Dawn light streams into Nasir al-Molk mosque, illuminating the meditative dusty air with a vibrant palette, enriched in intensity by the stained-glass windows. The reflections cast onto a deep-pile Persian rug snuggling my toes and inviting me to stay a while. The mosque is empty at first light; a privilege which is a rarity in Shiraz, the city of poetry, literature, flowers and wine; the vineyards of old no longer exist since Iran became the Islamic Republic in 1979.
Shiraz is one highlight amidst a handful of enchanting cities on my cross-country voyage. Unearthing turquoise-tiled minarets and domes dotting Esfahan’s Naqsh e-Jahan Square, the immense power of the Achaemenid’s ancient capital Persepolis, staggering beauty of Elamite ziggurat temples at Choqa Zanbil and roaming the parched mud-brick lanes and crumbling rooftops in Yazd, is a vivid journey through history.
Travelling by road through the frontier, renowned moreso internationally for it’s nuclear ambitions than as a travel destination, I realize it is as spectacularly beautiful as the people are hospitable. Nestling a staggering 16 Unesco world heritage sites; architectural marvels and treasured remnants of powerful early empires, Iran is the vanguard of emerging travel destinations. Whilst the leadership may be a regime, the majestic landscapes lapping the land scream freedom. Iridescent mythic mountains ring-fence plateaus and basins, serrated peaks glint in the hazy heat as I cut gravel for days. Beguiling backdrops belie bodies of water; the Caspian Sea, Gulf of Oman and Persian Gulf, popular holiday spots for Iranians.
Read more of Anisha Shah's article in The Address Magazine.
Visit www.traveltheunknown.com/iran to see the glories of Persia for yourself.