02/09/2013 - 05/09/2013
After arriving in Shiraz and collecting our luggage, we were making our way towards the taxis when we bumped into a French couple we'd very briefly spoken to in the airport in Tehran. Jamie asked where they were heading to, thinking that we could maybe share a taxi if it was relatively close to where we were staying. They turned out to be staying in the same hotel as us! Perfect.
We stayed at Sasan Hotel. It was... adequate. Definitely the worst of the hotels we stayed at in Iran. Largely because they were undergoing renovation, so it was a bit of a mess and full of unpleasant fumes. The smell was so bad on one afternoon that we couldn't stay in our room; we had to go out for a while until the workmen stopped. It might well be nice once it's finished, but it wasn't really fit for guests while we were there. The staff were really nice and helpful though, so that redeemed it a bit.
Breakfast was included at all the hotels in Iran. I forgot to mention the one in Tehran, but it was pretty extensive. It was a huge buffet of stuff, hot and cold, plus you could request fried eggs and omelettes from the chef. It was then quite a stark contrast to get the breakfast in Shiraz. You were served a hard-boiled egg, some bread, a cheese triangle (Laughing Cow type stuff), a bit of butter, a bit of jam and some tea (no option of coffee). This turned out to be a fairly standard thing, but after the bounty of the Tehran breakfast it was quite disappointing.
Shiraz itself was kinda like a smaller and less crowded version of Tehran. The main reason we were there though was to visit Persepolis, which isn't far from Shiraz. So on our first day in Shiraz we went to one of the agencies offering tours of Persepolis and Necropolis and booked one for the following day. We also used them to book our onwards bus tickets to Yazd.
We then made our way to Shah-e-Cheragh Mosque. Women can only enter if they're wearing the chador (the big cloak type thing that covers your whole body). Now, when you see women walking around in the chador generally, the chador tends to be black. However, the ones that are given out to you to use at the mosque, if you don't have your own, are basically just bed sheets - light coloured and with chintzy patterns. How you're meant to walk around with one of those wrapped around you and not find the whole thing amusing is beyond me. No offense intended, but the temptation to pretend to be a ghost was almost overwhelming. Sadly you can't take photos in there (though Jamie managed a sneaky one of me on his phone). We had a walk around the mosque and visited the small museum inside as well. It was good fun, though largely because of my awesome bed sheet it has to be said. I was almost sad to have to deposit it back at the entrance. After that we went to the Tomb of Hafez (famous Iranian poet). It was really busy - we thought there might be some kind of special event going on, but it seemed like they were all just wanting to pay their respects.
The next day was the tour of Necropolis and Persepolis. We were picked up early from our hotel and got on to a minibus with our fellow tourists. There were people from a variety of countries, including a guy from England. It was nice to see a fellow Brit had made it to Iran.
We went to Necropolis first. It was a very bumpy journey in the minibus, so I was relieved to get there and get out. We only spent about half an hour there, I think, as there's not a huge amount to see, but what there is is stunning:
We then made the short journey to Persepolis. Persepolis is much bigger, so we spent a few hours there. Our tour guide took us around a few areas, explaining what things were, then we were free to roam around ourselves for a while. It was definitely a highlight of our time in Iran, walking round and taking it all in. Although we were also an attraction ourselves, apparently. So many people said hello to us there and asked where we were from etc. The English guy got stopped for a few photos as well. I think the fact that he was ginger made him a particular rarity or something.
Travelling back to Shiraz we went on a full-sized coach along with a lot of Iranians. The tour guide encouraged the Iranians to sing (not that they needed much encouragement) and he was then trying to get us all up and dancing. The Iranians were well into it all, but us Europeans were much more shy and reserved. It was good fun though.
That evening we went for a walk to a park that was meant to be really nice, but we got there to discover there was a fairly high entrance fee so we gave it a miss. For dinner we went to the same place we'd gone to the previous day, as we'd really liked it. I think it was called Arabat Cafe. They did a really nice veggie pasta - it was basic but you got loads and it was cheap.
The next morning we got a taxi to the bus station. When we'd booked our tickets through the agency, they said we just needed to collect and pay for our tickets at the bus station, so it sounded like it should all be quite straightforward. However we got there to find that the bus station was rather large and there were various kiosk windows for different bus companies, all with text in Persian, so we had no clue where it was we were meant to go. The agency hadn't even told us which bus company we were booked with. Thankfully we were there pretty early, so we weren't too rushed or panicked, but still, we wandered around in a confused manner for a few minutes. As always in Iran though, you don't need to look lost and confused for long before someone will come and ask if they can help you. A few people crowded around us and asked where we wanted to go. They quickly got us to the right place for booking tickets to Yazd and showed us how the process works and where and when we needed to board the bus. It wasn't the one that we'd been pre-booked on to, as it was half an hour later, but as we'd not paid for that yet anyway it didn't really matter.
As we were booking quite last minute, we weren't allocated seats next to each other, but an English-speaking guy on the bus made sure that we got to sit together anyway, which was nice. The bus was only about haf full anyway, so not totally sure why we weren't given adjacent seats. The bus ended up leaving about half an hour late - supposedly because it was half empty and they were waiting for more people. The whole system seemed pretty flexible and relaxed - people would request to get off in random places and other people would flag the bus down and hop on in random places, paying cash to the driver. There were some proper designated stops as well, of course, but it was a very different experience to riding on the National Express or something!