Hello, I love you

Trip Start Jan 08, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Iran  ,
Monday, September 19, 2005

Of course on the bus trip over to Shiraz, David made a new friend. He asked us to dine with him at the lunch stop and wouldn't take no for an answer or any money. He worked for the government and didn't like the new president!! He was on holidays and was going home to drink (!!!?) and relax. He invited us to stay with him and his family but his town was another 150km on from Shiraz so we took his number and told him we'd think about it. Even so, he got off the bus with us, caught a cab with us (and paid for it!), and walked us to our hotel.

We dumped the bags and went to see what there was to see. First was the Arg-e Karim Khan (Arg means Fort in Persian). It was apparently once used as a prison too. The walls are huge and one of the four towers has a serious lean that rivals Pisa!! Although it's not quite so high and is made of mud bricks. I'm not sure how old it is though. Probably a good few hundred years. There isn't much to see inside. A pretty courtyard and some of the rooms have a good photographic display on old Shiraz. That's about it for the old Arg. We then went to wander round the bazaar. It was really busy, as has every bazaar been her in Iran. Loads of locals, hustling and bustling and buying up on sparkly material for god knows what. It's really colourful. No touristy stuff. We were walking through a particularly busy intersection when this man and his wife just stopped and stared at us. Their jaws were on the ground. Then the man said, 'Hello, I love you.', with a completely deadpan face. They then just walked away. We pissed ourselves! We weren't sure if it was directed at David or me! Then when we were walking down the road a young boy shouted from his bike, 'I love yooouuuuuuuu!!!!'. I'm sure they've kept some of those famous fermented grapes hidden somewhere. Shiraz - the town of love.

We went to see the Jameh Mosque which was big and old and then walked for ages to the next shrine. That of Imamzadeh-ye Ali Ebn-e Hamze. It was originally from the 10th century but there have been lots of earthquakes and the like since then so none of the original decorations are left but it's still very impressive. The dome is beautiful and the inside covered with the little shaped pieces of mirror. I was given a chador to wear inside - I'm sure it was an old bedsheet. We arrived just in time for prayers which was great for us because the noise of the guys singing covered up the pips from our cameras as we took pics!!!! As it was an Imam's birthday we were given lots of pieces of cake too! Cool. No need to buy lunch. They were so happy we were there!! We wondered why we had been given loads of lollies and fruit (and pickels) in the bazaar! The courtyard of the shrine was covered in tombstones which apparently cost a fortune. The visit to this shrine was an important one for us. We learnt something about Iran and why they eat loads of kebabs. The opening line of the prayer call sounds like 'Allahhhhhhhh likes kebabs.'!!! (listen out next time and you'll agree). We booked a place on a trip to Persepolis for the next day and went to find some food.

Up early, fresh melon juice in hand and over to the tour office for the 8am start of our Persepolis tour. I don't really like tours but it was the easiest way to do it. I hoped the guide wasn't an idiot and spoke good english. He'd obviously travelled extensively (not) as his opening line was, 'Welcome to the most beautiful city in the world.'. I hadn't thought it so far so was willing to give him a chance to prove it, although I knew he'd fail.

We went to see some famous cliff tombs first at Naqsh-E Rostam. They're fantastic tombs carved high into some cliff faces and are believed to be from the Sassanian period I think (our guide mentioned Darius I & II). Apparently they were Zoroastrian and their bodies were left atop Towers of Silence where the vultures picked their bones clean. Afterwards their bones were places inside these tombs and sealed up. The tombs were cleared of all their treasures centuries ago by those of dubious character, which is a real shame. The reliefs surrounding the tombs are still in great condition and we took loads of photos. There are also some other reliefs in the cliffs and a temple which people initially believed was a fire temple but our guide and information at the site say otherwise. They're not really sure of it's real meaning, but it looked interesting. We then went on to Persepolis. I had heard that no one went there and was looking forward to wandering through the ruins alone-ish. But when we got there, there were loads of people there. Pity. They were impressive ruins and would have been massive in their time. We took loads of photos. The reliefs are great, even if there isn't that much left. We saw evidence of where the Iranian men got their ideas of holding hands. The reliefs showed guards leading the foreign guests bearing gifts for the king by the hands!!! Outside the entrance there are also the skeletal remains of the tents where the last Shah of Iran held an incredibly expensive party to celebrate the 2500th anniversary of Persian monarchy in 1971. Apparently up until 10 years ago the lavish interiors of the tents were still there. Some even had marble bathrooms!!!!! It was supposed to instil national pride in Iranians but instead it backfired and they were all angry that the Shah had spent so much money on it. Afterall, they weren't even invited!

We tried to get bus tickets to go to Yazd for the next day but we couldn't. It was the end of school holidays and everyone was going home, but we were Shiraz-ed out and decided to go back to Esfahan and hang for a couple of days then head out to Yazd when the kiddies were back at school and the buses empty.

We met up with James for dinner that night and remenised about the horrors of Amir Kabir hostel in Esfahan. I really didn't want to stay there again and hoped that we wouldn't have to.
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