Shiraz and Persepolis as the highlight of Iran

My night bus from Isfahan was half empty therefore, quiet and quite comfortable. I managed to get some good sleep and arrived happily to Shiraz, where I haggled the price of the taxi until half of the initial price. Everything seemed to be great. Even if it was really early, the hostel let me check in early and I even joined the breakfast they serve. That went the extra mile because I wasn’t sure of being able to find something for breakfast that was not biscuits in some shop, due to the Ramadan.

With nice feelings and not much idea about what to do around the city but seeing Persepolis, which I already had arranged for next day, I decided to have a walk during the morning and take the heat of the afternoon to sleep and be lazy. First I came across some important shrine that was free to visit and I decided to get in. I was called by security and they pointed to some sign. I didn’t understand what was going on, I already had my scarf on. After 10 minutes I understood: I was getting in with a guide and also, she was bringing a special veil that everyone needs to get in and I didn’t have. She took me through security, where they search everything and more and scanned me. The security process was one of the most intense I had ever had. After, she put on me the veil. It was like a huge sheet that came to the top of my head, holding on there I still don’t know how and over my scarf, to cover everything because it was going until the feet. Basically only my face and my hands could be seen coming from a huge flowery sheet that I guess it would be flowery so it doesn’t come as serious as the black one for foreigners, but Muslim women were wearing black all over the place. I came in with the guide and she took me and three Swiss guys around, explaining things to us here and there. We actually weren’t allowed in the shrine because it’s forbidden for non-Muslim and we only could see from outside the room full of mirrors, to reflect all the energy and make bigger the light. I was dying inside to see the dome from the inside, but a picture of it had to do the job because I am not converting.

After that, I went back to wander around for a little bit longer until noon and then look for refuge from the heat. Somehow, I ended up in the bazaar and out of the sudden, I realised that there was a man following me ALL the time. I started stopping in absurd shops and I saw him checking on, stopping as well and even getting ahead of me and waiting for me. He even got to say to me a couple of things in Farsi. I couldn’t understand, obviously and I didn’t even want to have to talk to him. The situation got way much worse, because I started taking random turns in the bazaar to try to persuade him of whatever game he was playing but he kept appearing and kept finding, I have no idea how because I was turning whenever he was ahead of me and not looking. The situation kept going for about 15 or 20 minutes, when I started panicking for real and after taking several turns where it was impossible to follow me unless he was speeding up and running, I came across a courtyard in the middle of the lanes of the bazaar that I chose to hide for a bit. I waited there and I couldn’t stop checking every person that was passing by here, totally freaked out just thinking that any moment I would see his face again. As I wanted to put my mind of it while I was waiting long enough to make sure he wouldn’t be around the area on my way back to the hotel, I looked at my phone… What a moment to do so. I had received a text from Ali, Nader’s dad who was my host in Isfahan. He was just checking how I was. When I answered to him that I had successfully arrived to Shiraz, he asked me to come back there again and I modestly answered that I would see but I wanted to see other stuff in other cities of Iran as well and that would be a priority for me. Then I received a text that was enough for me (especially given the situation I was living) to make me think all the worse of what I had been suspecting and give me all the reasons in the world to mistrust him: “I want you”. There was no excuse, no confusion with the translation of the meaning, no mistake and nothing else to see for me. What a shitty situation. My instincts were right, it was me how I wanted them to be wrong.  I felt stupid, a bit intimidated for all that was going on and very powerless; with no strength to face anymore of this. All I wanted was to go back to my hostel and stay away from everything for a while and that’s all I could do, really.

After a couple of hours in the comfort zone that the dorm was providing me, I got to meet a French guy who I made a favour with my computer and also a Japanese girl that joined us for tea upstairs. We exchanged a lot of views of travelling and I was amazed by their travels. They had been on the road for years and made me very very keen on visiting Uzbekistan. Anyways, I also got to share with them some of my shit because we were talking about what is the worse experience that you had so far and no doubts I have had mine that very morning. Surprisingly, the Japanese girl also had had a really bad experience with a man in her night bus arriving to Shiraz the same morning.

