persia

History: Persepolis and Shiraz

This post is part of series documenting travel in Myanmar, Cuba and Iran: Introduction.

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August 2015

Minibus is nearing Marvdasht, a small town near the historic park of Persepolis. Commuters from Shiraz have filled the vehicle. Curiously, town itself does not provide much accommodation, perhaps because Shiraz is just 50km away. Sun at 8am is already getting hot, soon it will be over 40 Celsius.

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Akinageh, Achaemanid dagger and paw of a lion. The endless struggle between good and evil, Ahriman and Mino was depicted in many palace walls of Persepolis.
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Persepolis literally meaning “the Persian city”, was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (ca. 550–330 BC). It was built as a showcase the might of an empire, a superpower of its time. What has helped to preserve Achaemenid’s in minds of people today, especially in West, is with help of Greek scholars who meticulously documented the history. Who were always the arch rival the good sons were fighting against? You can easily guess. Glory days of Persepolis came to an abrupt end, when Alexander the Great stormed the city and looted it. Theories vary even today was the destruction intentional or accidental. Still, what remains visible gives an idea of what once stood here, on a dry plain near the small river Pulvar.

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Gate of Nations.

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An unfinished gate in Persepolis.

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Persepolis.
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Shiraz skyline.

Shiraz is the major city of 1.3m people in southern Iran. Historic park of Persepolis is just one of attractions that the city can offer. Capital of Persia was moved several times during history, and Shiraz time was during the Zand dynasty’s era (1747-79). Several renowned poets are linked to the city, and its a treasure throve to Persian culture, culinary art and wines. Persian gardens, mosques and ofcourse, a large bazaar adds to the attraction. Shiraz is easily one of the most popular travel destinations of Iran.

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Poet Saadi’s Thomb in Shiraz

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Shiraz bazaar

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Nasir ol Molk Mosque, Shiraz
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Shah Cheragh. Funerary monument and mosque in Shiraz center.

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Karim Khan Castle, a citadel in the downtown Shiraz. And someone taking a perfect shot.

Persian Bazaars And Caravanserais

This post is part of series documenting travel in Myanmar, Cuba and Iran: Introduction.

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Mud city and citadel of Arg-e Bam, South Iran. Bam was starting point for trade routes heading eastwards to Pakistan and India. Travelers through ages have stopped and awed its massive walls and buildings. Silk Road traveler Marco Polo being one of them.

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Kalouts, at the edge of Dasht-e Lut desert, South East of Iran.
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September 2015 & January 2016

Imagine Kalouts: constant pleasant wind, rock formations continuing to horizon, heat emitting from ground, further away an oasis with palm trees and vegetation. Wind always blows from the same direction, reason of the unique rock formations. Besides the gentle whistle, an unbroken silence. Open the map, turn the satellite on, zoom out, to see the location yourself.

Caravanserai can be described in English as a road side inn. Its a fortified yard where caravans could rest, instead of risking overnight out in the desert – not always the safest of places during uncertain times. It was often build in a place where it could serve as a water storage as well, a vital necessity in hot dry desert regions that caravans had to cross.

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Tehran bazaar.

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Spices in Esfahan bazaar.

Caravans did long distance travels in North Africa, Middle East and India, so network of caravanserais were needed in regular distances along the routes. Such building project would have not been very thorough, unless regional rulers helped making it possible. Obvious benefit being increase of taxable commerce, as well as exchange of information and people.

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Tehran.

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Shiraz.

In urban areas logical place for a caravanserai was as part of bazaar, where commerce could be made, news shared, and people meet. Even when its old purpose has disappeared, many Iranian bazaars still feature a caravanserai.

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Kermanshah.

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Qasvin.

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Kerman.

Bazaars are still very much in use and interesting places for people watch. Abundance and variety of the goods on sale is also interesting. Persian carpets, spices, jewels, hand crafts are the traditional items visitor can satisfy his/her shopping binge. But everything else too, varying from Chinese electronics to Indian clothes to Turkish tools to pretty much anything imaginable.

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Tehran.

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Tehran.

Last photos bellow are from Kashan, one of personal favourites in Iran. Bazaar is large, lively and authentic, with genuinely friendly Iranians both as sellers and customers. City is not as popular tourist destination as Esfahan, Yazd and Shiraz, undeservedly so!

