tea while enjoying the view as the sun set.
Our first stop on Monday 14 May was Hasht Behest Palace then the Friday Mosque, the Qeysarieh Bazaar and later that morning Khaju Bridge, which is perhaps the most magnificent bridge in Isfahan. We ate lunch in the elegantly ornate Shidrokh Restaurant, which is in a building that once served as a bath house. Later that afternoon, we had tea in the courtyard gardens of the elegant five-star Abbasi Hotel.
Downhearted, we returned to our hotel and packed our suitcases in anticipation of our departure from Isfahan in the morning. While leaving Mashhad and Shiraz was not without some sadness, leaving Isfahan was most difficult. Perhaps our doleful feelings at departure came from the way Isfahan had charmed us with her beauty; perhaps the feelings came because we realized that our time in Iran was growing short.
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|Last Updated on 31 July 2012 17:37|