To read the first post in the trip report, check out this post from last week – A Visit Into Iran
A Visit Into Iran – Part 2
After I had been picked up at the airport by my guide and driver, we drove to the first hotel of the trip. As a hotel, it was a pretty ordinary building but certainly offered what I needed for the night. Visiting hotels in Iran do put you back a few years as it is not like most places you would stay. For starters, when I checked in, I had to leave my passport with the front desk. In exchange, they gave me an old-fashioned door key to my room.
The room itself was a simple two room unit, what we may consider to be more of a suite (even though it was not described that way). It had a very small kitchenette styled area near the entrance, a couch, table, and TV. After passing through this sitting area, I walked into my bedroom (with the bathroom off to the side).
Internet in Iran was something that was extremely slow. It was so slow that I had problems loading the most ordinary of text webpages. Many websites are censored as well. I had tried to access some news reports but anything that said “Iran” on a news report was blocked from me receiving it. I had to make a phone call to cancel a ticket for a different trip while at this hotel and it was absolutely excruciating to try and carry on a conversation over that internet connection.
Shiraz is the capital city of the Fars province and has over 1.5 million people. The city is just under 1,000km (about 600 miles) from Tehran and is a very nice city that seems more like a smaller town.
Around the City
I had flown into Shiraz and spent two nights there with the first night really more of the first morning. On my first full day in Iran, we spent the day going to various sites around Shiraz before calling it an earlier day and returning to the hotel around the dinner hour. That allowed me to take off and explore some of the immediate area on foot. This was allowed here (not allowed in every city for Americans to go out on their own) and it was really an interesting look to navigate by myself. The city of Shiraz is fairly large and there was a good amount of construction for new buildings and remodeling of current buildings.
One of the first things that hit me on this little excursion by myself was how cheap everything was. I was really wanting to grab some bottles of water so went to a little corner market. The currency in Iran is the Iranian Rial. At the current exchange rate (it was only slightly lower when I was there), it takes 26,500 Rials to equal $1! So, when they give the cost of items, they will many times just leave the last zero of the price. So, when buying a 1.5 liter of water, the cost was 9,300 Rials (or $.35). When quoted the price, it was 930 Rials (and marked so on the sticker). Since I knew the exchange rate, it threw me for just a moment until I realized what they were doing. Just take that into consideration if you visit so that the prices don’t really shock you! 🙂
One of the first places we visited was the tomb of Hafez, a Persian poet from the 14th century. He was a very revered man for his words and they are still very important to this day. His tomb is a place that many Iranian people continue to visit. The tour guide was able to just roll portions of his poems off his tongue as he described this place and what the tomb and man meant to the Persian people.
At this visit to the tomb, it was my first experience with being the extreme minority. Some of the local guys heard us speaking English and came over to ask my tour guide if they could have a picture taken with me. I said sure and they came over all smiles and thanking me (for the photo, they did not smile, but they were really excited!). We had a couple of photos and then another group of guys came over for some more pictures. This happened many times around the country during my visit so there are some photos of me floating around computers in Iran, I guess. 🙂 Excuse the photo above – not that good and definitely not the best of me!
We also visited the Karim Khan palace. It was built during the Zand dynasty (mid to late 1700s) and was the place built for Karim Khan who was chief of the Zand tribe. Shiraz was the capital of Khan and this palace was his beautiful home. They did renovations on it about 40 years ago to bring it back.
For lunch, we hit a local place for the first of several rice meals with chicken. Every meal was really good and really cheap! It was interesting to pull up to locations on the side of the road that I would probably have just driven by but they really served up some great food. The meal above (with a soda) only cost $1.50 (and that was included in my tour price). Not going to beat that!
Next week, we will look at some of the beautiful gardens in the area, the tomb of another famous Persian poet, and the beautiful site of Persepolis. Thanks for reading along! Please feel free to leave any questions you have below or e-mail me. I really enjoyed engaging with so many of you last week about that post. Thanks!