On my 1st visit, the capital city of Tehran had been my jumping off base and it had been a tough city to tackle for a newbie solo traveler. After that, I have entered Iran through Esfahan and Mashad, with Shiraz welcoming me on my last trip. Among all the Iranian cities, my favourite is Shiraz and I had fallen in love with it, even before I had visited there. Located in the charming southwestern Fars province, Shiraz is one of the oldest cities of ancient Persia. The seasonal Roodkhaneye Khoshk (Dry River) flows moodily by it’s side and blessed with a mild, moderate, Shiraz has been the regional trade center for more than a thousand years.
It had served as Iran’s capital twice briefly and had blossomed to it’s full glory under the rule of Zand dynasty from AD 1747-49. Also considered to be the origin of Syrah, one of the best wines in the world, Shiraz is truly intoxicating. I am addicted to it and there’s something about the city’s languorous vivacity, architectural style and romantic aura, that makes it so enchanting. Romance can be felt in the air in Shiraz and the city personifies love; that heady cloud of emotions, which makes your heart flutter and puts a dreamy smile on your face. It is one city, where the most rational headed person would be tempted to fall recklessly in love and Shiraz is famous for beautiful people. In fact, it is known for being home to most beautiful highlights of Persia and the city is poetry in motion.
Birthplace of Iran’s most celebrated poets Hafiz and Saadi, Shiraz is synonymous with richness of Persian culture, roses and gardens. Bedecked with lovely mosques, splendid gardens and well kept erstwhile Christian and Jewish architectural jewels, it is the perfect place to unwind after Iran’s visa on arrival stress. Apart from having the worst immigration officers in Iran, Shiraz has never let me down and the city’s gentle pace had always lured me into over staying there. My closest Iranian friend hails from Shiraz and she is another reason why I love the city so much. A modest, intelligent archaeology student, Tiam Nickseresht had stolen my heart with her warm welcome and burning curiosity for India. I had met her through a common Tehran friend and she had been my Shiraz city guide on my 1st Iran visit. Tiam loves her city to the core and I had found her pride in Shiraz to be very infectious. She had also been equally curious about India and we had bonded well over Shiraz, Bollywood, girl gossip and food.
People make places and because of Tiam, Shiraz had become a permanent feature of my Iran itineraries. She had always insisted upon welcoming me to her house and I had never stayed at a city hotel again. Iranians are one of the most friendliest people in the world and they take hospitality very seriously. Tiam’s family are a happy, welcoming bunch and I consider myself lucky to have experienced such world class hospitable warmth. It had been at her house, that I had learned to speak a few words in Farsi, cook delicious Chelo Kebabs and create beautiful designs on her mother’s carpet weaving loom. Nickseresht family had taken me into their folds in a most natural way and I had experienced a few seasons in Shiraz as their guest. Those had been very pleasant days and personally I had found Iranian life to be a far cry from the projected global image. In fact, Tiam’s family pace had been gentle, almost to a fault and the scenes from their home or neighbourhood could have been from anywhere in the Western world. Grape picking, occasional picnics, family get togethers, work, college, dating etc had been very much a part of Shirazi life and I had found Tiam’s mother to be extremely progressive.
An expert mountaineer and a professor of history, she had been well versed in 2 foreign languages and the best woman driver, I have ever seen. Smart, protective and easy going, she had been also been equally good at managing her home and more than often, had reminded me of my own mother. She had made me extremely comfortable and it had been through her, that I had received eye opening insights into life in Iran. Needless to say, my visits to Iran had always been Shiraz centric and while the city is magnificent on it’s own right, my most beautiful memories had been spent at Nickseresht home. Even today, the slightest mention of Iran brings forth their gentle Farsi dinner conversations and I can still smell the roses in Tiam’s garden.
Flowers are another Shirazi specialty and the city is famous for it’s roses. Delicate, beautiful and highly fragrant, the whole city buzzes with it’s heady perfume and it had been the 1st thing that I had noticed about Shiraz. It had been a warm April day when my delayed Air Aseman flight had finally landed in Shiraz and I had been dashed out of the aeroplane in a mad rush. Delayed by more than 4 hours, the old, patched up plane had air conditioning problem and cranky passengers had filled the enclosed chamber with sweat and rage. Harsh words had rung through the air, babies had wailed non stop and the stale air had been thick with body odour. My solo female traveler presence had gotten me a seat right in the front and I had spent the agonizing 1 and half hours, trying to hold my breath.
Raging mood flares, itchy scalp and frustration of language barrier had made me extremely cantankerous and more than once I had been too tempted to fling off my restricting clothes. It had been a literal Farsi hell at 35,000 feet and through out the flight, I had silently cursed my decision to travel to Iran. By the time, we had landed in Shiraz, borderline hysteria had settled in with full throttle and I had uncouthly pushed people out of my way to escape outside. Immediately fresh sunshine and softest rose laden breeze had enveloped me into a lingering embrace and it had been the most awesome feeling. While most cities have a signature smell, never before had fragrance preceded an actual destination and very few can rival Shiraz’s rosy breeze. It had been the best mood lifter and suddenly the raging popularity of aroma therapy had no longer seemed to be a commercial hoax. I had stood on the tarmac, breathing in fresh air as long as I could linger and suddenly Iran had once again returned to it’s dreamlike aura in my mind. Images of Shiraz’s beautiful mosques, food, bazaars and gardens had rushed in front of my eyes and I had skipped towards the terminal building with a racing heart. With so much of beauty, fragrance and mysticism, Shiraz had been irresistible and till today I cannot refuse it’s enduring charm.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE
Some photos have been taken from the internet.