ToIran.com Life

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

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Golestan Palace, where traditional Persian arts meet European architecture

We had a group of businessmen who came to Tehran for work. On the last night before their departure, one of them told me (Amirsina) he had extended his trip by one day to have time for a tour of Tehran. He insisted he could not leave until he had at least visited Golestan Palace or the Rose Garden Palace.

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Golestan Palace was once the residence of Safavid, Zand and Qajar kings. (toiran.com photo/ web)

We made the trip from north Tehran to the palace compound in downtown Tehran near the Grand Bazaar. Golestan Palace, a UNESCO registered world heritage, is a masterpiece of Qajar era (1785–1925) crafts and architecture and the place where traditional Persian arts meet European architecture. The palace was originally known as the Arg of Tehran and was built in the 16th century during the reign of the founder of the Safavid dynasty, Shah Abbas I (1571-1629). It found importance after Agha Mohammad Khan (1742-1797), the first of the Qajar Kings, chose Tehran as his capital and this palace as his residence.

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Talar-e Salam (Reception Hall) was built by Nasser-al Din Shah Qajar after a trip to Europe. (toiran.com photo/Houman Nobakht)

Our guest was very impressed by Talar-e Salam (Reception Hall). This hall was built to resemble a museum by Nasser-al Din Shah (1831-1896) to impress his European visitors upon arrival. The coronation of the two Pahlavi kings (1925-1979) were held here. He could not contain his amazement upon seeing the intricate mirrorwork of Talar-e Aineh (Hall of Mirrors). our next stop was Talar-e Berelian (Brilliant Hall) which has extravagant mirrorwork and chandeliers.

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The UNESCO registered Golestan Palace has 17 different halls each famed for its elaborate decorations. (toiran.com photo/ Houman Nobakht)

I took our guest to  Khalvat-e Karim Khani (Karim Khan Veranda) which was built in 1759 by the founder of the Zand dynasty (1750-1794) as part of his residence. This nook has a marble throne and houses the tombstone of Nasser-al Din Shah, which was originally located in Shah-Abdol-Azim Shrine in Rey and was moved and installed here after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

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Khalvat-e Karim Khani (Karim Khan Veranda) was built in 1759 by the founder of the Zand Dynasty. (toiran.com photo/ web)

Our guest found the marble throne on the terrace in front of the complex that was commissioned by Fath-Ali shah Qajar in 1806 very impressive.  This throne, which has 65 pieces of marble from the mines of Yazd and crafted in Isfahan, is inspired by the story of Solomon whose throne was said to have been carried by fairies and other supernatural beings.

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The Marble Throne was crafted in 1806 and has 65 pieces of marble. (toiran.com photo/ web)

On the way to IKIA airport our guest continued asking questions about Golestan Palace. He was sad he did not  have enough time to see more of Tehran. He told me he would be back and asked  me to show him more of Tehran when he returns.

Shiraz, the city of history, love & poetry

Even though I (Saman) come from Rasht, one of the cities in northern Iran, Shiraz has always been one of my favorite places in the country. So when our photographer Houman and Amir Sina from customer service decided to go on a trip to Shiraz, I jumped at the opportunity to accompany them.

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Tomb of Cyrus the Great who decreed the first Human Rights Charter known to man (toiran.com photo/ Shahin Kamali)

We spent an unforgettable night at the historical Bekhradi House in Isfahan and early the next day headed towards Pasargadae, the first dynastical capital of the Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BC), which lies on the way to Shiraz. No matter how many times I see the tomb of Cyrus the Great, the monument still leaves me speechless every time.

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The tombs of Daruis I and three other Achaemenid kings are located in Naqsh-e Rostam. (toiran.com photo/ Houman Nobakht)

Our next stop was Naqsh-e Rostam, the site which is said to have served as a cemetery for Achaemenid royals. I was excited to see Naqsh-e Rostam as even though I had traveled to Shiraz several times somehow there had never been enough time for the 70-kilometer drive to this site. I stood before the four Achaemenid tombs hewn high above a cliff at Naqsh-e Rostam and could not help but wonder what technology had been employed to create these tombs and their rock carvings in ancient times? The sheer scale of these rock creations left me awestruck!

