Shiraz

After our change of plans yesterday, we had the whole day here in Shiraz. As in most of the cities we have visited, with the exception of Tehran, mountains form the backdrop of Shiraz. There actually are mountains quite near Tehran, but the smog is so bad that they are barely visible. Here, right out of my hotel room window, I see the edge of the city with barren hills rising up in receding layers of shades of brown.

Shiraz is a big city compared to Yazd, it has about 1 million people. There is the very old center, and the rest. We are mostly interested in the center. Our day began in aGarden Palace in Shiraz garden.I’m starting to think that a garden, with water, trees and flowers may be the true symbol of this country. The actual garden, or the yearning for a garden as expressed in so much of Persian poetry ,seems to represent the connection with nature and the recognition of the importance of nature in man’s soul. The planning of gardens represents also a commitment to the future, since much of what a gardener does is not for immediate enjoyment. There is a house in the garden we saw this morning, covered with tile murals of images from mythology (persian) and of flowers. Shiraz is known for floral imagery in carpets as well as tilework.

Denise, the lecturer on this trip, asked me if I wanted to make a wish. I said yes, of course, and she led me to a very tall cypress tree. We each touched it, and she said that the last time she was here she had wished to return, and here she is! I’ll wait and see if my wish comes true, and no, I won’t tell what it is!

Our next stop was a walk through the “nomad’s bazaar”, a smaller area than the mainShiraz Bazaar bazaar and catering to the shopping needs of the nomadic tribes in the area. We saw a few nomadic women and children. The difference seems to be that they really like gaudy fabrics. Gold stuff, bright colors, netting all seem to please the nomadic crowd. I got some really good pics of people and the stuff too.Banana vendor in Shiraz bazaar

Then we walked to the “Friday mosque”, or congregational mosque where on Fridays, the holy day of Islam, an important preacher gives a sermon. They are in every city, along with many other mosques, and are usually the most elaborate.

This one was in several parts. At first, we saw an area mostly from the 19th Cent. with tilework full of pink peonies and roses, and with little lozenge shaped paintings of what look like English cottages and churches. Not my favorite style.

From there we walked further into the complex and saw a large open square with arches all around, a huge egg shaped dome and several minarets, and on another side, another large dome with a different pattern of ornamentation. We were on ly allowed to stand in one corner to take photos, since we are not muslim and we were stared at quite a lot!

In another courtyard was a 13th century structure, square, with lovely white marble columns all around. It’s original purpose is unclear but it is simple and clean and lovely.Shiraz,Friday mosque

Finally, we got to the main bazaar. Wow, what a place. The buildings are varied, some wooden roofs, some high brick domes with skylights. At one end is an old caravanserai with shops all round on the ground floor , and a pool and trees in the center providing shade and a cool feeling despite the heat of the sun.Main Bazaar ShirazCaravanseri courtyard,Shiraz Bazaar

I asked our local guide, Ameen, a young man of 22 studying economics at the university, where I could buy some old silver jewelry. He took me to a friend’s stall, where I bought a couple of small inlaid boxes, and then he took us to another shop, out in the courtyard. There I found two really old, really dusty silver ( I hope) chains with amulets hanging from them. I also bought a really odd, small thing. It is horseshoe shaped, copper and maybe zinc, with a pattern of tiny holes hammered into it. I’ts only about 1 1/2″s across. The storekeeper said it was pre-Islamic. I showed it to Denise, but she said it was unfamiliar to her. Whatever it is,it is lovely and I’ll enjoy having it. The shopkeeper was a charming man, wearing a grey fez style hat and several necklaces of different stones. He spoke excellent english. In the shop at the same time was a young iranian-american woman. She said that he was quoting her the same prices as he was giving me, and that she thinks he is honest. That helped me to go ahead and buy a few things from him. I enjoyed the experience and felt satisfied.

Our lunch was one of the best meals we have enjoyed. It was in a Sufi-style restaurant. I’m still not sure what that means, but the food was good. Especially fun was the bread baker you walked past as you entered the place. He was rolling out small rounds of dough and baking them in a wood burning oven. The bread was fantastic, and we all ate too much. It was flat and crisp and sometimes charred. Yum! I had a special dish of layers of rice with chicken in between. The rice was cooked with lots of butter, and browned on both top and bottom forming a crispy crust. It was good, but rich and heavy. I didn’t finish even half, unusual for me!

After lunch we went to a small museum in a garden. It was hot inside, and I thought I’d go and sit in the garden for a few minutes, perhaps draw a bit. No such luck. I was mobbed by 10 yr old girls saying hello, over and over and over! I felt trapped on the bench by 20+ girls all yelling at once! I had to say goodbye! I left shortly after that with another woman from the group in a taxi and spent a quiet couple of hours in the cool.

Tomorrow, we are leaving at 7:30 to get to Persepolis before it is too hot, and so that we can arrive in Esfahan at a reasonable hour. I hope to get a good nights sleep.

I see that Obama is pushing on, that’s good. Politics seems far away most of the time, except on the bus. This hotel has no english language channels, very surprising. In a way I prefer it, it keeps me more “in country”.

Karen

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Published in: on April 27, 2008 at 3:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

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