Daily stories about toiran. Read stories about our road trips adventures in different cities and office life.

Author: ToIran (page 2 of 4)


Sizdah Bedar is the thirteenth day of Norooz celebration, which signifies a transition from the holiday to remerge to one’s day-to-day life.  As Charshanbeh Souri marks the beginning of Norooz Holidays, Sizdah Bedar announces its end. Sizdah bedar is a very festive event and is also known as the nature day of Iranians. It is customary for people to leave their homes and to spend the whole day out in nature. People joyously gather with their friends and families in parks, gardens or mountains and spend the whole day celebrating with a picnic, eating the special food, playing lots of different games and performing their special Sizdah Bedar rituals.

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The word Sizdah means thirteen and Bedar means getting rid of. The name of this holiday literally means getting rid of 13 that was known as an unlucky number in Persian culture as well as in many other cultures. Even though this is an ancient festival of Iranians, it signifies no religious ties and it is solely a festive celebration in Iranian culture today. In the ancient times, the first 12 days of Norooz were associated with order and the thirteenth day symbolized chaos, which explains why people would leave their homes and spend the day out in the abundant, peaceful nature to avoid the omens. In the ancient culture the 13th day of Norooz was also associated with the deity of water that was depicted by a horse symbol. Therefore, people used to do sports that involved horses and made offerings to water that was an element of rain deity and asked for rain, which was essential for agriculture.


One custom of Sizdah Bedar is that people have to remove Sabzeh from their Haft Sin and throw it out in nature, usually giving it to a running water stream like a river. To grow Sabzeh, that is an integral component of Haft Sin, Iranians soak grains such as wheat and lentils to represent rebirth and growth usually a week before the Norooz. Sabzeh is present on Haft Seen and kept till the Sizdah Bedar while it supposedly absorbs all the pain and illnesses of the coming year. After Sizdah Bedar it is unlucky to keep the Sabzeh in the house, it is also considered unlucky to touch anybody else’s Sabzeh or bring it back home.

Other customs of Sizdah Bedar include eating an Iranian noodle soup called Ash-e-Reshteh accompanied with a variety of food and drinks and knotting blades of grass by unmarried girls to wish marriage the upcoming year.  It is also customary that while socializing and enjoying each other’s company during the picnic, people make a bluff or tell a lie. Much like April Fool’s, one is supposed to make a lasting joke that people would believe.  Once they unveil the truth about the ruse it becomes the joke of Sizdah Bedar or “Doroogh e Sizdah” which literally means the lie of the 13th. The joy, happiness and laughter are known to clean people’s minds to prepare for a fresh start of daily life in New Year. The memorable fun event of Sizdah Bedar is enhanced by joy and laughter with friends and family to welcome the New Year. We wish you all a happy and very jolly Sizdah bedar and a beautiful year to come.


Zoroastrianism and Iranian rituals today



The Proto Indo Iranian people, sometimes called the Arians were a tribe of people who lived together in 3000 BC in Eurasian Steppe in central Asia. Proto Indo Iranian people had formed a distinct culture after so many centuries of living together and had their own legends, myths and believe system long before any historical documentation and prior to them having a written religious book. Many centuries later the tribe split into three groups. One group later settled in the Iranian plateau, one group headed towards India and the other settled somewhere around Jerusalem. Later in about 1200 BC a prophet raised from the Iranian Plateau who organized a religion called Zoroastrianism. Iran today has a modern society with a majority of99.4% Muslim population. However it is astonishing to witness the remnants of Iranian ancestral culture still observed in Iran.

Zoroastrianism is one of the very first formed religions of humanity and in fact the very first organized Monotheistic religion. Therefore it had an enormous impact on the formation of later religions and some consider it to be the mother of all other monotheistic religions. Another significance of Zoroastrianism is also that it pinpoints a religious shift in humanity where polytheism started to give in to monotheism. A key reason that the monotheistic religion of Zoroastrianism was mistaken as a polytheistic one was the element of fire.

Atashkadeh in Yazd

People mistakenly considered Zoroastrians to be fire worshipers since most of their religious rituals evolved around fire. As Zoroaster said in his Gathas or book of poets he preferred the worship of God to take place around fire that is an excellent example of divine’s powerful creation. Fire has a symbolic significance in Zoroastrianism that represents luminosity, warmth and energy, which are attributes of God. Fire also represents wisdom and illuminated mind and spiritual enlightenment.