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Relief showing the triumph of Shapur I (241-272 CE) over Roman Emperor Valerian (reign 253–260 CE). (toiran.com photo/ Houman Nobakht)

I could not get enough of looking at the details of the seven Sassanid rock reliefs depicting scenes from the lives, conquests and ascensions of the ancient rulers of Iran. I noticed an eighth slab which seemed like an empty canvas ready for the chisel of a skilled craftsman. Houman told me that this slab was prepared for another royal scene but was never used.

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The Cube of Zoroaster is a mystery that has never been solved as no one knows what its function was. (toiran.com photo/ Houman Nobakht)

Amir Sina pointed out the Cube of Zoroaster to me, the building that has kept scholars and researchers guessing for centuries.  No one knows what this Achaemenid structure was used for. Its walls have inscriptions cataloging Sassanid victories but no mention of the Achaemenids, who created it. Some say it was a royal tomb and others believe it was a depository for objects of dynastic or religious importance.

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Persepolis is the best-known symbol of ancient Persian Civilization. (toiran.com photo/ Houman Nobakht)

We had a few more kilometers to go before reaching Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Persian Empire which was once known as the richest city under the sun. The scale and skill employed to create Persepolis is mind-blowing.

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Persepolis is a UNESCO registered World Heritage Site and one of the must-see wonders of the world! (toiran.com photo/ Houman Nobakht)

Even though a fire destroyed this glorious capital and only its ruins stand today, the surviving remains kick started my overactive imagination and took me back to times when representatives from all nations of the known world would come to seek audience with the reigning Achaemenid king and showered him with presents and paid him their respects.

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Reading poetry at Hafezih at night (toiran.com photo/ Amir Sina Rezaei)

We arrived in Shiraz late in the afternoon and checked into Shiraz Grand Hotel. We decided to visit the tomb of Hafez, the poet of love and the bard whose poems are cherished by every Iranian. If you ask the people of Shiraz they will all recommend going to Hafezieh after sunset. This is the time when you will see people reciting Hafez poetry or breaking into song just because they feel inspired to sing. I would also recommend having dinner at the Hafezieh Café and trying the Shirazi Faloudeh – a dessert made with thin vermicelli noodles mixed in a semi-frozen sugar and rosewater syrup served with lime juice.

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Eram Garden is an example of the UNESCO registered Persian Garden. (toiran.com photo/ Houman Nobakht)

We spent a comfortable night at the hotel and in the morning decided to visit the famous Eram Garden. The name of this garden ‘Eram’ means Eden in Persian and with its palm trees, flower beds and fountains it could well be what a heavenly garden looks like.

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A Persian garden full of life, intoxicating scent of flowers and color (toiran.com photo/ Saman Kazemi)

Beautiful ponds full of little fish, colorful flowers, the smell of orange blossoms and a cup of herbal tea were the perfect start to my day.

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Vakil Bazaar is always full of shoppers from Iran and other parts of the world. (toiran.com photo/ Amir Sina Rezaei)

We had lunch and decided to go for a stroll through the inviting vaulted streets and alleys of Vakil Bazaar. I could not stop myself from buying herbal teas and distillates called ‘Araq’ in Persian. On any warm summer day all you need to do to make yourself a refreshing sherbet is to add some aromatic herbal distillate to ice water and stir in some sugar and voila your sherbet is ready to be served!

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Vakil Mosque is a Zand era (1750-1794) monument of great architectural and artistic significance. (toiran.com photo/ Houman Nobakht)

When in Shiraz you should not miss the chance to visit Vakil Mosque. This 18th century mosque, which is still used for prayers, is a shining jewel that captures one’s eye with its colorful tile decorations and its unique Shabistan (inner sanctum) that has 48 monolithic marble pillars carved in spirals.

