Out and about in Esfahan


March 28

I can’t vouch for the order that things happened as I failed at writing our itinerary down or even journaling each day. However, I think this day began with a visit to the Jameh Mosque of Esfahan built in the 13th century and still largely intact.


Model of the Jameh Mosque and divinity school. All the little bumps are domes!

Next was a stop at the Shaking Tower Mosque.


Quaking/Shaking Towers

Then we had a very special visit to the Esfahan Music Museum. It had only been open for a few months. A fascinating look at ancient instruments as well as a wee, private concert! It was truly a highlight!

Lunch was at an old bathhouse that had been turned into a restaurant. The food and service were great, and it was fun to see the remains of the bathhouse underneath.

We went and visited St. Joseph’s Cathedral, which was built 400 years ago and has also become a museum and shrine to the victims of the Armenian genocide.

I mustn’t forget the quaint, eclectic shisha bar we visited. Ironically, you had to walk through the smoking section to get to the non-smoking section where we waited for a table in the smoking section. Haha! There we had tea, some syrupy sweet pastry, and shared some shisha.

Heading back to Naqsh-e-Jahan Square IMG_5981we had dinner in another sit-on-the-same-level-as-your-food place to try sheep’s lung biryani.


The small brown pile is sheep’s lung. We had to try it as it is considered a delicacy.

Adventures of the cultural palate! It was a unique texture. We went back to the hotel and a few went back out to the bazaar for more shopping. Whew! So much packed into one day!


March 27

Headed toward Esfahan in the morning with a stop to see Cyrus the Great’s tomb, and the ruins of Pasargadae. This is also known as the Mausoleum of the Martyred Mother of Solomon.

There are more ruins here, but since it was Nowruz the throngs meant we would have to depend on a bus to shuttle us out to them and back and we still had hours to drive to get to Esfahan. So we departed Pasargadae and arrived in Esfahan in time enough to visit 2 bridges and a tomb before we had dinner.


Along the river beside bridge #1


Bridge #2 at dusk in Esfahan



People gathered to picnic, talk and sing in the archways of bridge #2.



Persepolis and Necropolis

March 26

Off to Persepolis (Persian City): These are ruins that date back to as early as 515 BCE. It was the seat of power for the Persian Empire until 330 BCE when Alexander the Great invaded and destroyed it.


Model of Persepolis shows how it was elevated above the natural slope of the land. It was a big city!

It is amazing to catch a glimpse through these ruins of what life might have been like there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8L4E9m27aKY&nohtml5=False It is a massive complex and full of architectural marvels as well as bas-relief on the walls.

Most of the columns were probably about 18 meters high and there were hundreds and hundreds of them.


Yet another family wishing to have a photo with Americans just outside the WC at the entrance to Persepolis. Many people were camping here and the bathroom was jammed with people washing dishes and bathing. I decided I could hold it. haha

Some interesting side notes: Shiraz wine is named after the city here, but they didn’t claim it in the same way that Champagne or Stilton did. Also the Adidas stripes and lotus emblem were totally taken from Persepolis. https://www.flickr.com/photos/nipitiri/4392456454

After hours of wandering these ruins, we boarded the bus again to head for the Necropolis (Dead City). This is a large cemetery with elaborate tomb monuments.

It is believed that Darius I and II, Xerxes and Artaxerxes were buried here. These are kings from Old Testament times.

A visit to the bazaar in Shiraz was mandatory once we got back.

It was packed to the gills with people and products, so it was difficult to move. Everything you can imagine is sold in these bazaars from spices to fabric to furniture to electronics, as well as local handicrafts.

After this we went back to the hotel and then out for dinner. It was a sit-on-the-same-level-as-your-food place and they had live music.

This included traditional instruments and songs as well as a performance by a group who signed to the music in fancy traditional dress. What an experience!


March 25

We landed in Shiraz at about 7:30 am,

and wound our way around security and found our guide Ali. He was so warm and welcoming! We loaded our luggage on the minibus and headed off to see some sights. The first stop was the Holy Shrine of Ahmad Ebn-e Mousa Al Kazem which commemorates some of the most important imams of Shia Muslims.

Then we went to the Nasir al Molk Mosque where the light through the stained glass was amazing.

I believe we then visited Naranjestan gardens. They are owned and tended by Shiraz University.

After visiting a fort called The Citadel

we stopped for a favorite Iranian treat called falooda. It is made with frozen rice noodles, rose water and lime. We had ours with ice cream. I liked the ice cream with the lime, but could do without the falooda (it’s a texture thing). Then we went and visited the tomb of Hafez, a Muslim Sufi mystic poet especially revered by the Iranian people.

Because it is Nowruz, the Persian New Year, and schools and business close for all or part of the 13 days it is celebrated there were crowds and crowds of people, mostly families everywhere we went. The last day is nature day and everyone goes and spends the day outdoors. This was the only day we had rain, but families were out in their tents and shelters anyway. This is an ancient springtime celebration with no real current religious ties as it dates back to before any of the current monotheistic religions began. It is Zoroastrian in origin and is still a holy day for them. According to Ali, there was an effort to reduce this celebration in favor of more time during a religious holiday (Eid al Fitr), but public outcry kept it in tact. Families use this holiday time to camp and visit their national historic sites.

We stopped at a carpet shop where they served us tea and we negotiated our purchases. It was beautiful to see and learn about the different styles, symbols, and sizes of the carpets. (Yes, I bought one.)


This is my Persian rug. It’s about 1 meter by 2. The 3 diamonds represent tents surrounded by animals and plants for the community and each corner is guarded by soldiers.

Young people in particular, often encouraged by older family members would approach and ask where we were from. The obvious pleasure and warm welcome that infused their faces when we said we were Americans was certainly the antithesis of what I had expected. To a one, they engaged us in conversation in sometimes very broken English, wished us to feel welcome and wanted pictures taken with us. I have never felt more welcome anywhere else I have visited.

Spring Break

March 24

After teaching a full day, I came home and put the finishing touches on packing. I always hope I’ve thought of everything, but especially this time. I knew I had to be “covered” whenever I was in a public area. That meant to the wrist (although they did accept 3/4 length sleeves), to the ankle (pants or skirt) and head. At 8:00 Abdul came and picked Megan, Eugene, and me up to go to the airport for our flight to Dubai. It was scheduled to leave at 11:35 pm. Check in was a breeze (there were no lines!!) and we sat and waited. Then we noticed that the last flight (at 12:10, or something), which Shahid and Cathy were supposed to be on, was cancelled. We called them and they raced to the airport and made it through security just as we were boarding! Whew! Since Dubai is an hour ahead of us, we landed at 1:00 something. Our flight for Shiraz, Iran was due to leave at 5:10 am. We grabbed a bite to eat and saw Gabe and Glenn, who had spent the night in Dubai.

Ahhhhh, I am being told I’ve reached my plan storage limit so I am going to have to figure out what to do. That’s all until I do.