Once the glorious religion of Islam was brought to Iran, it only took about 200 years for the most of Persian Empire to convert to Islam. While Iranians chose Islam as their faith right away, they preserved many rituals and customs from their ancestral ancient culture. Even though many of these rituals have been fading with the passing of centuries, there are still some that dominantly signify Iranian Culture. The most important elements of Iranians culture that trace back to the ancient times include the Persian Calendar, The New Year or Norooz, Sizadah bedar, Charshanbeh Soori and Yalda.


Zoroastrian Calendar started in 1738 BCE and it consists of twelve months. It starts on the first day of spring that usually falls around march 20th and it is celebrated as Iranian New year or Norooz. Amongst other rituals that Iranians have kept that directly trace back to the Zoroastrian times, Charshanbeh Souri stands out that takes place on the evening of the last Tuesday of the last month of the year and is a part of preparation for Norooz or new-year. Fire is the center of this dynamic festival where people make bonfires up on their roofs, in the backyards or in the street. Jumping over the bonfire they say: “Zardi e Man az to, Sorkhi e to az man”. Basically it means that they give their yellow color as a sign of sickness of the last year to the fire and exchange it for the red color of fire as a signification of health for the New Year to come.

Haft Seen

As Norooz or the Persian New Year is the most important national holiday of Iran, the preparations and rituals associated with it have also been embedded in Iranian culture for thousands of years. Sofreh Haft Seen, which is an essential part of Norooz celebration, literally means a spread of seven S. A spread gathered from special symbolic items each representing an important aspect of life and seven of them start with the letter S or Seen in Farsi.

Haft Seen Items

Haft Seen Items

Iranians start preparing for their Haft Seen spread with love and excitement a month before the New Year and beautifully assemble and decorate it a few days before. At the count down of the Norooz or the Sal Tahvil moment, families gather and sit together around their Haft Seen spread while quietly contemplating, praying and making resolutions for the New Year to come right before staring the festive celebration of the new year with music, hugs, kisses and gift exchanges.

People Shopping for their Haft seen items at a lively market

People Shopping for their Haft seen items at a lively market

Preparing for their Haft Seen Iranians sprout their Sabzeh. They soak to grow grains like wheat and lentils to represent rebirth and growth. Sabzeh is present on Haft Seen and kept till the 13th day of Norooz. A clove of Garlic or Sir is set on the table to assemble health and medicine. A red apple or Sib sits on the spread to portray health and Beauty. Serkeh or vinegar demonstrates age and patience. Sekkeh or gold coins stand as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Samanou that is a rich and sweet meal represents affluence and opulence while Sumac romantically depicts the color of sunrise for a new beginning and the light wiping out the evil and darkness. Senjed that is a special berry symbolizes love.

norooz There are some other essential elements placed on the Haft Seen that do not start with the letter S in Farsi. Gold Fish are placed in a fish bowl to represent life and candles are lit to inspire enlightenment. A holly Book, usually Quran or others depending on the family’s faith, is placed on the spread as a sign of God’s presence and protection. Some prefer to replace or complement the holly book with the book of Poetries of Hafez or Shahname. A mirror is placed on the Haft Seen as a symbol of self-reflection and colored eggs symbolize fertility.

Right before the moment of Tahvil all Persians joyously wear their new beautiful clothes, groom themselves to look their best and happily sit around the Haft Seen with their family for a very emotionally charged moment of ending one year and starting a new one.

Zanjan Another Unexplored Jewel

Dome, Gonbad, Soltanieh, World heritage, UNESCO, Zanjan, Mongol, Mongol Architecture, Mausoleum

Gonbad Soltaniye is the oldest double-shell dome in the world and the second largest mausoleum in the Islamic world

The mystical land of Persia is the homeland of so many wonders of the universe. Iran has countless unique natural attractions and a lengthy history dating back to the beginning of the mankind’s civilization. Iran is not a developed tourist destination yet since it has been rather secluded from the rest of the world due to the political and sanction related reasons during the past few decades. Only getting a small fracture of the its tourist potential the spotlight has been solely focused on a few well known cities of Iran, leaving numerous fabulous gems laying unnoticed, scattered all over Iran.

