The 1st sentence that came from the locals was “Welcome to Iran”. Was approached every single day. Couldn’t count the number of times people have offered me all kinds of assistance in Iran – and never, do they expect anything in return, – never. The locals took so many selfies with me and it made them so truly happy to meet me. It is really the locals that are my No.1 I miss so much from Iran, and the added bonus in meeting them is such amazing surroundings – both ancient and contemporary plus indulged in eating one of the most colorful and fragrant cuisines in the world.
I came to Iran via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines in November 2016. Flew into Isfahan Shahid Beheshti International Airport just before dawn. I stayed in Abbasi Hotel, the oldest hotel in the world, that is definitely an absolute gem of Safavid architecture, lavish in luxury and opulence. Felt so pampered during my visit to Isfahan, surrounded by converted traditional caravansary, 300 years old terraces and immersed in the beauty of the most beautiful hotel courtyard in the whole world. My favorite spot in the town was Naqsh-e Jahan Square, built in the 16th century, which is UNESCO’s World Heritage Site and spreads on 89,600 square meters. The square is surrounded by buildings from the Safavid era. Loved the Shah Mosque, situated on the south side of the square and on the west side – the Ali Qapu Palace. Beautiful Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque is situated on the eastern side of the square and at the northern side, the Keisaria gate opens into the Isfahan Grand Bazaar. The square is magnificent, humongous and I could not resist visiting it every day just to observe the local people. Iranians are hardcore picnickers and know how to enjoy the gorgeous scenery. Although it was a bit on the cold side, I could still see tea, Tupperware full of food, cakes, sweets, all laid out on Persian rug, and always accompanied by an invitation to join the feast.
I lost track of time in the old City of Yazd. Mud-brick walls rose high above me on either side. Soaring above the old city, Masjed-e Jameh mosque, with its exquisite mosaic tile work, just fascinated me. This mosque, built in the 12th century, with its high altitude and blue tiles served as a beacon for people inside the desert to find their way home. The Amir Chakhmaq complex, where I had the best Jigar for lunch just around the corner, such divine grilled lamb liver, droolingly good BBQ smoke was pulling me closer and closer. It was tender, moist, and perfectly medium-rare. I loved the fountain basin filled with red water, in front of the complex, to commemorate Ashura, day of sorrow, and mourning for the murder of Hussein Ibn Abi Talib, the grandson of Muhammad, martyred in the Battle of Karbala.
The exterior of the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz hides the colorful splendor held within. When you step inside early in the morning the mosque truly becomes a vivid and glorious Sun kaleidoscope. And most days are sunny. I loved Orsi Windows, which created the colorful spiritual feeling of awe as soon as I entered the mosque. I came early in the morning but there was no Sun on the Sky for the day. There were no Sun Beams penetrating throughout the rainbow of windows delight, creating the playful colorful lights on the explosively beautiful pillars, plush warm carpets, and me. But I did feel and visualize soft Light coming down. I read this is mentioned in the Quran: ″Allah is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth″. Coming to this mosque is not only about taking a perfect photo, but one can totally admire the architecture and utter peacefulness. Definitely speechless. Some places just stay in your memories forever due to their perfection.
Gate of All Nations. Gate of Xerxes. PERSEPOLIS.
I cried. A lot. Happy tears. But felt peaceful. This place was utterly glorious. Morning haze was setting in. I could not believe I was standing on the ground of Persepolis itself. It was my dream to come here for sooo long. And I was here, standing firm on the ground. My mind could not comprehend the size of it. Seeing other people’s photos is something totally forgettable, but being here and having your own moment in time is something inexplicably monumental. I spent hours just absorbing each stone to my memory. It is believed that Alexander the Great burned the whole of Persepolis as revenge for the burning of the Acropolis by the Persian King Xerxes the Great. He is said to have regretted his actions the very next morning and for the rest of his short life. The traces of fire are still visible in some places.
Iran is a humongous country, so many beautiful places stayed unvisited. Will definitely have to come back again, as Iran is one of the countries you fall in love with at the 1st sight and keep coming back to over and over again. And I tend to do that quite often. Just Love Iran. For more photos, you can visit my Instagram.