Ah, the Persian side of Iran. Surrounded by mountains yet to be snow-covered – the ski season is round the corner – Shiraz shows Persia in a different light to what we’ve seen so far.
Where Tehran is busy, dirty and unattractive, Shiraz is green, traditional and filled with delights.
Once the city of gardens, poets and wine, Shiraz forfeited its fame for Shiraz wine to the French when the post-Revolution Government introduced a prohibition of alcohol to the whole of Iran.
Arriving early this morning, the sun already high and bright in the sky, it was clear that this is the more beautiful sibling of Iran’s cities. Green, lush and filled with Persian buildings, the skyline is dotted with egg-shaped domes and the streets bustle with more life and excitement than we’ve seen so far. The taxi journey from the airport showed no let up from the crazy driving we’d experienced in Tehran, and as we arrived at the opening to the old town’s narrow, pink alleys, the driver showed no signs of slowing for the sake of his wing-mirrors. Thankfully, the winding alleys quickly led us to our home for two nights.
Niayesh Boutique Hotel, restored by Reza and his wife, is beautiful, serene, and has history thrown in. After a stint of serving bread througha hole in the wall as a bakery in World War Two, it became a publishing house for a couple of decades. But it’s the time after this era of humble existence when I would most like to have been a fly on the wall; during the 70s, this attractive traditional building became a hide-out for Revolutionaries, and we can only imagine the conversations, plans and plots that went on inside. Its potted history makes for interesting story-telling, especially during the atmospheric evenings in the central courtyard, open to the star-filled sky above. The rooftop offers spectacular views across the city to the mountains, and I spent our first dusk here snapping photos of Shiraz’s complex mosaics of rooftops in the fading light.
Seventy-five kilometres long, this enchanting city stretches along a gully of the Zagros Mountains, galloping as far as it can into the distance, but for now I’m content with chasing down my jetlag, sampling the steaming lamb stew, and puffing on a hookah with my new friends. After all, this is the ideal setting for swapping stories of home, photos of family and tales of travels past.