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Inside Vakil Bath (toiran.com photo/ Houman Nobakht)

The founder of the Zand Dynasty, Karim Khan (1705–1779), who built Vakil Bazaar and Vakil Mosque, also built a public bathhouse in this neighborhood. The bath is now a wax museum where visitors can learn about the Persian culture, customs and costumes.

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A wax figure in Vakil Bath (toiran.com photo/ Saman Kazemi)

Saying goodbye to Shiraz is always hard as this city is an enchantress and my love for it grows with each visit. If you haven’t already been, trust me this city is one for the bucket list.

Want to see more of Shiraz? Toiran.com is at your service!

Feeding seagulls in Bushehr

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The wonderful sunset of Bushehr coast (toiran.com photo/ Shahin Kamali)

On the shores of the Persian Gulf lies the beautiful city of Bushehr. This city is one of the most important Iranian seaports and a great destination for travelers visiting Iran in the fall and winter as Bushehr’s hot and humid summer temperatures turn into a pleasant warmth in the colder months of the year.

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Locals feed seagulls in Bushehr. (toiran.com photo/ Shahin Kamali)

But what should you expect in Bushehr?  Walking along the shore and watching seagulls spread their wings over the sea in search of food. The seagulls of Bushehr are comfortable around humans and feeding them has become an attraction for all visitors.

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At a distance the Salt Dome of Jashk resembles a snowcapped mountain. (toiran.com photo/ Shahin Kamali)

Driving 144 kilometers southeast of Bushehr to see the Jashk Salt Dome with its salt waterfalls, tent rocks, salt crystals and salt caves. This dome spans an area of 3,666 hectares and initially appears to be covered in snow!

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A salt cave at Jashk Salt Dome (toiran.com photo/ Shahin Kamali)

Standing on the rocky coast of Rey Shahr (also Reishahr) to enjoy the endless blue of the Persian Gulf and the cool sea breeze caressing your face. You can walk barefoot on the wet sands where waves meet the shore!

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Enjoy the cool sea breeze and the blue waters of the Persian Gulf in Rey Shahr. (toiran.com photo/ Shahin Kamali)

Rey Shahr is the ruins of an old Elamite city named Liyan, which was rebuilt by Ardashir I (180-242 CE) the Unifier, the founder of Sassanid dynasty. The city was once an important literary and scientific center where countless books were written and housed in its libraries.

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The Persian Gulf bestows a plentiful bounty on local fishermen. (toiran.com photo/ Shahin Kamali)

Going for local food! Not surprisingly, there are several good seafood restaurants in Bushehr where tasty local dishes like Qalieh Meigoo – a spicy, sour stew made with shrimp, cilantro, fenugreek and garlic in a red pepper and tamarind sauce- are served.

Curious for Bushehr? Visit toiran.com and we can take care of your trip!

Getting around Iran will never be easier with the toiran mobile app!

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team toiran discussing the app with Mohammad. (toiran.com photo/ Saman Kazemi)

One of our major concerns at toiran.com has always been to the comfort of travelers when going around Iran. This is why the dev team was tasked with designing a comprehensive mobile application. Salman and I (Mohammad) started developing the application 8 months ago.

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We have worked endless hours to develop the toiran app. (toiran.com photo)

Sometimes when you travel in Iran, mobile internet coverage can be spotty especially when you are visiting a site outside a city or for instance when you are in the desert. This is why we wanted an application that would allow access to most of its features offline. With the help of Salman, for whom I have great professional respect, the project was able to move forward smoothly.

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Mohammad simultaneously writing code and checking functions. (toiran.com photo/ Saman Kazemi)

Imagine you are visiting Pasargadae which is 135 kilometers outside of Shiraz and lunch time is approaching. Where do you eat? No need to worry! Just open the application and it will show you a list of nearby restaurants with full detail! All you have to do is to choose. Select your restaurant and just ask the app how to get there. No Internet connection? No Wi-Fi? You are still ok! The map and navigation features are both available offline.

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Hundreds of pages of code were written to develop an easy-to-use app to help you to get around Iran in the easiest way! (toiran.com photo)

The best part is all the information and pictures available on the toiran.com website will be available offline on our app. The only thing you need to do is download the application. Leave the rest to the app! Every time you connect to the internet, the app updates data automatically. This was you will always have toiran.com wherever you go in Iran!