Straight after that, I met a New Zealander guy, Eugene, very cool and likeminded as well and after a very positive philosophical chat about life I felt extremely positive again and with the energy of giving the place another chance. Shiraz is well known for the hospitality of its people, or so I heard and I didn’t want hospitality but a walk and dinner without incidents was desirable. With renovated energies, I went out with the sunset with the idea of getting some food (I barely had eaten one or two fruits during the day) and checking the shrine I had seen that very morning to see how it was looking in the darkness with all the lights up. That was the plan and when I took one of the streets nearby to find a restaurant, I found a guy next to me all the time and I started being aware of his presence a bit too much. After 5 minutes I noticed he was keeping next to me all the time and by the time he talked to me in Farsi, I decided to take a more passive-aggressive approach than the morning and snapped at him: No Farsi, no understand! And I kept going my way to make him understand that I was not interested in stopping and chatting with him. He seemed very surprised I was not Persian and I thought that maybe that’s the problem. And then, I thought that the problem is not what I look but their problem.  I still had to eat and although I did feel like getting back to the hostel and I lost my appetite, I walked a bit more and ate something nice. And after, I decided that if my plan was to visit the shrine at night time, I should do it or otherwise the day would be reduced to the ugly stories and nothing worth it would have been happening. It seemed to me that this country wanted to take the worse of me out and I was still not willing to let it.

I visited the shrine and it was actually nice to see myself knowing how to act and how to put the long veil thing and almost how to wear it (still couldn’t completely control that). I told the security I had already been there in the morning and therefore, I didn’t need any guide to enter the complex. So I entered by myself and wandered a bit before enjoying the sights while sitting down and thinking that this approach to life would be probably also the approach that some societies some time ago had, where there was no technology to entertain and it was simply nice to come to a complex or a square to hang out, get fresh delicious water while it is hot outside and have a walk around in between all the atmosphere. And with such a nice thought, although I couldn’t help to feel sad and disappointed on the experience in this country so far, I went back to my hostel to get some sleep.

The next morning I had an early one to visit Persepolis. For the first time in probably my whole life, I was happy to have a tour to do this because I was unsure to do it on my own. After an early breakfast I was in the car on the way to Persepolis, the capital of the Persian Empire! I was quite excited about this one but I must say that after being architecturally disappointed by under-renovation beautiful mosques, this place overcame my expectations. I more than enjoyed the visit and even remember how I had seen some of this stuff in some books of the history of architecture. It was amazing to have all that in front of me and see the greatness of it. I took pictures and pictures despite being totally exposed to the strong sun and even went up the mountain, where the tomb of some king is to obtain better views of the whole thing together. The climb wasn’t particularly hard, it was short, but the scarf around and the intense heat made it feel like an endless sprint up the hill. There were details everywhere that surprised me a lot. Like the fact that they were already using steel connectors for keeping the massive rocks together, as there was no mortar although the size of the rocks was always changing. Also, the people working in the construction weren’t slaves as you could think and documents stating the payment for the work were found. And finally, the relieves showing unity through more than 30 different nationalities, the peaceful content of the details and the absence of war or threat through the whole thing impressed me very much. The empire had different foundations of what we are used to see.

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Persepolis. Egyptian Palace

After Persepolis, we also had the chance to visit Nekropolis and this part reminded me so much of the excavated caves in the stone that I saw once in Aurangabad, India… The scale, the rock, the shapes were completely different, of course. But the idea of the human being of excavating a rocky mountain to create a space impresses me very much, especially in these dimensions and at this time of history.

