A Travellerspoint blog

Iran

Esfahan, Iran (8th - 11th September)

On arrival at the bus station we decided to plan ahead and book our tickets from Esfahan to Tehran airport for in a few days' time. We knew we needed to use the same bus company we'd just arrived by, so we found the right office nice and easily, but knowing who to speak to and how to communicate what we wanted was a bit more daunting. Thankfully we didn't need to be daunted for long - a girl spotted our confused foreigner looks and offered to help us. Not only did she book the tickets for us, she even offered to pay for them! We were blown away by the generosity. We didn't take her up on it, of course, but the fact that she offered, when she'd only just met us, was incredibly humbling.

After thanking her as much as we could, which didn't seem like enough, we got a taxi to our hotel. The taxi driver charged us a pretty high amount for a fairly short journey. High by Iranian standards anyway. We knew they raised their prices a bit for tourists anyway, but still, this was the only time in Iran that we felt ripped off by a taxi driver. Only a minor annoyance though.

We stayed at Iran Hotel. Not an imaginative name but a decent place. It was kinda similar to the hotel in Shiraz, in terms of the quality and general feel of the place, but without the mess and fumes. The breakfast was basically the same as well, but very slightly nicer - a choice of jams, nicer bread and a bonus glass of orange squash. We had a similar toilet problem to when we were in Tehran though - it got blocked and kept filling up. Someone came fairly quickly to sort it out though and then it was fine after that.

If, for some strange reason, I had to live in one of the places we visited in Iran, I'd choose Esfahan. It seemed cleaner than the other cities, plus a bit more... upmarket, for want of a better (and less snobby) word.

The main area to visit in Esfahan is Imam Square. We went there a few times, both during the day and at night. Weirdly, the first time we were making our way there from our hotel, we bumped into the French couple we met in Shiraz! They weren't staying in the same hotel as us this time though.

Imam Square is a popular tourist spot but also a popular place for the locals to hang out, especially in the evenings. Iranians seem to like sitting outside and having picnics in the evenings. We'd noticed it in other cities too but it seemed particularly prevelant in Esfahan. Imam Square seemed to be a favoured spot for this for some people as they like getting to chat to the tourists. I lost track of how many people approached us and chatted to us while walking around the square. Teenage girls seemed especially keen; wanting to get photos with us and exchange e-mail addresses and stuff (though none have actually e-mailed me thus far). There was also a young guy who wanted to add us on Facebook. Facebook's one of the websites that's blocked in Iran but plenty of Iranians seemingly have software to get around that problem.

As well as the main square and a few mosques that are worth taking in, there are a couple of bridges that are must-see tourist destinations. They get crowded with people in the evenings too. Here's one of them during the day (note that the river was completely absent, which was a shame):

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Iran Hotel doesn't have its own restaurant, sadly, so after the convenience of Silk Road we were back to needing to hunt out purveyors of food. Unfortunately, the area we were staying in seemed to consist almost entirely of clothes shops and small fast-food outlets with entirely Persian menus. On our first night, after walking around for quite a while, we settled for a pizza and burgers place, largely because they had English menus. On our first full day, however, we ventured further afield for food. We'd done some online research and noted down a few possible places. However, these turned out to be either too expensive or impossible to find. We ended up going to a restaurant near Imam Square, which hadn't had great reviews but looked ok, had English menus and was open. That was good enough by this point! It was a traditional-style restaurant, in the sense that you sit down on the low wooden platform things with rugs on top. I'm sure they must have some kind of name, but I don't know what it is. Anyway, they look really cool and it makes everyone seem quite relaxed, though they're really not that comfortable. Your bum goes numb fairly quickly. Still, it's a cool experience. The food there was ok, though not great - we could understand the mediocre reviews.

Here's Jamie in the restaurant:
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On the following day, however, we went to another restaurant near Imam Square. It's just through one of the bazaars that surround the square and there are quite a few signs to it. It's just called something like Traditional Banquet Hall. We'd spotted it on the previous night but it hadn't been open yet, so we decided to go there the following day. It was a similar set-up to the other place, being another traditional-style restaurant, but the food was so much nicer. We both went for an aubergine dish, which was really really nice - possibly my favourite meal I had in Iran. It was a fairly basic thing really, not dissimilar to babaganoosh, but with some salad bits and lots of bread, it was the perfect meal for our last full day in Iran.

