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.
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.
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.