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Kashan bazaar.
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Rooftop of Kashan bazaar.

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Agha Bozorg mosque, Kashan.

Persian Bazaars: Tabriz

This post is part of series documenting travel in Myanmar, Cuba and Iran: Introduction.

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September 2015 & January 2016

Standing in Tabriz bazaar feels like being in the halls of large cathedral. And at the same, in a maze zigzagging to surprise directions with new corridors and halls. At parts, crowded with people and other, desolated with just few passers by. Instead of taking a map, I prefer to get lost. Watching, wandering until exit on some random point and can relocate myself again.

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Bazaar of Tabriz is the largest in the world today, and dates back to the 13th century. The complex covers 27 hectares with over 5.5 kilometres of covered bazaars. Its still very much in its original form, if there can be an original form for something that lives day by day. Preservation efforts started back in the 1970’s. In 2010 it was inscribed as a world heritage site by UNESCO. Today its a must-see spot for anyone visiting the city.

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Waterpipe’s, or as Iranians call it, ghelyan, are bubbling in choir in a small tea house. Am just having a cup of tea and watching other visitors enjoying their tobacco and talking. Room is on the second floor, with a tiny window down to one of alleys. There daylight pours in from the ventilation holes in the ceiling, and dust raised by the constant traffic is beamed through. All scenes not changed much for generations, and among many other impressions, part of the magic of bazaar.

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All the photos in this post have been taken in Tabriz. Here’s second post about bazaars and caravanserais of Iran, in general.

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History: Esfahan and Yazd

This post is part of series documenting travel in Myanmar, Cuba and Iran: Introduction.

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Lotfollah Mosque, Esfahan

Esfahan

August 2015. Esfahan feels nice relief after crowded hot Tehran. Old bridges over the river Zayandehrud are charming, wish there was any water though. Cool evening winds after exhausting day are blowing over Naghsh-e Jahan Square, great example of Iranian and Islamic architecture. Families are outing, kids playing and adults talking, relaxing.

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Ceiling of Lotfollah Mosque. Mosque was used by the court that had secret access to it from Ali Qapu Palace across the square.

Square was center of imperial capital for public appearances and polo matches. Royal palace and court, important mosques and bazaar also surrounding it. Wikipedia: [city] regained its important position during the Safavid period (1501–1736). The city’s golden age began in 1598 when the Safavid ruler Shah Abbas I (reigned 1588–1629) made it his capital and rebuilt it into one of the largest and most beautiful cities of the 17th century.

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Music room of palace, walls made for acoustics

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Esfahan bazaar

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Persian spices in Esfahan bazaar

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Singing at Khaju Bridge.
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Yazd

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Ancient Yazd, town at edge of Dasht-e Kavir desert. Architecture of Yazd old town is a maze of mud houses and curvy corridors. From its outer appearance, Jame Mosque is perhaps most beautiful mosque I’ve seen. Minarets are higher than ones in Esfahan. One reason is that they were used as beacons in old times. Where landscape didn’t permit this function, minarets didn’t need to be so high.

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Jame Mosque, or Friday Mosque of Yazd. Every Iranian city has its Jame, the main mosque.

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Wind towers, an ancient aircon system, are pronounced feature of Yazd skyline.

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Different door knockers for men and women. From the sound, it was possible to tell who was at the door, and decide who could go open it.

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Day trip to Chak Chak, outside Yazd center. Road winding through arid deserts, surrounded by mountains further away. No traffic, heat is the norm, emitting from ground so its not possible to see outer reach of horizon. Eyes of imagination see caravans slowly progressing these infinite plains. Everybody in car are silent, looking mesmerised into distance.

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Chak Chak, drip drip. Name comes from slowly dripping fountain inside the cave temple, at the edge of mountain. This is Zoroastrian shrine, one of holiest sites of the religion. Its origins are in troublesome times when Islam had started to spread to Persia, 640AD. Zoroastrians not being Muslims had to flee these remote refuges, at the times of persecutions.

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Chak Chak
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Zoroastrian fire temple in Yazd downtown.
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In many ways, Yazd old center reminds me Jaisalmer in Rajastan, other side of deserts that span over the lands of Iran, Pakistan and India. Here’s a link to a trip there few years ago.