We still had most of the next day in Esfahan but just chilled out at the hotel after checking out; using the wi-fi in the lobby. We nipped out for some food quickly and then got a taxi to the bus station.

On arrival at the bus station, the taxi driver didn't just drop us off, he actually parked up and helped us find out where we needed to catch our bus from, which was really sweet. He charged a lot less than the guy had who'd driven us into Esfahan when we'd arrived, so that guy had definitely ripped us off, but hey, he was a definite minority in an incredibly generous country.

We were on another VIP bus - this one travelling into the night and dropping us off at Tehran airport in the early hours of the morning. We then didn't have too long to wait until we could check in for our flight to St Petersburg. I remember spending quite a bit of time queuing in Tehran airport, but aside from that it was all fine.

It was quite nice to get on the plane and to take my head scarf and ugly shirt off, though it felt a bit weird as well; I'd gotten used to needing to wear them. I also took full advantage of the free booze inflight! After nearly 2 weeks of being tee-total, it was quite a treat to have a G&T and a glass of red wine. Thanks Emirates!

I referred to our flight to St Petersburg but we actually flew to Dubai first and changed flights there. Our Iranian adventure had ended but our Russian adventure was about to begin.*

*Apologies for that mega-cheesy ending!

Posted by chantalpatton 05:36 Archived in Iran Comments (0)

Yazd, Iran (5th - 8th September)

In Yazd we stayed at the Silk Road Hotel. We'd read some reviews online where people had booked to stay there, turned up, but then been moved to one of the other hotels owned by the same people instead (some of which don't have great reviews). This slightly put us off booking there, but it was difficult to find anywhere else in Yazd that sounded as good and reasonable, so we took the risk. Happily it paid off and we did get to stay at Silk Road. Although it's called a hotel it's generally described as being more like a hostel. I guess it is more like a hostel than a hotel, but it's not really like a hostel either. I'd say it was most similar to the riads we stayed at in Morocco. It was a beautiful traditional-style place, with bedrooms located around a central open-aired courtyard. Our room was nice and the ensuite was one like we'd had in Fez; where the shower's just in the middle of the room, not in its own cubicle. That was the same everywhere we stayed in Iran, with the exception of Tehran. They supply you with plastic slipper things though, so you can keep your feet dry when going to the toilet after the shower's been used.

The hotel courtyard:
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Ooh, another innovation we discovered in Iran (though have since seen in Russia too), which we thought was genius, was having buttons on tables in restaurants, which you press to call a waiter/waitress over. So simple, but it means you don't have to wait around or try and catch someone's eye when you want to order or get the bill.

Anyway, back to Yazd... Yazd was ridiculously hot. All of Iran was hot, of course, but Yazd was the hottest place we went. This meant we spent quite a while lounging around in the shade in the hotel courtyard. And eating ice-cream.

The main attractions of Yazd are probably the Jame Mosque (AKA Friday Mosque) and the old town area. The old town area's really nice to walk around - lots of narrow winding pathways with mud walls. We did, however, read that it's not a good place for women to walk around on their own in the dark, as they're liable to get groped by men on motorbikes, so we stuck to a daytime walk together!

The old town:
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One of the best places we went to in Yazd was the museum right next to the Jame Mosque. It's just the one small room filled with various artifacts, which wouldn't be worth a special mention on its own, but the guy who works there is brilliant. He guides you around all the artifacts, explaining what they are. The most impressive thing in there is this long thin piece of paper that has the entire Qu'ran written on it in tiny writing. It's written in a decorative pattern as well; it's incredibly intricate.

After you've finished looking at all the artifacts, the curator guy will give you a free Persian lesson, which was fun. You go through it quite quickly, so we didn't actually retain any of the information, but it was still really enjoyable. The guy also likes to learn about where you're from and will ask questions about your country and culture. If you're in Yazd, you have to go. It's not free but it's pretty cheap.

