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Shiraz. A fabulous name for a fabulous city, echoing with whispers and memories from a glorious past. Would you like to travel to Shiraz for a day?

Good morning Shiraz

The pretty yellow taxi drives us gently from the train station to the old centre of town. A dusty dawn doesn’t manage to light up the charmless surburb that we are too tired to contemplate anyway. Suddenly after a turn, a tall yellow wall catches our eyes. That’s where we get off. Our taxi drives away and the smell of exhaust is quickly replaced by a mysterious heady perfume. Noses up, we start walking along the large wall, watching the light yellow bricks of the battlements claiming the first rays of sun. The marvellous scent gets stronger, surrounding us, bathing us in a magical daydream. Hundreds of blooming orange trees release their fragrance over Shiraz. Never miss Shiraz in spring! What a change after the few days we spent in Tehran !

Karim Khan citadel in Shiraz
Karim Khan citadel in Shiraz

As we tour the monument, we realise that the citadel of Karim Khan (ارگ کریم خان) is nothing less but purely breathtaking. How not to feel amazed by this wonderful 18th century building gloriously lit by the bright iranian sunrise !
As the city is still half asleep, we walk through the bazar where we find only one item displayed on every stall : a big metalic closeed door. It’s far too early to do shopping… And so our steps leads us to the wonderful Vakil mosque which is also closed due to a 3 days long religious ceremony. Ok, that’s too much ! We drop our backpacks and sit next to the fountain in front of the mosque entrance and wait that the sun chase Shiraz out of its bed while watching two friends (maybe the two only awaken locals) playing an impressive game of backgammon.

Bazaar

As soon as Shiraz wakes up, we head to Vakil Bazaar (بازار وکیل). Its labyrinth of quiet alleys looks quite appealing and indeed, we are soon seduced by its relaxed atmosphere.

We meet with a young iranian student spending her holidays in Shiraz. It is nice to talk together while discovering the wide bazaar. It soon appears that she would love to visit the entire town with us but the iranian way of doing tourism (meaning visiting all the must-see places as fast as one can) doesn’t match our weariness. Today, we are only willing to enjoy Shiraz atmosphere while wandering around without any particular goal. Moreover, we are carrying our big backpacks around and the iranian spring is terribly hot. My various layers of mandatory clothes make me feel like I am living in a hamman.

Inside Shiraz bazaar
Inside Shiraz bazaar

Before we let her follow her city tour on her own, our young student friend insists to offer us a faludeh ice cream, speciality of Shiraz. Now, we must have politely declined for about 5 times, but iranian generosity is such that she buy them for us anyway much to our embarrassment. She is definetly a lovely woman and we don’t want to disappoint her but the thing is this faludeh ice cream is probably the most horrible thing we had to taste in Iran. Try to imagine crunching on frozen chinese noodles over a scoop of glue with a drop of lemon and rose on top…  We try our best to swallow it down thankfully without pulling a face, and hoping that the next meetings we’ll do today won’t offer us that same present !

Shah Cheragh Shrine

We finally arrive at Shah Cheragh (شاه چراغ), probably considered the holiest shiite place in Shiraz since Ahmad and Muhammad, brothers of beloved prophet Ali Al-Ridha, are buried here. Despite our weariness, we are looking forward to visit this wonderful sanctuary. As the boys take the males’ entrance, my friend Emilie and I have to go through the females’ door to get a chador on. Now, let me tell you one good advice : NEVER put a chador on when wearing a big backpack! Here we are, parading around the sacred shrine, looking like two hysterical lady-camels!! A laughing crowd soon gathers around us, getting bigger and bigger by the minute. A man litteraly crying from laugher even pointed at us saying « Ahaha, Quasimodo, ahaha! » then he was laughing so hard he wasn’t making sense anymore. I don’t blame him, I was myself laughing so loud I could hardly stand.  There must have been hundreds of pictures of us posted on Instagram that day. This was truly the most grotesque thing that ever happened to me. I am still laughing thinking about it today… I didn’t know chadors could be so fun!

This behaviour is very inproper in the holy shrine of course, unfortunately it takes us ages to calm down. This is when we realise how magnificent this place is in every aspect.  An old retired guy meets us who proposes to take us around as a free guide. His low vibrating voice and his strong persian accent echo nicely with the religious stories of old. We are bewitched by the beauty of it all, the shining pride  in the granpa’s eyes, the splendour of the domes and the refinement of the mosaic work.

Shah Cheragh shrine in Shiraz
Shah Cheragh shrine in Shiraz

Tomb of Hafez

Poetry is one of the most important things for iranian people. And no one seems more famous nor more adored than great poet Hafez. His tomb is sitting in the middle of a shirazi garden and the fine sophisticated iranians never miss a chance to go and pay their respect to the great man, even declaiming some of his wonderful verses as they do so. Listening to them would send anyone shivering. Persian poetry is like a mysterious song of thrilling beauty that no translation could ever transcribe.

The mosaic over Hafez's tomb
The mosaic over Hafez’s tomb

The parc that surrounds the mausoleum is a very nice place where families and friends like to enjoy the evening fresh air. Perfect time and place to meet people! Iranians are so friendly and welcoming you should definetly find any excuse to talk to them.

We didn’t take enough time to visit all of Shiraz, far from it… We will have to come back even if only to see the memorable kaleidoscope of light that floods the wonderful pink mosque of Nasir Ol-Molk (مسجد نصیر الملک).

In the meantimes, it’s time for us to hop on a bus up to the mountains. A small village called Ghalat is hiding up there, waiting to surprise us and turn our world upside down…

People of Iran

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