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Mohammad hard at work. (toiran.com photo/ Saman Kazemi)

Want to go skiing or fancy a trip to the desert? Just go to the toiran app on your phone and look at the weather forecast for any place you want in Iran!

Our app also has a bilingual talking dictionary! It will help you find useful sentences along with their pronunciation and meaning in English. You can use the app to communicate with locals and even pick of some Persian during your stay.

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When in Iran, no information will be inaccessible with the toiran app. (toiran.com photo)

You can also go online and book your hotel in Iran with a single tap! Getting around Iran will never be easier! Can you wait another month for the app to be released on Google Play?!

 

Meymand, not your ordinary stone village

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Homes in the 3,000-year-old Meymand Village, Kerman Province, have been built partially underground. (toiran.com photo/ Shahin Kamali)

During our road trip to Kerman Province Shahin and I (Amir Sina) visited the historic Meymand Village. This village which is north of Sirjan has a known history of 3,000 years. I had read articles where Meymand had been compared to Cappadocia in Turkey and Kandovan Village near Tabriz in East Azarbaijan. Having previously visited both Cappadocia and Kandovan I was eager to see Meymand for myself.

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Meymand homes are built to protect inhabitants from extreme winter cold and summer heat. (toiran.com photo/ Shahin Kamali)

After a 90-kilometer drive we arrived at our destination. The village did in some ways resemble Cappadocia in that houses are made of stone but unlike the fairytale Turkish town which has been abandoned by its inhabitants, Meymand is still full of life.

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Meymand Village is only 90 kilometers from Sirjan in Kerman Province. (toiran.com Photo/ Homeyra Tayebipour)

I realized that Meymand is also similar but still very different from Kandovan. While Kandovan houses were carved in stone to protect inhabitants from the Mongol army, I was told by one of the locals that in Meymand houses were created partially underground to protect inhabitants from extreme winter cold and summer heat. He told me that temperatures inside these homes seldom vary and are almost always consistent.

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the inside of a residence in Meymand. Temperatures seldom vary inside these residences and remain mostly the same. (toiran.com photo/ Shahin Kamali)

I was surprised to see that despite its small size the village had signs at every corner showing directions to the apothecary store, souvenir shops and other landmarks. To make extra cash Meymand locals sell dried and fresh walnuts, almonds and other nuts, and are always inviting passersby to try their product.

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Local woman sits by her assortment of dried nuts as she waits for customers. (toiran.com photo/ Homeyra Tayebipour)

We met up with the resident Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization authority who invited us for a chat over tea. He was extremely friendly and told us about the 10,000-year-old stone carvings found near the village. He told us he was taking two German tourists to see the Meymand sheep pen and that he would be happy to show us the way as well.

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Shelters made with twigs, branches and leaves near the Meymand sheep pen where shepherds rest. (toiran.com photo/ Shahin Kamali)

There were several makeshift shelters near the pen where shepherds rest. We met Sakineh Khatoon outside one of these shelters. She invited us into her home and offered us some clove tea and gave us fresh walnuts and dates. Even though she didn’t have much she didn’t think twice about offering us what little she had. We were moved by the hospitality shown to us in Meymand and left the village with fond memories.

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Sakineh Khatoon invited us into her home and offered us endless cups of clove tea with fresh walnuts and dates. (toiran.com photo/ Shahin Kamali)

My advice, visit Meymand during the fall or early spring. Don’t say no to tea invitations by locals. Buy some dried nuts from locals and take pictures!

 

If you are interested in visiting Meymand, you can join our 12 Days of Desert Life tour or contact us for a tailored tour of Kerman. Remember you are only a few clicks away from an unforgettable trip!

Taking on Armand River rapids in Iran

I (Iman) have always been known as a thrill seeker and an adrenaline junky so when the long weekend came up I jumped at the opportunity to go on a rafting trip on Armand River in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province in southwestern Iran.