Gonbad Soltaniye Interior

The opulent city of Zanjan is another unexplored jewel of Iran. Located on top of the mountains, this mystical city is formed from numerous wonders of Persia such as amazing natural attractions, significant extensive history dating back to the Ice age, breathtaking ruins and prominent archaeological remains. The nature lovers have so much to explore in Zanjan from the Ferry Chimneys to the Mahnesan Colored Mountains and Sharshar waterfalls to Garmab hot springs to the Katalkhore Cave. There is also a small Ski resort located nearby the city.

Katale Khor Cave

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Jinn Chimneys

Mahneshan village in Zanjan province that is also known as the town of castles has about twenty historical rock castles curved into the mountains dating thousands of years back to the Achemanid era. What makes these castles really exceptional is that they are built into the jinn chimneys or the ferry chimneys of Zanjan, forming masterpieces of nature and human architecture combined together. Mahestan Castle is one the most famous ones amongst these castles that is known for a unique integration of brick and rock architecture. The first building of Mahestan castle was built in Sassanid era and it’s located on the southern banks of the Ghezel Ozan River.

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Mir baha-ol-Bridge on Zanjan River

The archeologists have found traces suggesting the settlements in Zanjan area going back to the Ice-age era. The scattered ruins of the Sassanid Fire Temples around the city suggests that Zanjan was founded by Sassanid king Ardashir I around 180-242 CE. The six mummified salt men of Iran from the Achaemenid (550-330 BC) have also been discovered in salt mines of Zanjan province and five of them are exhibited in the archeological museum of Zanjan in Zolfaghari Mansion and one of them is exhibited in Iran national museum.


Historical Wash-house Museum

Historical Wash-house Museum


While the city has a modern look, Zanjan still beholds some fabulous traditional facades such as brick vaulted bazar built in the Safavid era, many historical mosques, a caravanserai and much more to explore.

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Chalapi Oghli Garden Short-Video Competition


How would you like the world to see Iran? If you were to give the world a tale about your land, what story would you tell? If you were to reveal an unexposed part of the culture, nature or the history of Iran, what would you show? has created a collaborative project inviting all the Iranian creative individuals who are interested in filmmaking to take part and give us a short film about Iran. Please give it your best passionate shot and submit a short film by March 3rd.

This is a competition where the first winner would win one GoPro Hero 4 camera and all the filmmakers would get credit for their clips used on our international website. We’ll announce the winner by March 6th. To obtain further information please visit We are looking forward to see Iran through your eyes and share it with the world.


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Ya Shasin Azerbaijan!

Once again Shahin and I (Amir Sina) hit the road to discover another part of Iran. Our destination was northwestern Iran, where the provinces of East and West Azarbaijan are located at the head of the cat that is Iran on the world map.

Our first stop was Tabriz, the capital of East Azarbaijan. In Iran, Tabriz has a reputation for being home to the most compassionate people in the country and as a place where trends are set. Tabriz is actually where Iran’s first municipality, school for the hearing impaired and chamber of commerce were established. The kind-hearted people of Tabriz have made it a tradition to leave no person in need and as a result this city has no impoverished population.

The road to Sahragheh Village was picturesque with a blue sky, cotton candy clouds and cool fresh air. ( photo/ Amir Sina Rezai)

Even though we arrived in Tabriz late at night, we were still impressed by its many eye-catching squares and network of freeway tunnels. Shahin and I drove around a bit to get a feel of the city. Shahin had visited Tabriz before I joined the team, so he took me to a little place he had discovered before for Tabriz-style Baklava and ice-cream.

Night view of the two-story El-Goli Monument which sits in the middle of the artificial lake  in the famous El-Goli Park in Tabriz. ( photo/ Amir Sina Rezai)

Night view of the two-story El-Goli Monument which sits in the middle of the artificial lake in the famous El-Goli Park in Tabriz. ( photo/ Amir Sina Rezai)

We woke up early in the morning to continue our trip to a border town named Jolfa. Our plan was to see as many of the old churches and monasteries scattered along the way.  I had heard about one particular church named “Mojumbar” that was located on the road to Jolfa and was lesser known. No matter who we asked for directions on the road, no one knew where this church was. I was frustrated. I was upset because I thought I had wasted our time. Suddenly Shahin came across “Sahragheh Church” on the map that was not far from where we were.

