ToIran.com Life

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

Month: October 2014

Isfahan On Our Minds

 

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toiran.com has passed another significant milestone by attending the 1st Europe-Iran Forum in London as a representative of Iran. At the forum, I told attendees I do not know an Iran without sanctions because my generation grew up in a country under heavy Western embargos and does not know what our county would be like without them. We have lived and progressed and moved forward despite these crippling sanctions. My country has so much to offer from culture, art and history to amazing food and warmhearted people. One thing is for certain, it is the world that is missing out on getting to know incredible Iran.

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© Copyright JSG Photography - JSGP.co.uk - All rights reserved. 

We started this journey to help the world understand our country and our wonderful people. For us, toiran.com is not just a company it is the ideology behind our lifestyle. It is not just a platform for us to promote tourism and facilitate travel to Iran, but also a place for cultural work.

The pain of the daughters of Isfahan has broken our hearts and it is because of this that we cannot move on to our story in Shiraz.

There comes a time in a person’s life that they must stand up for their beliefs and what they love and we love Iran and our people. Today, we stand up for the women of our country and stand in solidarity with the daughters of Isfahan.

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Jolfa Treasures and Quince Blossoms

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We found the Jolfa quarter of Isfahan very lively. With its restaurants, coffee shops, Sherbet Saras (shops where people have gathered to drink sherbet, socialize and listen to poetry recitations for hundreds of years ), and antique shops.  One restaurant which caught our eye was Hermes. It attracted our attention for its beautiful design, refreshing lemonade and art gallery vibe.  Patrons could take a photo of themselves upon arrival, which would be shared on the Heremes Instagram and displayed on a TV in the restaurant.

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Wherever we went, people loved our concept. Churches, shopping centers and restaurants were very welcoming and once they heard about our project, they all wanted to be a part of it. Many of them called to follow up afterwards, telling us how amazing they found our idea and asking us to come back to share a meal with them or to take more photos of their establishment. It warmed our hearts how everyone wanted to join hands to do something for the country. Unfortunately, we had to refuse all these kind offers due to our tight schedule but promised to come back later.

Vank Cathedral (Holy Savior Cathedral) was a sight I will never forget.  We were told that the Armenians, who fled the Ottoman massacre nearly 400 years ago and took refuge in Jolfa, had built this church. This cathedral was an incredible mix of Islamic and Armenian architecture. Its walls were covered in the finest of paintings. Its decorations were a combination of Christian and Persian arts. The blue and gold painted central dome depicted the biblical story of creation and man’s expulsion from Eden.

Vank Museum had many interesting displays one of which was a strand of hair belonging to an Armenian girl which had a verse from the Old Testament engraved on it with a diamond –tipped pen.

One of the things we looked forward to everyday was coming back to Abbasi Hotel to sit in its garden for a cup of tea and Ash-e Reshteh (thick legume soup with noodles). For us this garden, with its intoxicating sent of quince blossoms,  pool, fountains and the sound of running water, was a piece paradise.

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On our last day in Isfahan, I ran into a group of French tourists at Abbasi Hotel. They had greatly enjoyed their trip but when they heard about our project one of them told me it was a ‘shame’ we were doing this as it would mean Iran would no longer be amazing and would become another tourist destination. I told them, what we are doing will take nothing away from Iran. It will be like anywhere else in the world, just like everyone comes to France to see what you have to offer they will learn about our sites and travel here to see it for themselves. Promoting the country will help the economy and when there are more tourists it will draw attention to the protection and maintenance of   historical sites and museums.

That afternoon we left Isfahan, taking with us pleasant memories of blossoms, hospitality and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It was time for us to visit my hometown, Shiraz.

Half of the World in Isfahan

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When toiran.com began its road trips, Isfahan, the city known as half of the world for its architectural marvels, was chosen as the first destination. In its golden age, this gem of a city was bigger than London, more cosmopolitan than Paris, and grander than Istanbul.

On April 5, 2014, Shahin, Mohammad and I (Fara) began our journey to Isfahan. Each of us had traveled this road before but this was our first time traveling as a team with a purpose. We were looking at the road through new eyes. Mountains, desert oasis, old caravanserais and historical ruins amazed us at every turn. We stopped several times along the way to shoot the breathtaking landscape and GPS map rest stops, gas stations and hotels.

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We arrived in Isfahan around noon. We looked around the city and checked out a few hotels before finding rooms in Abbasi Hotel, an old caravanserai which has been turned into a hotel . We took some time to rest and have a cup of tea before going out to explore.

The alleys of Isfahan were lined with the greenest of trees. We walked around for a while before coming to the first historical site we photographed. The 17th century Hakim Mosque was a four-iwan mosque with striking inscriptions in different Persian calligraphy hands and stunning stucco reliefs. For lunch, we stopped in Jarchibashi restaurant, a public bath which has been turned into a traditional restaurant. Here we tasted a delicious Beriani and blissfully sweet Khoresht-e mast or yoghurt stew.

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When you hear Isfahan, one of the first things that come to mind is Meydan-e Naqsh-e Jahan or Naqsh-e Jahan Square. When Shah Abbas decided to make Isfahan his capital in the 17th century, he decided to give the city a makeover. His chief architect Sheikh Baha’i, designed Naqsh-e Jahan Square at the heart of the city, gathering the merchants, soldiers, and clergy in one place, where the king could keep an eye on them.

Shah Abbas would watch military parades and polo matches from his Ali Qapu Palace, people prayed in the mosques in the square, students went to school in one of the seminaries flanking the mosques and everyone shopped in Qeisarieh Bazaar. Sheikh Baha’i designed a tribune above the portal of Qeisarieh so that when musicians gave concert their tunes could be heard all throughout the square.

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We started with Sheikh Lutfollah Mosque, which was built as a private place of worship for the Safavid King. This magnificent mosque and its peacock under-dome took our breath away. We took pictures of the Imam (Shah) Mosque with its elaborate seven-colored tiles. Ali Qapu was closed for renovation and we decided to return at another time to photograph this palace. We were disappointed to learn the use of tripods is not allowed in Naqsh-e Jahan.

The quaint little Azadegan café in the square offered us a place to take a short rest. Herbal drinks and teas ranging from a hot borage tea to a cool Sekanjabin (sugar, vinegar and mint syrup) and cucumber drink helped prepare us for more work.

We headed for Qeisarieh Baazar next. This historical bazaar has an impressive display of Isfahan handicrafts from printed textiles and silver accessories to Moarraq artworks and Khatam (Persian of marquetry).

We looked at the square thinking about the centuries, which had gone by since its creation. It is still magnificent. As a perfect ending to our first day in Isfahan, we took a horse and carriage ride around Nqash-e Jahan and listened to the stories the carriage driver had to tell of the lifetime he had spent going around this meydan and of the people he had met.

 

 

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