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The group took on the challenge of a 22-kilometer rafting trail on Armand River. (toiran.com Photo/ Iman Jahangani)

I met my fellow travelers at the rendezvous point in Tehran at 7:30 am. We were a group of 40, around 30 of us were traveling on the tour bus and the rest had decided to follow the bus in their cars. Our destination was Darreh Yas Village, just before the city of Borujen, which was our base camp. The bus had to stop a few kilometers from the village as the road was too narrow for it to pass and we boarded minibuses that were to transport us the rest of the way.

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The base camp can be reached after passing tall cliffs. (toiran.com Photo/ Iman Jahangani)

We stopped at a local restaurant for lunch and were surprised to see the unbelievably low prices on the menu. The restaurant did not have tables and instead served food on Takhts. A takht means bed or throne in the Persian language and is actually a wooden platform covered with a rug that simultaneously serves as a table and a chair. I opted for Qormeh Sabzi, a lamb stew with parsley and other herbs cooked to perfection with beans and dried lime, served with rice. The running joke in Iran is that knowing how to cook this all time favorite Persian dish tops every eligible Iranian bachelor’s list of marriage criteria!!

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The group stops for lunch at a local restaurant along the way. The restaurant serves well-priced Persian dishes including the all time Iranian favorite Qormeh Sabzi. (toiran.com Photo/ Amir Arbabian)

The remainder of the way to base camp we experienced changing weather at every turn of the road from sunny to an overcast sky and even rain and wind. After passing a few cliffs and a thin line of trees we reached our base camp. A zip line cable extended from a hill above camp to all the way across Armand River. No one dared to try the zip line as it looked very scary.

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The group unwinds after a long road trip at the dorm at base camp. A zip line cable extends from the hill above camp to all the way across Armand River. (toiran.com Photo/ Iman Jahangani)

Out of nowhere spring rain began to fall on the camp and quickly created a beautiful mess. When the rain stopped we had a delicious meal of rice and fish and a pickled side dish. We turned in early to prepare for the adventures of the next day.

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As part of the tour, participants rappel down a draw bridge suspended 58 meters above the river. (toiran.com Photo/ Iman Jahangani)

 

Early in the morning we put on our rafting clothes, helmets and life jacket and headed for a draw bridge suspended 58 meters above the river. We rappelled down two ropes hanging from the bridge to reach the river where 6 rafts and fast moving Grade 4 rapids awaited us.

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The group listens to the rafting coach before beginning their river experience. (toiran.com Photo/ Iman Jahangani)

We paddled for 2 hours and stopped at one of the small islands along the river to rest and treat ourselves to some tea/ juice and cake. We resumed paddling until reaching the second camp at Darreh Eshq (Love Valley). There is no better welcome after a day of strenuous physical activity than a delicious campfire kebab.

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The group prepares to begin their second day on Armand River. (toiran.com Photo/ Iman Jahangani)

On day 2 we set out to tackle the fierce rapids of Armand. The rafting guide proposed a challenge to swim across the river and back. Rafts would wait ahead to catch anyone who was swept by the currents. The currents looked fierce and only 10 people volunteered. Only 2 of the volunteers, a water polo coach and a rafting guide, managed to reach the shore.

On the swim back the rafting guide was caught in the rip current and was picked up by the safety rafts. It was the water polo coach who gave us the biggest scare as he suddenly disappeared under water. We feared the worst and thought the currents had pulled him under but suddenly he broke surface near the rafts!

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A group photo to mark an adventurous day of rafting on Armand River. (toiran.com Photo/ Uncredited)

Once everyone was on the rafts, the guide gave us safety instructions on how to swim to the shore or the next raft and not drown if our boat capsizes. Our adventure continued with more paddling and a short stop to rest.

