Jane and I traveled for 14 (17 including the days of flying) days on a Road Scholar adventure called “Pulse of Persia” to Iran. There were trip 25 people on our trip plus our driver, Farod, our Iranian guide, Nadereh, and Sami, a man from Turkey who met us in Istanbul and assisted us throughout the adventure. Baltic Tours, a Turkish company, actually made the tour arrangements because Road Scholar needed a liaison between the U.S. and Iran.
I researched the sites planned for our trip before leaving on this amazing adventure and when we arrived, we were given a 147-page 8.5” X 11” program handbook with detailed information about each of the sites scheduled. I thought I was prepared. My plan was to type a synthesis of each day before going to sleep and not to post anything until I left Iran. But by the end of the first couple of days, I discovered that I was a bit (actually more than a bit) overwhelmed. Consolidating all of the information I had read with the information in the book and what I could understand from the Nadereh’s talks was daunting. I also realized that pamphlets, multiple internet sites, and even books have been written about each place we visited. I was feeling a bit embarrassed about not being able to remember details and keep the people’s names, dates, dynasties straight. I loved being in Iran and seeing the ancient places so I decided to stop stressing over my lack of ability, relax, and enjoy my trip.
Yet, posting my adventure is important to me because it creates my memory book. Therefore, I am going recapture as much of this trip as I can by using photos (both mine and websites photos). I will briefly record some facts and let go of the rest. Because I am leaving on another trip, this may take a long time.
Jane and I left Portland on April 10th at about 1:00 pm and flew to Houston. The flight from Houston was very long but after watching the movie, Solo, which was amazing, I did manage to sleep for about 6 hours of the more than 13-hour long flight. We met most of our group at the airport in Istanbul last night. Our Turkish guide met us there.
We arrived in Shiraz at about 2:30 in the morning. Going through customs was easy. Nadereh met us at the airport and we were driven in our private bus to the Grand Hotel of Shiraz which is high up on a hill. There was an 11 ½ hour time difference between Shiraz and Portland.
After a couple of hours sleep Jane and I went to the hotel restaurant which is in a beautiful room with windows all around showing views of the city. Breakfast this morning was a buffet with a multitude of interesting food choices. I actually had baked lentils as part of my meal.
After breakfast I wondered around the hotel lobby. The elevators at the hotel were a interesting. There was one set of elevators from the 1st floor to the 6th. Then from the 6rh floor up you had to take another elevator to our rooms. There was one single elevator that I will write about later.
Anyway, there was a group of people on the 4th floor preparing to do a broadcast. It turns out that once a week, the broadcast news from this hotel. This is a photo of a man having his makeup done for him.
I stepped outside the hotel with Lance, a man from our group. We only walked around the front entrance.
I enjoyed talking with one of the women who works at the front desk of the hotel. I was trying to practice saying, “How are you?” in Farzi. Her name is Ziba. We exchanged contact information and took photos.
I saw Nadereh in the lobby and spoke to her about being able to connect with a Jewish person Tehran and a few Servas people who are planning to meet with me in hotel lobbies. She took a photo of all of their contact numbers and told me that she has to be the one to make the arrangements for all of these meetings. She even said that Lance and I should not have left the hotel lobby on our own.
At our first orientation, we had a chance to meet the others in this large group. There are 3 of us named Nancy on this trip so I am, of course, going by Curly. After introductions, Sami and Nadereh gave us information including the rule about how we had to stay with the group at all times. They said this is the rule for people from the United States, England, and Canada. I was beginning to understand more about how restrictive this trip was going to be.
It was after noon when we started on our day’s journey in the bus. We passed the Khash River which means dry river because it is almost always dry. Because of the current rainfall in Iran, there was water (although not much) in the bottom of the river. .
Our first stop today was for lunch at Beyn Ol Harameyn Hotel that just recently opened. There was an elaborate buffet. I ate a local soup made with a yogurt base, several of different salads, many olives, and stuffed peppers.
After we finished our lunch. we went outside to a garden where we were served tea …
…and shown a tent that was a typical home for the Qashqai which is an Iranian nomadic tribe. The roof was made of goat skin which is more waterproof than other animals. Apparently goat skin has smell that insects don’t like.
Jane and I took photos in side the tent.
Then we drove to Karim Khan Castle which is a citadel that was built as a part of a complex during the Zand dynasty and is named after Karim Kahan. It served as his living quarters. The shape of the citadel resembles a medieval fortress.
At times, the citadel was used as a prison. Today, it is a museum operated by Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organization. This photo from a website was taken from a distance.
I took a few of my own photos.
As we walked past the trees leading into the interior of the castle, Nadereh pointed out the original signatures on some of the stone pavers.
Gardens and water features are very important to Iranian and found everywhere.
This is the entrance to the castle.
We watched an artist who had trained since he was a child to create beautiful boxes, vases, etc. It was called Khatam art. Some people in our group bought things. It was really tempting to purchase one of his authentic creations but I resisted.
Inside the castle we visited the Arg Bath House. It consists of two parts, a cloakroom and a heating room for the royal family. A short staircase leads to a chamber and in the middle of the chamber there is a round stone pool with a fountain. The royal bath house was renovated by the architects of the Fars cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism organizations.
These are some of the photos I took inside the castle..
As we were exiting the castle Nadereh pointed out the pillars which depict various tress and plants from the area. This one is of a lotus plant.
After a bus ride through the city we arrived at the Narenjestan or Qavam Garden. By the time we arrived it had started raining. Some of the people stayed in the bus. The Garden dates back to Qajar era. It is called Narenjestan because of the abundance of sour orange trees. The building at the end of the garden has been a place where ordinary people went for administrative purposes and public meetings. Qajar dignitaries and nobles also held meetings there. A stone pool in addition to date and sour orange trees are along the walkway to the building.
Construction of the building was started by Ali Mohammad Khan Qavam-ol-Molk in 1257-1267 and was completed by Mirza Mohammad Reza Khan, grandson of the first Qavam-ol-Molk and grandfather of Qavam in about 1300 AH. The building had been rehabilitated once by Ebrahim Khan Qavam-ol-Molk who dedicated this beautiful building to University of Shiraz in 1966. It is now Narenjestan Museum which is affiliated to Faculty of Architecture of the same university.
The building is decorated with mirrors, paintings, tile-work, plaster work, and inlay. It is an architectural feat of Qajar period.
I took photos of both the inside the building and the garden we passed on our way to the building.
Outside the building you can see bas-reliefs of Achaemenid soldiers, lions, tombs, and pictures of fighting mythological creatures which have been inspired by carvings at Persepolis.
When we returned to the hotel, Jane and I went to the spa for a soak in the hot tub before dinner. Dinner was excellent. In addition to the soups and salads, Nadereh ordered many main courses and we ate them in a family style dinner.
We were still very jet lagged and sleeping was not easy. I must have woken up at least 4 times in the night and couldn’t get back to sleep after 4:00 am.