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Nekropolis

We got back to the hostel exhausted by the heat and all I felt I could do was to get some fruits and try to get rest under the air conditioning machine in the room. After a while, the French guy in the room offered to go to get some tea, as we was really thankful for borrowing my laptop for the last two days and I actually always enjoy to talk to one of these persons older than the average that are on the road, so I accepted gladly. We had a walk but it was quite early and nothing would be opened until 8 or 8.30pm so we couldn’t find anything but some sweets I smelled from the corner and ended up buying because they looked like “churros” cut in small pieces.  By the time it was 8.30pm, I went out again, alone, to find something to eat and also to have a walk around some park I had been recommended by the New Zealander guy. According to him, I was almost guaranteed to be approached by locals and have some fun. On the way there, I found a nice shrine, smaller than the one I visited the previous day, which I entered. It makes me curious how locals gather around every place in the city. I ended up arriving to the park. And just there, I had three nice little boys coming to me super excited to say hello to me with a broken English and Farsi words in between. Lovely, I couldn’t be happier. And just when I said goodbye to them to continue my way, I looked at the map at my phone and my phone was blocked, with a white screen and completely useless. I kept walking a bit and when I realised that I had to get back to the hostel, whose name I barely could pronounce and I had no more directions than what was in my phone I realised I should focus in finding the way back to make sure I was getting there at a decent time. Also, I didn’t want to stay without a phone in case something was happening and I needed to ask for help or something.

I went back and I was completely unable to make my phone work. I couldn’t believe, it had less than 3 months!!!! Also, I was really annoyed because I had loads of information inside and not only that, but all the cool pictures I had taken in Persepolis were gone!! Nothing could work just for one day… And the funny thing is that I was out of the social picture because facebook doesn’t work in Iran, at least not without a VPN, which I only had in my phone. Everything was upside down… I went to sleep later than I what I wanted because I was trying to make things work. Then, I woke up early the next morning as I had planned to see the Pink Mosque very early; when they say that the lights are more spectacular. But in the middle of breakfast, while I was talking to the French man about what happened and he left me his phone to research about this, my phone started going crazy again and after a while, it started working. Holy f*ck! I run away to get my computer and recover the pictures while it was holding together. Then, I started getting all texts from people and things went back to normal, finally. Unfortunately, that kept me busy and I didn’t get to the mosque as early as I was expecting, but I must say it was still beautiful. I took my time there to relax, to breathe, to meditate and to enjoy the colours of the lights playing in the Persian carpets.

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Pink mosque

That was all the planning for the day besides packing. I was leaving that night and unfortunately, the French guy who was thinking to take the night bus to Yazd as well, would be probably changing his plans, so I had to do it alone. This is probably the first time that I do mind to do something alone. I wanted to avoid any other negative experience. Whatever it was going to happen, I had more or less decided by this stage that I wouldn’t be taking the flight I had on the 4th of July, as I had planned. It felt too much time in this country and although I am not running away from it just yet, I did decide to speed things up instead of chilling in the cities in search of “adventures” and simply head north as soon as possible to cross the border to Azerbaijan, my next destination. I am not throwing the towel just yet but I started making up my mind about things here.

The way to the station was tough and I regretted my decision of walking all the way there. But I had a good moment in the middle, when I stopped for food and I met a lovely woman with her son. They were speaking to me all the time, asking me lots of questions with the help of the translator on her phone. When her husband came, she introduced us and then she asked me for my phone. I gladly gave it to her. After that, I continued my way, a bit scared and a bit concerned about the night journey. But everything was fine. People went the extra mile, as usual, to help me finding the correct bus (I always had my doubts here, I am too used to the touts in bus stations at other countries and I always get suspicious) and once I got in to the bus, everything was smooth with the exception that the driver was crazy and was also playing crazy Arabic music all the way, so my slept was not really good but not totally horrible. We arrived to Yazd before I was expecting, it was past 5am and still dark, so I decided that my day could not start just yet and find a spot inside the bus station to sleep a little bit before anything. Two hours after I woke up and I was ready for it!

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