Iman (R) with a fellow traveler on Armand River, which is the origin of Karoun River - the longest and only navigable waterway in Iran- in Khuzestan Province. (toiran.com Photo/ Siavash)

Iman (R) with a fellow traveler on Armand River, which is the origin of Karoun River – the longest and only navigable waterway in Iran- in Khuzestan Province. (toiran.com Photo/ Uncredited)

We reached our final camp a bit after noon. This time chicken kebab grilled over campfire awaited us. After lunch, minibuses transferred us back to our bus for the journey back home. We arrived back in Tehran at 5 am. Despite being tired I was full of energy and ready to start work at 9 am.

The 22-kilometer rafting trail on Armand River was an unforgettable experience that I am eager to repeat.

 

For more information about the rafting tour featured in this blog, check out the Iran River Rafting tour on our website.

Stone Garden, one man’s silent protest to injustice

I (Amir Sina) always try to refer to different sources from Google to books and even friends to find information about a city prior to traveling there with Shahin.  When we decided to go to Sirjan in Kerman Province I found out about the extraordinary Bagh-e Sangi or Stone Garden.

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The eerie Stone Garden in Kerman Province was created by Darvish Khan Esfandiarpour over 50 years in protest to the Pahlavi era Land Reforms that cost him his lands. (toiran.com Photo/ Amir Sina Rezaei)

After an approximately 40-kilometer drive on the Sirjan-Baft road we reached Balvard Village. This village does not have breathtaking nature or ancient ruins to offer. Its attraction is a garden, a massive art installation created over half a century.

This art installation is a garden but one with no living plants, flowers or fruit trees. The trees of the garden are all dead and bear fruits of stone that hang from their lifeless branches and perform an eerie death dance in the wind.

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Darvish Khan transported single-handedly transferred massive pieces of stone to his garden to create this art installation. (toiran.com Photo/ Shahin Kamali)

What is known about the history of this garden is that it was created by a man named Darvish Khan Esfandiarpour who lost most of his lands during the Land Reforms of 1963 in the Pahlavi era (1925-1979). He lost his remaining garden to drought. As he was deaf and mute and could not protest using words, he dedicated the remainder of his life to creating this morbid conceptual work of art.

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The toiran.com car parked in front of the Stone Garden as the team prepares to take photos. (toiran.com Photo/ Amir Sina Rezaei)

For over 50 years, Darvish Khan single-handedly transported mammoth pieces of stone that would pose a challenge to even people with physical strength from nearby mountains and valleys to the garden and used everything from telegraph cables to bicycle chains to hang them from the branches of his dead trees. Locals say Darvish Khan transported most of the dead trees in this garden from elsewhere and planted them in the ground to create his artwork.

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Darvish Khan used everything from cables to bicycle chains to hang stones from the dead trees in his garden. (toiran.com Photo/ Shahin Kamali)

When you see the size of these stones you can feel the depth of Darvish Khan’s rage at the injustice he suffered. Darvish Khan passed away in 2007 at the age of 90. Nearly eight years on and one can still sense his rage reverberating through the garden.

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The poem on Darvish Khan’s gravestone reads: Saw a man no stranger to pain who lost his all, After a lifetime of pain and sorrow he created a garden of stone, Fruits of the garden are stones of all sizes, Hung with much labor from branches, No oppressor will take this stone garden from him, This was his hope when creating his garden.” (toiran.com Photo/ Amir Sina Rezaei)

We reached the garden around 2 pm. The sun was perfect for taking photos. We took pictures for four hours but Shahin was not satisfied with the result as the magnitude of the garden could not be captured in any frame. Tired and frustrated we laid down on the ground.

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Amir Sina (pictured) takes selfie after a few hours of photography.

That’s when we found the best angle to photograph the garden and its massive scale. Shahin and I both got down on our backs in one corner of the garden and began taking pictures.

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No one knows how Darvish Khan Esfandiarpour managed to lift and hang these heavy stones from the trees in Bagh-e Sangi. (toiran.com Photo/ Amir Sina Rezaei)

If you ever decide to visit Kerman Province, its endless deserts and Shahdad Kalouts (yardangs) do not hesitate to take the road to Bagh-e Sangi. Eerie as it may be, this garden is an attraction you should not miss.