One of the best things about staying at the Silk Road was that they had a really good food menu which you could order off at any time. It had quite a few veggie options too, so we just ate there every night. The breakfast was good too - a buffet that wasn't as extensive as the Tehran hotel but was still a decent selection (and far better than the minimal breakfast in Shiraz).

There's a travel agency that operates through Silk Road, offering tours and such like. We considered taking a half-day tour of Yazd with them, but it was about $20! That was about what we paid for the Persepolis and Necropolis tour, which was decent value for that, but not for a trip around Yazd. We just looked around ourselves instead. However the agency were useful for booking our onwards bus to Esfahan. They were better than the agency in Shiraz, who provided us with minimal info - this time we got tickets printed out for us and were told which company we were travelling with and everything.

On the day we left we got a taxi to the bus station. It was slightly unclear as to where we were meant to catch the bus from, but some people pointed us in the right direction. We had a VIP bus for this journey. These are slightly more expensive (as the name would suggest), but still cheap by European standards. The seats are bigger (only 3 on each row - 2 on one side, 1 on the other) and you get given snacks on board, which is nice. We were sat right at the front, so had a good view out the windscreen. We also had a good view of the driver, which was entertaining. Although he was sat below a sign that indicated no smoking and no mobile phone use, he managed to do both simultaneously, whilst also driving the bus. It was impressive and troubling at the same time. He also managed to make himself cups of tea while he was driving - it was fascinating.

Posted by chantalpatton 05:17 Archived in Iran Comments (0)

Shiraz, Iran (2nd - 5th September)

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:

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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.

Persepolis:
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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!

Posted by chantalpatton 06:30 Archived in Iran Comments (0)

Tehran, Iran (30th August - 2nd September)

As our plane landed in Tehran, all the women started putting their headscarves on, so I followed suit. I was already wearing a top with long sleeves, so that was fine. As a visitor to Iran, the need to follow the Islamic dress code is definitely the biggest difference to visiting most other countries. For men it's not really an issue, just avoid shorts and you're fine. Women, however, need long sleeves (though 3/4 length seemed fine) and a headscarf. My main headscarf was one I got cheap in Primark, though I did also use a pink sarong as a headscarf a few times too. It took a while to get used to, wearing a headscarf all the time, especially with it being so hot, but putting it on becomes quite natural, strangely. Plus I didn't have to bother with straightening my hair - that was a bonus. Plus I only needed sunscreen on my face - so it did have some practical benefits. Seriously though, although it's law to dress a certain way, it's not as strict or restrictive as you might imagine. Some women will cover up more fully with the chador, but lots of women dress very stylishly - much more stylishly than me (not that that's difficult). Plus your headscarf doesn't need to cover all of your hair - some women had quite a lot of hair showing at the front of their heads. It was a lot more relaxed than I'd expected. Wearing tops with long sleeves was slightly awkward for me, just because we're mostly visiting hot countries and my travel wardrobe's suitably skewed towards short sleeves (or no sleeves). I did have one long sleeved top, which I bought during our break in the UK (and which I've actually worn as a dress in other countries - it's a decent length), but I figured that wouldn't be sufficient for nearly 2 weeks in Iran. So when we were in Sofia I went looking for a long sleeved shirt that I could wear over the top of my regular t-shirts. This was more difficult than I'd expected - I'd not realised that 3/4 length sleeves would suffice, plus I didn't want anything too fitted or short, as I'd read that tops should go over your hips - I assumed this was to hide the womanly curves of your waist, but plenty of women in Iran wore clothes that cinched at the waist, so I was slightly over cautious in my shirt shopping. I ended up buying a shirt that I didn't really like, which was a few sizes too big for me, just because it met the modesty criteria. It wasn't awful, it was just a plain white shirt, but it did have poofy shoulders that made me look like I was wearing shoulder pads. Ugh. Anyway, the prescriptive clothing thing's not a big deal, at least on a practical level - I'm not going to start a debate on it from an ideological or feminist perspective - as a visitor to their country I was happy to conform.