Amir Sina and Shahin stop on the road to Sahragheh Village and Church to take photos. ( photo/ Amir Sina Rezai)

Amir Sina and Shahin stop on the road to Sahragheh Village and Church to take photos. ( photo/ Amir Sina Rezai)

I googled the church but there was no information about it. This was exciting! We felt like exploders going on an expedition to discover a place that is virtually unknown.

( photo/ Amir Sina Rezai)

The road to Sahragheh was unbelievably beautiful. Colorful mountains with wheat fields stretched as far as the eyes can see, cattle and sheep grazing together under a blue sky with cotton candy clouds and cool fresh air. I felt like we are in a dream! We pulled over several times to snap pictures. Every time Shahin or I would say ‘we can’t find a better shot than this!,’ the next bend in the road would prove us wrong and present us with another breathtaking view that would force us to pull over for a photo.

Sahragheh Church stands on a hill overlooking the village. ( photo/ Amir Sina Rezai)

Sahragheh Church stands on a hill overlooking the village. ( photo/ Amir Sina Rezai)

We finally arrived at Sahragheh and immediately spotted the church standing atop a hill next to the village. It was an old church that had been recently renovated. It was modest yet beautiful. There was no one there except for me and Shahin. We were enjoying the calm and quiet when one of the villagers came to greet us. We chatted with him and offered him some grapes we had purchased on the way there. We spend a few hours there before it was time to go.

 The brick decorations Sahragheh Church which has been recently renovated. ( photo/ Amir Sina Rezai)

The brick decorations Sahragheh Church which has been recently renovated. ( photo/ Amir Sina Rezai)

Although we had originally set out to find the elusive “Mojumbar Church,” our trip unexpectedly turned into an entirely different adventure. Perhaps this is exactly what life wanted to teach me: don’t lose hope or be disappointed when your plans fall through because if you keep an open mind, you just might stumble upon an unforgettable experience that will make up for everything lost.

A scoop of heaven in Shushtar


Khuzestan Province was one of my (Amir Sina) most favorite destinations in southern Iran. Khuzestan is the land of sun, ancient civilizations, oil, palm trees and dates. Shahin, a photojournalist, and I had been on a road trip in the south for several days and we had already traveled to a few cities including Dezful before we decided to stop in Shushtar.

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We took the scenic route to Shushtar, the city which some say has 7,000 years of history and is home to a Historical Hydraulic System that has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Some even say the story of Shushtar goes back to the time of the legendary warrior king, Houshang the Demon Slayer, who according to legend defeated the Black Demon of Shahnameh, Ferdowsi’s Book of Kings, to become the ruler of the world. Houshang is said to have built Shushtar as a beautiful city but it fell into ruin and was rebuilt by the Sassanids.  

Our first stop was of course the Historical Hydraulic System of Shushtar – a network of watermills, weir bridges, dams, water channels, rivers, and moats along with a castle that controlled the flow of the operation. The oldest part of the Hydraulic System is a manmade river built by the Achaemenids (550-330 BC) named Gargar Channel.


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I was most interested in seeing Shadorvan Weir Bridge which locals know as Band-e Kaiser or Caesar’s Bridge. This bridge was built in 260 CE by Roman soldiers and engineers who were taken into captivity along with Emperor Valerian (reign 253–260 CE) after his defeat by Shapur I (241-272 CE). Looking at this astonishing arch bridge I could not help but wonder what it would have looked like if only it had not been damaged by severe floods and had remained intact. We used the morning sun to capture photos of the Hydraulic System and spent some time admiring this intricate network. Before we knew it was time for lunch.

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We asked around and were told Mostofi House is the best place for lunch in Shushtar. It was a perfect choice! A traditional Qajar mansion turned restaurant with a fabulous view of Shadorvan Bridge and mouthwatering Persian and local dishes, what more could one ask for!

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After a few more hours going around the city to GPS map the attractions, talk to hotels, and restaurants we were ready to head to our next destination. But before hitting the road we decided to try the famous buffalo milk ice cream of Shushtar. This creamy scoop of heaven was the perfect ending to our short Shushtar visit.


