The Gems of Persia

Trip Start Dec 12, 2010
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Trip End Dec 16, 2012


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Friday, April 19, 2013

Germany has its fairy tale castles, Turkey has its Roman fortresses. Switzerland has its Alps, and Russia has its Kremlins. Australia has its beaches and East Africa has its animals. But what about Iran, what does Iran have that lures tourists from afar? Well, quite simply, Iran (formely known as Persia) has its own gems.


Looking back at the highlights of Iran, you can simply start with gems, literally gems. Housed in the museum of Jewels in Tehran, there is an amazing collection of precious gems. We were lucky enough to get a glimpse of the collection, which features elaborate crowns worn by kings of the past dynasties, jewels worn by queens, and the amazing globe made from gold and thousands of precious stones.


But in Tehran we didn't just see the sparkle of the Museum of Jewels, but also the sparkle of Golestan palace. Inside this humble palace is rooms decked out with mirrored tiles. Tens of thousands of mirrored tiles give the illusion of extreme sparkle. This palace was elaborate like many other palaces we had seen around the world, but man did it sparkle. Mirror tiles in palaces and shrines throughout Iran seemed to be a theme in the 'Gems of Persia’.


Taking to the former capital of Shiraz, we were treated with more gems of Persia. The beautiful colourful tiles of the many shrines, tombs and mosques of Shiraz weren’t hard to find. And yes, mirror tiles were featured inside the Shrine to Ali. But the main gem that thousands of tourists flock to Shiraz for was a little drive away. Forget the sparkling mirror tiles, or the pastel brilliance of the tiled shrines and mosques, this gem was dusty, but oh so wonderful. The amazingly preserved reliefs of the ancient Achaemenid city of Persepolis was one of the real gems of Persia that we loved. These reliefs told stories from the past, in a land of caravans and kings. The artistic brilliance was easily identified throughout the ruined city as there was so much to see, but so little time. What an awesome ‘Gem of Persia’.


UNESCO claims the desert city of Yazd as a World Heritage Site, and yes this was a real gem of Persia for us. A holy city with colourful minarets of mosques, enchanting dusty mud brick alleyways, and mysterious Zoroastrian sites. We had a blast here. Yazd probably was our favourite city in Iran.


Before coming to Iran, many people who had been here had told us that their favourite place in Iran was Esfahan. With big expectations, we arrived at this popular city, and headed straight to Imam Square. Being the second largest square in the world, behind Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Imam Square was a gem in itself. Full of life, the bazaars on the edges of the square brought tourists and locals alike to indulge in good old Persian shopping. If they weren’t there for shopping, the Royal Mosque, Jam-e Mosque, and Ali Qapu Palace would definitely keep them occupied. These gems within a gem of a square, were decorated with beautiful mosaics and colourful tiles that we had come to expect from Persian architecture. But overall, Esfahan’s Imam Square was a gem. Not only because of the square, or the religious and royal buildings, but because of the local life in and around the square. We enjoyed just hanging out around the fountains, just like the locals, enjoying the scenery of the square and its buildings while the sun went down. And chatting to the locals was just a bonus.


Esfahan wasn’t just about Imam Square. Yes this was a true Persian gem, but step outside of the square, and more and more gems can be found. Stroll down to the river and you will find another local hang out at the three bridges. 33 bridge, Wooden bridge, and Kaju bridge are beautiful bridges with many arches, and thousands of locals who congregate around these bridges to have family time, smoke qalyan, and just chill out the best way Persians know how. And once you’re done at the bridges, head to the Old Jam-e mosque and the Armenian Cathedral to complete your Persian gems search in Esfahan. The Old Jam-e mosque was a beauty. A massive mosque dating back to the ninth century BC, its interior is without the colourful tiles, simply plain mud tiles, but truly beautiful. Then you step out into the courtyard and you are able to get your fix of bright, colourful tiles, and grand minarets. Then change religions and head to the Armenian Cathedral. With the mix of Persian and Armenian architecture, you will be blown away by this surprising Persian gem in Esfahan.


Leaving Yazd and Esfahan behind, we thought we had been spoilt enough with Persian gems. Think again. As we arriving in the serene village of Abyane, we were treated with ochre coloured mud brick buildings, and a back drop of rugged mountains. A quiet village, Abyane is home to an aging population. Old ladies wearing traditional clothing of long veils line the streets hoping to sell a book about this Persian gem. It is a different world in Abyane, so quiet, so serene, so beautiful, such a gem.


Leaving Iran from the North Eastern city of Mashhad, we were in for a treat. A visit to the Imam Rezi Haram complex, we didn’t think that this last place of interest was going to be yet another Persian gem. Covering nearly 600,000 square metres, Muslims flock to this complex as pilgrims. As we entered the complex we were overwhelmed by the massive gold minarets, and immaculate mosque like building covered in beautifully coloured tiles. Then stepping inside these buildings, our eyes were lit up by the elaborate mirror tiles and intricate detailing of the rooms where people are praying to Allah. Imam Rezi Haram complex continues to grow every year, and is truly one of the most amazing gems in Persia.


We are yet to visit Italy, France, Switzerland, and the majority of Germany, yet we know of their gems. Before we came to Iran, we were unable to name its gems, but now we can rattle off a dozen. Iran is truly a gem in itself, a mysterious country full of history, culture, and oh so many gems. All in all, we were spoilt by the ‘Gems of Persia’.

  
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