Esfahan, Iran: City of Mosques & Fountains

Trip Start Jul 28, 2013
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Trip End Feb 06, 2014


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Flag of Iran  , Isfahan,
Sunday, October 13, 2013

With people to see and places to go we were up relatively early to hightail it to the Turkmenistan Embassy in order to submit our VISA's. Arrived to quite a number of people already waiting there, sat around for half an hr or so before the little window opened and everyone rushed forward. No polite English queuing here. Upon handing over the application form, handwritten letter, copy passport and photo Sam was given a curt nod and told that yes we could pick up the VISA in Mashhad in a few days time so let's hope that is indeed the case.

Back in a taxi to the hotel then onto the bus station (everything is so spread out, about 40 min drive each way) we found a bus going to Esfahan no problem. A VVIP so I guess that means VERY very important person - especially as we managed to obtain seats one and two. Special indeed. Super comfy bus with two seats, aisle, then one seat. Full recline and pop up foot rest. Plush, and all for about 6 bucks. Not bad for a 6 hr journey.

Arrived in Esfahan at 8pm and made tracks straight to the "Iran Hotel" located smack bang in the middle of a busy street opposite a rifle shop. If only there were a shooting range near by to pop some caps.

The moment we arrived in Esfahan we knew we were going to like it, definitely a lot more than we did Tehran, and sure enough it hasn't failed to impress. Our hotel is located just off one of the tree line boulevards lined with shops and restaurants which is busy but not suffocating. As with the other cities there is a bazaar full of scarfs, shoes, spices, clothes, carpets etc etc. It's not quite as enchanting as Tabriz but much calmer and more pleasant to stroll through than Tehran.

One thing we have marvelled at are the clothes and evil looking mannequins - full on Chucky lookalikes displaying children's clothes and 'Rylan'esque (super gay UK X-Factor contestant for those not sad enough to be in the know) models for the men and even fattequins to display clothes for the more voluptuous figure. The women mannequins are slightly more normal but I fail to see how any of the dresses could ever be worn by one of the black cloth clad ladies admiring the same when the dresses look as if they've come straight from an episode of Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. Maybe they're allowed to have their legs, shoulders and boobs on display when at a party, I don't know, but I doubt it. Same goes for the vest tops and skirts on sale - who buys them? Where do they wear them? I feel partially naked walking around with my ankles on show. As for the men, well despite Sam denying it, I know he's been itching to buy a shiny suit in one of the varying shades of brown.

The most beautiful part of the city by far is the Naqsh-e Jahan Imam Square which is apparently the second largest square in the world, being second to Tiananmen Square. In the middle is a beautiful pool of fountains, at one end a mosque and on either side a female mosque and palace. The outside of the square is lined with arches within which sit shops and behind is an internal corridor lined with more shops and artisian galleries selling printed fabrics, carpets, silverware and camel bone miniatures.

Something which is incredibly nice (but also slightly annoying the more it happens) is the amount people who come up and randomly speak to you. When in the square it's to entice you to come back to their shop, when it's in the street it's to practice their English or inevitably discuss religion. Urrrgh seriously. Thank god most conversation is directed to Sam so I only hear snippets. This morning my ears cottoned on when I heard dinosaurs. After the guy had left I ask him what that was about to which Sam replied "He asked me what I believe in. I said dinosaurs". Fair play I thought.

One of the more interesting people we came across was a carpet seller who took us through some backstreets, up some stairs and onto a roof overlooking the square. Wow, great view..... until three police officers came up telling us off. Thankfully our carpet man set them straight and we were able to go back down without further ado. For all his efforts he did convince me to buy two printed fabrics so both parties walked away happy.

Having seen next to no tourists in Tabriz and limited numbers in Tehran it certainly came as a surprise when the people we sat next to at dinner on our first night were an Australian lady and a Kiwi. Both of whom seemed pushing 70. Good effort. Once in the square it was tourist city - Japanese clicking away snap happy on their cameras, groups of Germans, couples with guides, a few soloists. With all the locals keen to practice their English it at least gave them choice and meant you weren't hassled too much. I've been told countless times I look Iranian and the few times I've been spoken to in Farsi has been met with slight shock when they hear my English response. After they find out I'm Australian they like to break out the "G'day mate" which we then hear randomly as we roam.

TRAVEL INFO:

Bus: Tehran to Esfahan dep 13:00 arr 20:00. IRR 190,000 : US$6
Hotel: Iran Hotel. IRR 750,000 : US$25
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