My advice:  if you decide to visit Shushtar just remember, summer may not be the best time for you. Fall and winter are the best seasons for Shushtar when you can make the most of the pleasantly mild climate and enjoy the unforgettable sights! Try the buffalo ice cream and of course if you can, watch the sun set over the Shushtar Hydraulic System!


Yazd I love you Pt. II

Yazd I love you II

Our team trip to Yazd had gotten off to a great start. Amir Sina, Taraneh, Heidi, Ahang and myself (Farnoush) had had the chance to mix business with pleasure on our first day in the 3,000-year-old desert city.

The 150-year-old house where Qajar girls lounged


Our second day in Yazd we were to check into Silk Road Hotel. it was a pleasant surprise to find out that we would be the first to stay at a newly renovated 150-year-old traditional house that the hotel had recently acquired instead of the old hotel. The house was magical. I could imagine Qajar girls with their thick eyebrows sitting around the pool and waiting for suitors to knock on the door.


Discovering Kohan Hotel in Fahadan and feeling the winds of Isfahan


We decided to take a stroll through Fahadan neighborhood. Here we stumbled upon Kohan Hotel, another traditional house converted into a hotel with a beautiful courtyard, hidden away among the Sabats of Yazd. Amir Sina told the owner about our website and he happily agreed to have his hotel featured on While he gave us a tour of the hotel Ahang took photos of this gem of a house. He took us to room directly under the hotel’s windtower to see how it worked and told us the cool breeze we felt was the wind coming from Isfahan. He  showed us his prized banana tree in the middle of the main hotel courtyard and informed us that it is the only banana tree in Yazd that has borne fruit.


Heydarzadeh Coin Museum


Heidi wanted to visit the Heydarzadeh Coin Museum as it was one of the first places she wrote a news story about and as we needed more pictures for our website. The museum is located in the Arabzadeh mansion a Qajar traditional house with all beautiful Persian stucco decorations.  It was amazing look at all the coins gathered by one collector from 2500 years ago to present.

What a small world!


Being a group of tea lovers, we stopped at the 250-year-old Fahadan  Hotel which is more like a museum and even has a motorcycle from World War II on display. The teahouse manager with his distinctive mustache and black felt hat insisted we take a few photos with him and told us about the history of this traditional house turned hotel and explained that this is the only traditional house in Yazd in which the pool is not at the center of the courtyard.

We were about to leave when we ran into a photographer friend of Heidi’s who was staying at the hotel. What a small world! We invited him to join us for dinner at an Indian restaurant we had heard about and wanted to try the food and perhaps feature on our website.  Owned by the son of a Parsi family, this restaurant had a delicious spread of authentic, spicy Indian dishes that did not disappoint.  Heidi’s friend told us about his recent travels in the Middle East where had gone on assignment to take photos of the aftermath of some of the recent conflicts in the region. Before we knew it was close to midnight but we decided to continue our conversation over tea.


I would do anything for a cuppa!

As we did not have a tea maker at our hotel we began our quest for tea. me must have wandered the city in search of a place to sit and have a cup of tea for at least an hour but all teahouses had closed for the night and in the end we were forced to go back home to sleep before catching an early train back to Tehran.

On the way back to Tehran we decided to go on more quality control trips! Our next destination Shiraz!


Yazd I love you Pt. I


With the long Eid al-Mab’ath (anniversary of the Prophet’s ascension) weekend coming up Amir Sina (Customer Service), Taraneh (Accounting) and Heidi (Content) decided to travel to Yazd to both have a few days of fun in the city of wind towers and do some website quality control. As the newest members of team toiran, Ahang and I (Farnoush) decided to jump on this opportunity to both bond with our team members and also pick up some experience regarding the work process along the way.

Heidi had a list of restaurants and hotels that we were supposed to visit for spontaneous quality control.

The VIP Bus experience

We decided to take a VIP night bus to Yazd.  While Amir Sina and I had traveled on a VIP bus before, this was the first time for Ahang, Taraneh and Heidi. They were surprised at how comfortable these buses were with reclining seats, lots of legroom and snack boxes for the road.

