ToIran.com Life

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

Tag: isfahan

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!

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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