The best thing about visiting Iran, without question, is the people. The friendliness, kindness and helpfulness of Iranians was amazing. If we looked remotely unsure of where we were going or what we were doing, someone would offer to help. And it wouldn't be an attempt to extract money from us, like it tends to be in a lot of countries, it would be a genuine desire to help us out. Walking down the street we'd feel like celebrities as random people would say hello to us - including people riding past on motorbikes. Some people would also engage us in longer conversations - usually asking where we're from and what we think of Iran and the Iranian people. The people we met were very keen to stress how much they like people from other countries and how the image and actions of their government don't tend to accurately represent the Iranian people. They did seem pleased by the recent electing of Rouhani, however, as he has more liberal leanings than previous presidents. But yes, we definitely felt like celebrities. Kids would either stare at us open-mouthed, in that lack-of-self-awareness way that kids do well, or they'd get really excited and say 'hello' repeatedly to us until we said it back. Weirdest though was when we got people asking to have their photos taken with us. They wouldn't even chat to us or anything, they'd just want a photo with the tourists. Surreal.

Anyway, back to the specifics of our time in Tehran. After going through passport control etc. and then getting some money exchanged, we wanted to get the bus that goes to one of the metro stations so that we could then take the metro to our hotel. We'd read about it online in advance and were led to believe it runs quite regularly. Anyway, we followed the signs to where it looked like the bus should go from and waited around. A couple of other people were hanging around too, which was slightly reassuring. However, after a while of waiting and no bus turning up we were starting to wonder if we were in the right place. Thankfully one of the other people waiting filled us in - the bus would only leave when there were enough people wanting to use it. As there was just the 4 of us, we'd have to wait a while. So, to save our legs, we went and sat down inside for a bit. I'm not sure how long we waited in total - definitely over an hour - maybe close to 2 hours even. Anyway, the Iranian guy who'd filled us in on the situation carried on talking to us and introduced himself as Ehsad. After we were all sick of waiting for more people to take the bus, we walked around a bit and found out we could share a taxi between us and it wouldn't cost much more than the bus would, so that's what we did. We got a taxi to the metro station and then the metro to our hotel. Ehsad even paid the metro fare for us. He also gave us his contact details and said that he'd show us around Tehran the following day if we liked. Just a few hours in the country and we'd experienced so much kindness already.

Iran was much more developed as a country than I was expecting. Not that I thought it would be all desert and caves or something - I'm not some naive xenophobe - but I thought it might be more similar in feel to either Morocco or Cuba. Instead it was much more similar to Turkey and the other Eastern European countries we'd just been visiting. It was a very natural progression and not too much of a culture shock.

We stayed at Escan Hotel in Tehran. It was the most expensive place we stayed in Iran, by quite a bit, but it wasn't expensive really - just comparatively expensive. Hotels in Tehran were generally more than in other cities, plus we were limited by who replied to e-mails and weren't fully booked. It was quite a fancy hotel by our usual standards. There was a man who opened the front door for you (this is my definition of fancy). Our room was nice, with a regular ensuite - toilet, shower cubicle and sink. We had some problems with the toilet though - we flushed it one time on our first night and it wouldn't stop filling back up. Thankfully Jamie figured out how to stop it, otherwise the bathroom would have flooded. We reported it to reception but they didn't do anything about it that evening, so we mentioned it again the following morning. When we got back that evening it was working fine and we had no further problems, so that was a relief.