Good morning Yazd

We arrived in Yazd at 6 am and drove through the city, which had yet to come to life to reach our hotel near the 12th century Jame Mosque of Yazd. We were welcomed to Orient Hotel, a traditional hostel featured on our website, by a good-natured, helpful employee who told us we would have to wait until 10 am to check-in but gave us the Wi-Fi password so we could spend some time on the Internet while waiting in the iwan- a room vaulted on one side and open on three sides overlooking the courtyard.

Rooftop photos and tourist galore


We waited until 7:30am when the multinational travelers staying in the rooms surrounding the courtyard started emerging from their rooms for a rooftop breakfast at the hotel’s Marco Polo restaurant. Spectacular view, good company and a healthy breakfast of lentil soup, watermelon, fresh bread and jam… Yazd was a city after our hearts!  Amir Sina and Ahang, who are both photographers, used the opportunity to take a few panoramic snaps of Yazd city under the morning sun.

Sightseeing and Sabats


Our rooms were not fancy but they were clean, air-conditioned and had comfortable beds. We decided to visit some of the historical sites in Yazd starting from the nearby Jame Mosque.  Our first challenge was to take a photo of the Jame Mosque that would capture its twin 53-meter minarets. According to Heidi these minarets are the tallest in Iran. A group of Italian tourists had beaten us to the mosque and were snapping photos of the exquisite tilework while listening to their guide tell them about the 300 years it had taken to complete the tilework of the Jame Mosque. One of the Iranian tourists, who wanted to demonstrate the echo effect of the dome for his son, suddenly broke out into song and everyone gathered to listen.

With a smile on our faces, we left the mosque and walked towards the Yazd Bazaar stopping in Sabats-vaulted passageways that combine light and shade to create warmth and coolness in the old texture of Yazd- along the way to snap photos.

We walked all the way to Amir Chakhmaq Complex but stopped for some fresh juice and bought two boxes of the famous Haj Khalifeh Rahbar walnut-filled Qotab pastry and Pashmak (Persian cotton candy).

Taraneh’s Termeh


Taraneh spotted a Termeh shop. Termeh is a handwoven silk and wool fabric that has been created by Yazd weavers since the Achaemenid era.  Taraneh said seeing the yards and yards of Termeh took her back to her childhood days when her grandmother would set her Nowruz (Persian New Year) Haft Seen Spread on a Termeh tablecloth and even had a Termeh prayer mat she kept scented with seasonal flowers. She decided to buy some Termeh in memory of her grandmother. We had a chat with the friendly shopkeeper and we told him about In his melodic Yazdi accent he asked us to write about his shop on our website so that people visiting Yazd could come to his shop and take home the ‘best Termeh in Yazd’ for their loved ones!

The perfect first lunch

It was already lunch time and we decided eat at Silk Road Restaurant to both test the quality of food and try its famous camel stew. The restaurant was already packed with a large group of French tourists. When the manager saw our disappointment at not being able to dine there, he told us to wait a few moments so he could have a table set out for us in the corner of the yard.  We sampled as many things on the menu as we could! Spaghetti, chicken curry, Fesenjan (walnut and pomegranate stew), camel stew and Greek salad with fresh watermelon juice… the perfect first lunch in Yazd.

When in Yazd do as the Yazdis do!

During the spring and summer, the temperature in Yazd is hottest between 2pm and 6pm and almost everyone retreats to their homes until the weather cools down in the afternoon.  So we retired to our rooms for a nap!

Dowlatabad Garden


We regrouped at the Marco Polo rooftop restaurant at our hotel to have tea and some of the pastries we had purchased earlier and to decide where to go next. It was unanimously decided that we would go to the UNESCO protected Dowlatabad Garden to see its famous wind tower. We soon realized that this garden is a popular hangout spot in Yazd. Large crowds of Iranian and foreign tourists as well as locals had gathered in the garden. It was a wonderful sight! A family was having a birthday party in one corner. A group of students on a road trip were sitting in the small teahouse of the garden resting while others waited for their turn to take pictures in front of the wind tower.

After leaving the garden we walked around the city and stopped to admire the decorative tiles on display in a handicraft shops before ticking off a few more of the hotels on our check list. Our last stop was Moshir-ol Mamalek restaurant an all-you-can-eat buffet in a lush garden filled with pomegranate trees.

to be continued….

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