My Favourite City In Iran, Esfahan

After our visit to the majestic Persepolis yesterday, we headed to Esfahan today.

I didn’t expect much again as I am not a city person but when I got there, I was impressed and it became my favourite city in Iran.

When you don’t have any expectations, you get surprises.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Naqsh-e Jahan Square

The mosque was huge and magnificent. The local people, like the families, painters, students, lovers… loved to come to this Square too. We saw so many of them. As tourists, everything was exotic to us including the local people. Likewise, we were ‘exotic’ to them. 😀  In the end, they also asked us to take photos with them.

A little kid was playing at the fountain.
His family saw me taking a photo of him, so they said something to him and then he looked up and smiled at my camera. After I took this photo, I turned and smiled to his family.
One of the ladies from the same family was holding a baby so I asked for her permission to take this photo. Just as I was holding up my camera, the little boy who was playing at the fountain came and kissed this baby. That was so sweet but I missed that! (oops, the baby was out of focus)

After interacting with the local families, we followed our tour guide. Poor that tour guide, he had to find all his lost sheep (i.e. us) all the time. I wouldn’t want to be one. 😀

Entrance of the mosque.  Amazingly beautiful!

We then walked to the Music Room of Aali Ghapoo Palace. Aali Ghapoo building was built simultaneously with other buildings in this square. The name, Aali Ghapoo, means ‘an excellent gate to the complex of palaces’. It took about 70 years to complete this building.

Entrance of the Music Room
Entrance of the Music Room
A shy little girl that we saw outside the Music Room. She was very cute and she was wearing a very pretty outfit. I knelt down and smiled to her. I couldn’t help myself from touching her sleeve hem because her outfit looked so nice on her (I wanted to buy similar clothes in the bazaar but couldn’t find it). She smiled back, shyly. Just like any other kids, she then hid herself behind her father. Her father held her up, smiled and then said something to her. I guessed it was, ‘don’t be shy’. And then I took this photo. (It was blurred again… 😦 )
The ceiling of the music room. As suggested by its name, music performances were held in this room in the past.
It looked like some wall paper. The local tour guide explained that the shapes helped to create the echo.
This was another reason why I liked Esfahan!!  🙂

This was a very famous restaurant in Esfahan. One had to reserve a table weeks before so as to secure one. The name of the restaurant was ‘Shahrzad Restaurant’. It opened from 11:30a.m. to 10:30p.m.

We had salad or yoghurt, rice cake (the rice was sweet!), chicken kebab, lamb kebab, fish kebab… The whole dining table was full of kebabs!

Amazingly delicious!

We had tea and honey to end our meal with. The honey was so sweet and yummy!  I decided to buy some as souvenirs.
Some Farsi written on a piece of honey. I LOVE this photo. It was in my first solo photo exhibition and was purchased by a collector. My travel mate held the honey for a long time. She even asked, ‘have you finished? I am tired.’ 

For the local people, having Farsi written on a piece of honey or on a spoon may be very common but for a tourist like me, it was very exotic. Doesn’t it sound like our lives?  When you see something or someone every day, you just take them for granted. But once that something or someone is gone, you regret that you haven’t treasured it enough when it was with you.  

Treasure every moment and everything you have, otherwise, it will be too late.

We headed to a carpet shop after lunch. I was once asked, ‘do they use children to make the carpets? Do they have child labour?’ Child labour probably still exists in many countries but here, this old man definitely was not a child. Actually, one has to have a wealth of experience in carpet making to create this kind of art.
This is what I am talking about – art.
This is the one that I liked. I ‘bought’ it and it is now located in my C:\ drive. 😛  This one cost USD1,000+ and another one that I liked cost more than USD2,000. That’s why they are all in my computer now.
Although I couldn’t afford a silk or woollen carpet (with n number of stitches), I could afford this kind of art. I chose one that was more feminine with a frame similar to this one in this miniature shop.
We were taken to this historic Abbasi Hotel. The hotel didn’t look like it was over 400 years old at all. Originally, it had a different purpose but it was restored and transformed into a 5-star hotel. It was now owned by Iran Insurance Company. Insurance in Iran was very common. People mainly purchased general insurance, like motor insurance.

It was praying time for the pilgrims in the afternoon so our visit in the mosque was interrupted. Because none of us were Muslims, we headed to have our delicious lunch and came back to the mosque in the evening to have a more detailed look inside. Other than that, there was a bazaar in the Square too. So, our evening activity, apparently, was shopping.

The mosque in the evening
It looked a bit different with the evening sun.
Inside the beautiful mosque
The clever architect manipulated the sunlight to create this breathtaking effect inside the mosque.
The first time for me to see graffiti like this in Iran. In fact, I didn’t see a lot of graffiti in Iran against the US or any other countries. Instead, I saw a lot of portraits and paintings of Iranian political leaders and martyrs on the buildings.

Actually, the Iranians would like to import US goods. Unfortunately, the US government imposed sanctions on them so they imported goods from Europe instead. Speaking of this, the vendors in the markets and bazaars accepted USD and EURO other than Rial back in those days. Not sure about now though.

Demonstration of hand printed table cloths. We went into the bazaar to buy souvenirs. There were just too many things that I wanted to buy – food, pistachios, honey, candies, carpets, Iranian clothes, vases, hand printed table cloths, etc. One of my travel mates and I visited this shop. This guy demonstrated how he used the mould (he made his own moulds) to print a table cloth. You can see some of the finished products on the right in the photo. He later gave me that piece of paper as a souvenir. We bought the table cloths at a good price but it is so large and so pretty that I use it for another purpose – I cover my bed with it.
Night life in Iran.  ‘Si-o-Se Pol’ or ‘Allah Verdi Khan Bridge’ or ’33 Pol’ because there are 33 arches. It was built in the 16th century.  But this was not the main point. Under this bridge was a tea house and that was where we found the night life. 
Men chit-chatting and smoking shisha

These places were strictly for male only (female tourists were allowed in but not the local girls). Men drank tea and smoked shisha just like those ones we saw at Hafiz’s resting place.  I tried the shisha with peach flavour. The taste of peach flowed inside my mouth and then out of my mouth as I exhaled. Well, I choked, of course.

Was it hygienic? Yes, we were each given a plastic ‘mouthpiece’ or ‘straw’. We fixed it to the long plastic pipe and smoked with it.  At the bottom of the pipe stand was water and at the top, was a mixture of charcoal and tobacco. When we inhaled, we could see bubbles in the water and at the same time the charcoal on top turned red. It was quite interesting to watch.

Back in 2006, shisha wasn’t as popular as now around the world. It was a new and exotic experience for all of us.

We’d continue to tour around Esfahan tomorrow.

4 September 2006

P.S. We are all humans. Wherever we are from, we all lead a similar way of life – we study, work, eat, go shopping, hang out with our friends and families, etc. It’s just that we speak a different language, we have different cultures (not entirely different) and we look different. That’s all.

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