The only other minor issue we had at the hotel was the overly-keen maid! We came back up after breakfast one morning and she'd just been in to clean our room. I'm using a carrier bag for putting my dirty clothes in and I'd left it out in our room. It was next to all my other belongings, I'd not put it anywhere prominant, but for some reason the maid (ugh, I don't really like that word but I'm not sure what else to use - housekeeper??) assumed that I wanted her to wash the clothes in it. Thankfully we saw her before we went back into our room and she checked with me that the clothes were for washing. I was totally confused to start with - why did she have a bag full of my clothes? I was worried she'd washed them already and I'd end up with some huge bill for it all - the laundry was priced per item and the bag was quite full. A confusing attempt at conversation ensued. She didn't speak English and was wanting to verify she should take the clothes for washing. I didn't speak Persian and was keen to get my clothes back, plus baffled as to why she'd taken them in the first place! She phoned the receptionist from our room so that she could act as translator. This was a good idea but for some reason the receptionist struggled to understand me. She asked me if I wanted laundry doing - 'yes or no?'
I said 'no.'
She said 'What? Yes or no?'
I said 'no,' again.
She said 'Nine?/Nein?' (not sure which)
I said 'no.'
She said 'Can you speak English please?'
I said nothing for a few seconds. I was baffled as to what else I might have been speaking and how she was unable to understand the word 'no,' particularly when she'd preceded it with a question that specified a 'yes or no' response. I said 'No, I do not want my clothes washing.'
She paused like she still didn't really understand me, then asked me to put the housekeeper back on. Thankfully the housekeeper then went away and left me with my dirty clothes. I re-read the hotel manual thing afterwards and verified that the laundry service is meant to involve you filling in a request form and phoning someone to tell them; not just leaving dirty clothes in a carrier bag in your room. I guess she was just trying to be helpful, but still, bit of a palava. We think she also took some coins of ours from the bedside table. Maybe she assumed they were a tip or something, though they were worth practically nothing.

Anyway, on that first night we arrived at the hotel, we just went down to the hotel restaurant for dinner. There'd been a menu in our room and we'd spotted some veggie pasta on it, so figured Jamie could have that. However, we got down to the restaurant and discovered that those pages weren't in their menu. We didn't want to get up and leave though, so Jamie had 2 starters instead (none of the main courses were vegetarian) and I went for a traditional kebab dish, which was really good.

On our first full day in Tehran we met up with Ehsan. He came and met us at our hotel. First off we walked to the Jewellery Museum, which he wanted to show us. This was our first proper exposure to the roads and driving styles in Iran. The amount of traffic is immense, particularly in Tehran. There are cars and motorbikes everywhere, weaving in and out of lanes and looking generally chaotic. They all seem in control though - we didn't witness any accidents. Pedestrian crossings aren't really a thing though - you get the occasional one, but mostly you have to just walk out into the road. You can look for a brief gap between cars, but there's never much of one, so you just have to trust them to avoid you. It's quite intimidating to start with, so it was good that we had Ehsan to guide us.

We got to the Jewellery Museum to discover it wasn't due to open for a few hours, so we headed further down the road and ended up popping into a museum about the Iranian postal service. Ehsan hadn't been there before but it was cheap and we thought we'd check it out. It had a few interesting bits, plus Ehsan and Jamie enjoyed identifying all the flags on the top of the display cabinets. Also, while we were walking around, one of the staff members brought us a little sandwich each, which was really sweet.

After that we headed to the palace, but the entrance fee was pretty high so we gave it a miss. We then went to the National Museum instead. That had a more reasonable entry fee, though on reflection it was still high for the size of the museum. It wasn't tiny, but it wasn't big. There were some nice artefacts in there though, including some from Persepolis.

To finish off the day we went to a coffee shop and had a drink and a nice long chat. It was a great introduction to the city and we were very thankful to Ehsan for giving up his time for us.

That evening we went to the Iranian Artists Forum for dinner. We'd looked it up online - it was vegetarian, sounded good and was just up the road from where we were staying. Perfect. Jamie ordered a platter type thing that included lots of different little bits of stuff. I fancied a burger but wasn't sure if it would be filling enough on its own. Under the menu heading of 'sandwiches' there were burgers and hot dogs and stuff, but then there were also french fries, potato salad etc. We figured they were accompaniments for the sandwiches and should probably really be under a different heading, so I ordered a burger and also the Russian Potato Salad. I did get a slightly funny look from the waiter but didn't think anything of it. Have you guessed where this is going? Yes, I got a burger and I also got a Russian potato salad sandwich. And yes it was as strange as it sounds. I wasn't really keen on the burger either, but I ate as much as I could of both and Jamie helped me out with them too. To wash down my sandwich feast I'd ordered one of the non-alcoholic beers (Iran's a dry country) as I was curious as to what they'd taste like. It was kinda like shandy, but a really weak shandy, plus kinda different and not really beer like. Quite nice in its own way, but odd that it's made to look like beer. The drink that came with Jamie's meal, however, was just described as 'natural drink'. It turned out to be the same as the drink we'd been given a small glass of at the end of our meal in the restaurant the previous night. This time though, Jamie had a pint glass full of it. I've no idea what it was, but it wasn't pleasant. It tasted slightly medicinal, but not in a good way. All in all it was a bit of a disappointing restaurant experience, but maybe we just ordered the wrong things.

