Shiraz > Isfahan
This morning we had the chance to visit a local market in Shiraz. I saw lots of beautiful green grapes, but where were the red grapes from which the famous wine is made? Amir explained that the locals purchase such large volumes of red grapes that they become scarce in the market. From them they make wine since it is not illegal to drink wine at home or to serve it to guests. Here we were in Shiraz, believed to be the home of Shiraz (or Syrah) red wine, and we were unable to taste the wine or even grapes.
Today we visited two historic buildings of the period of the Qajar Dynasty. Both were filled with art treasures. The first site was the spectacular Nasir ul Mulk Mosque, finished in 1888. The whole building was covered with beautifully painted tiles and stained glass, as well as with the obligatory portraits of the Ayatollahs.
The next site was Bagh-e Narenjestan, the “Orange Garden”. Both the garden and the buildings displayed the work of highly skilled artisans. Viewing the elegant tiling and mirror-work led me to deeply appreciate the art and culture of the Qajar Period.
In the afternoon we visited the tomb of Hafez (1315-1389), Iran’s beloved poet, a Sufi who lived in Shiraz his whole life. The love and admiration that Iranian people show to their poets is one of my favorite aspects of their culture.
Getting to Isfahan, our next destination was a six-hour bus trip. During the drive our bus stopped several times so that the driver could show some papers to uniformed authorities. Amir explained that Iranian tour buses are not only monitored at regular intervals along major highways but that they carry GPS transponders so that the authorities can tell where they have gone and how fast they have traveled. While this system keeps buses from traveling at unsafe speeds, it does not apply to truck drivers who often exceed eight-hour shifts and use opium to ease their fatigue.