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Darvish Khan Esfandiarpour in a scene from the 1976 ‘The Garden of Stones’ by Parviz Kimiavi, which won a Silver Bear prize at the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) the same year.

Chabahar: Journey to the ends of the world

Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali-1-1797x1198 As a photojournalist I (Shahin) love my job with toiran.com as it takes me to exciting new destinations across Iran where I can take photos of places, beautiful sunsets and sunrises and people. While I have traveled with different toiran.com team members, Amir Sina is the person I have traveled most with and the person who accompanied me on the trip to Chabahar.

Chabahar is a humid city considered the warmest place in Iran during the winter and the coolest port in southern Iran during the summer. It is because of this mild spring-like climate that Chabahar is known as Chahar Bahar meaning four springs.

We arrived in Chabahar in the morning just as the city was coming to life. After driving around for a bit to get a feel of the city we headed for the bazaar. Colorful wearings of women in Chabahar As Chabahar borders Pakistan, the people of the city share their taste for spicy food and traditional dress consisting of shalwar kameez with their Pakistani neighbors. Women cover their heads with a colorful piece of cloth that is a cross between a dupatta and a chador. Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali-1-5760x3840 There was a great shot I just had to take at every turn! We finally stopped to buy grilled spicy chicken wrap with chopped cabbage and special hot sauce from one of the many vendors selling street food in the colorful bazaar. We couldn’t get enough of these delicious spicy bites. I don’t know how, but Amir Sina ate 10 of them! Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali-1797x1198 Our next stop was the waterfront. Because Chabahar is a fishing port, you can always see locals weaving fishing nets or painting their boats in vivacious colors by the waterfront. I spoke to one of the local fishermen who told me they sometimes go on tuna fishing trips all the way to Somalia and sell their catch to local tuna canneries when they return. Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali-1797x1200 We knew before coming to Chabahar that it was a place mostly famous for its unusual natural attractions. Most of these attractions lie between the city and Gwadar Bay on the maritime border of Pakistan and Iran. Even though I could not wait to start taking photos, it was impossible to fit everything into one day. We agreed to visit the Mud Volcano first and leave the rest of the attractions for our second day.

The Mud Volcano in Bandar Tang is a 100-kilometer drive from Chabahar. This 100-meter volcano erupts and extrudes cold mud every minute. Locals told us that the mud has therapeutic properties. We didn’t need much encouragement and both decided to take a proper mud bath! Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali We returned to the city for dinner at Khalij (Gulf) restaurant which we had photographed earlier in the day.  We were greeted by the cool sea breeze and a wonderful view of the sea. I opted for a delicious local dish called Karahi (a spicy stew made with chicken/lamb and tomato considered a Pakistani dish popular in Chabahar) and Amir Sina decided to try one of the many seafood options on the menu. Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali-1797x1200 Our second day started with a tasty cup of local Chai Sheer, which is essentially black tea brewed in milk instead of water, and dates before starting our drive to Gwadar Bay. Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali-1797x1198 Our first stop was Lipar Wetland or the Pink Lagoon that is famous for its red tide phenomenon. Every year in late winter and early spring as well as end of summer and early fall the water of this lagoon turns pink because of the algal bloom.

The striking view of the Martian Mountains took my breath away! Looking at the grayish-white grooves created by thousands of years of wind and rain I could not help but think that these mountains had been painted on canvas by a skilled painter. Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali-1797x1198 We continued to Gwadar Bay where Iran ends and Pakistan begins. There was gray dust in the air and not a single soul in sight. I felt like we had reached the ends of the earth. We made our way onto one of the empty boats and decided to wait until the dust storm passed. We fell asleep and upon waking from our nap found everything, including ourselves, covered in a thick coat of gray dust! Social-media-Life-Chabahar-Shahin-Kamali-1797x1198 Would I ever return to Chabahar again? Definitely! Chabahar has won itself a special place in my heart not just because I loved the food and its picture perfect sites but because of its unique culture that you cannot experience anywhere else in Iran.

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

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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

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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 toiran.com. 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.

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Heydarzadeh Coin Museum

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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!

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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.

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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!


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