On Saturday morning, we had a semi-lie in, and woke up in the relative cool of Shiraz at 1500m above sea level. We headed out to visit one of my favourite mosques in the world, the stunning Nasir Ol Molk mosque. Locally known as the “Pink Mosque” for its extensive use of the colour in its tiles; it is quite distinctive and was built by Nasir Ol Molk, a rich governor of Shiraz in the late 19th Century, as his personal mosque.
Its main attraction are the lovely stain glassed windows and the pattern they throw across the walls and floors of the winter palace. From there we moved onto Narangestan Museum and Orange Gardens. This beautiful old house has some stunningly symmetrical gardens with seven types of Orange trees, and the house itself is ornately decorated with mirrors, hand-painted tiles and inlay work. Locals come here to dress up in period costumes and have their photos taken. It can make for some good, if slightly tacky photos.
Next on our itinerary was the Ali Ebn e-Hamze Shrine. The Shrine was built in the 19th Century on the site of older shrines. Ladies have to wear Chadors here but these are provided, and the ladies all posed for a photo orchestrated by Mehrdad. It was funny, but I think you had to be there.
The Shrine boasts a huge bulbous Shirazi style dome; the real treat though, is inside, where the mirror-work is quite extraordinary - tiny mirrors over all walls, and with quite a lot of light let in from outside, reflections bouncing around the interior from mirror to mirror. After about five minutes my eyes started to water with the effect of such dazzling reflections. It does make for some funky, Picasso-esque selfies if you are so inclined! We headed back to the hotel for a rest and something to eat.
We met again at five and Mehrdad brought us deep into bazaar territory to Vakil Bazaar, the main bazaar in Shiraz. This is a great place for people watching, taking photographs and there is even a small tourist section where you can buy crafts and gifts. The bazaar is chock full (though not as uncomfortable as Tehran’s bazaar) with people – locals out window-shopping, nomads in to buy material for clothes, Iranians from the Persian Gulf and from all over South Tehran.
It is a living ethnographic museum, as Mehrdad described it. There were even a few tourists! I met an Iranian lady who lives in Newcastle and who asked to have her photo taken with me. Not being much of a shopper, I enjoyed the time by myself on the main strip, waking up and down, taking photos of locals buying and selling - I could happily do that for hours.
For those who neither wanted to shop nor take photos there was a small teahouse where they could relax and read or just sit and watch people go by. As it was my last day with the group, we went out for dinner in a small restaurant which had live music. The music is often a little maudlin at these kind of places, but the food was good and it was nice to be able to spend a relaxing evening with everyone before having to say goodbye. It was a really nice group and I was sorry I could not continue along the rest of route with them though I have been along this part of the route before – tomorrow they go to Firuzabad, then onto Persepolis. The days after on to Pasargadae and Yazd and later, Isfahan and Kashan before finally returning to Tehran. They all seemed happy with the trip though and with Mehrdad as a guide, so was I.
Bon voyage Mehrdad and my fellow travellers!