The next day we wanted to go see the Azadi Tower. We took the metro to Azadi Square and then made our way over to the tower. Unfortunately it's in the centre of a big motorway type junction area, so getting to it involves some scary road crossings. We actually made more than we needed to, just because we were scoping out the route to the domestic airport where we were needing to go the following day. Still, once we were at the tower it was surprisingly serene. There's a decent amount of space between it and the road, so you can switch off from the fact you're basically on a large roundabout.

Azadi Tower:
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After that we made our way to the Jewellery Museum, as we'd not managed to go the day before. It's not obvious to find, it's just inside a bank, so if we'd not briefly gone there with Ehsan I don't think we'd have found it. From the name 'jewellery museum' and Ehsan's explanation of it, I was just expecting lots of jewellery, so had quite low expectations to be honest. There is some jewellery in there, but 'Museum of Jewels' would probably be a better description. You have to go through a few security checks and leave your camera, phone etc. in a luggage check, but it's definitely worth doing. You know when cartoons show buried treasure and it's all elaborate gold and jewels? It's just like that! Our favourite was the gold globe with all the land mass represented in various precious stones. I overheard a guide say that it was one of the most expensive/valuable items in the world. We later found out that the items were unearthed from some kind of tomb in Persepolis.

That evening we decided to go back to the veggie place. Mostly for convenience, though I was looking forward to trying out something different and hopefully having a better experience. Pizza seemed like a good option. However we got there to find it was fully booked. They didn't give us the option of waiting or anything, they just said 'no tables'. There went that plan. We returned to the hotel in order to come up with a plan B. The hotel restaurant was a possibility, but Jamie would have been limited to just having starters again. There was also a coffee shop in the hotel though, just above the restaurant. I'd wondered if their menu might include the pages that were missing from the main restaurant's menu - the ones with the veggie pasta. We decided to give it a go and were pleasantly surprised to be right. Jamie had the veggie pasta and I had the chicken one (which seemed to be exactly the same, just with a few bonus chunks of chicken).

The next morning I had a dodgy tummy. Not sure what it was that had angered it, but it wasn't happy about something. I took some tablets for it which thankfully seemed to do the trick once they kicked in. We checked out of the hotel and made our way to the domestic airport. We'd considered walking from the nearest metro stop, as it wasn't far, but after scoping it out the previous day and noting all the crazy lanes of traffic we'd need to cross, we decided to get a taxi instead.

We had a little while to wait before we could check in, but that was nothing compared to how long we had to wait afterwards. Our flight was delayed due to some kind of technical difficulties. That was the only information we were given as well - no clue as to how long the delay would be for. I was very thankful that the diarrhea tablets had worked as there weren't any 'western style' toilets in the airport. Public toilets in Iran are basically a hole in the ground. As a woman I found that awkward enough when going for a wee - I dread to think how unpleasant it would be if you needed to use them for the other alternative. They do flush thankfully, but still, I was very pleased the tablets had worked!

While we were indefinitely waiting to board the plane, an Iranian guy started chatting to us. He'd already been waiting for hours as his early morning flight had been cancelled and then so had the one after that, so he was now waiting for the same flight as us. He kept going to check for any new information, plus he let us know when the airline provided us with our free meal to eat in the airport while we were waiting. We'd have been oblivious to that otherwise. He gave up after a couple more hours though and decided to try again the next day. It wasn't too long after that that we did actually get to board the plane, but still, I don't blame him for giving up.

Another guy helped us out at the airport too. We were worried that the hotel in Shiraz mightn't keep our room for us, as we were going to be arriving much later than we'd told them, so a guy helped Jamie buy and use a phone card so he could call the hotel and let them know we'd be late.

When we did finally board the plane and take off it was three and a half hours later than scheduled. Still, better late than never!

Posted by chantalpatton 08:19 Archived in Iran Comments (1)

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