A Travellerspoint blog

Iran

Yazd, Iran

Yazd is a city of about 500,000 located in the desert at the geographic centre of Iran.

Yazd is a centre of Zoroastrianism in Iran. Zoroastrianism is an ancient religion that predates the Islamic conquest of Iran in the 7th century. Yazd today has a relatively high number of Zoroastrians. Our day started with a visit to an ancient Zoroastrian Tower of Silence on the outskirts of Yazd. Traditionally, the Zoroastrians disposed of their dead in these mountaintop Tower of Silence. The body was cleaned, and turned over to priests. The priests transported the body to the top of the Temple of Silence, where it was left in the open. Vultures would remove all of the flesh from the body. After that, the remains would be retrieved by the priests for burial.

We then visited a Zoroastrian Fire Temple. A fire temple is a place of worship for Zoroastrians, at which priests maintain a perpetual fire, a key element of the Zoroastrian religion.

Our travel group has a passion for coffee and, despite the fact that it is Ramadan and most places serving food and beverages are closed during the day, we were able to find a place serving cappuccinos.

We visited the Jameh Mosque in the heart of Yazd, and the main square and some shopping streets radiating from that.

In the evening, we visited a zurkaneh for a performance of varzeshe baastani. “Varzeshe baastani” translates as “ancient sport”, and is a form of ritual exercise performed by men to the beat of a drum and the sounds of a singer. The event is performed in a domed structure called a zurkaneh. The athletes perform a standard pattern of exercises, kind of an ancient form of aerobics.

Later that evening, our guide took us to a very modern restaurant, where we enjoyed some fabulous Iranian dishes. Due to serious declines in the value of Iranian currency, as a result of American sanctions, we find that the cost of food is very low for foreigners.

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A view of the Tower of Silence
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This is the area where the priests laid the bodies. The hole is where the bones were later put.
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Jim with his back to another Tower of Silence
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Zoroastrian Fire Temple
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Jameh Mosque
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varzeshe baastani
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Yazd main square at night
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Lamb Shank
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Rice with lentils

Posted by Jimpat 05:18 Comments (0)

Iran

Leaving Tehran


View UK to the Middle East on Jimpat's travel map.

We had a morning tour of Tehran today. Tehran is a large city of over 15 million, nestled at the foot of some snow-capped mountains. It is incredibly busy.
Our guide took us first to the Golestan Palace. This palace was built in its present form in 1865, as a home for the Qajar dynasty. It is a remarkable place of opulent luxury. Many of the rooms consist of elaborate mirrored walls and ceilings, making them absolutely dazzling. The gardens are beautiful.
Ou next stop was the National Museum of Iran. This museum exhibits archeological finds prior to 700 a.d. We saw some spectacular artifacts from the Persian Empire city of Persepolis, including a large wall relief showing Darius the Great. The detail is stunning. There was also a statue of Darius, and a number of other artifacts found in Persepolis, despite the fact that that city was destroyed by Alexander the Great in 300 B.C.
We went for lunch in an interesting underground restaurant. Then our final stop in Tehran was the Jewellery Museum, which houses the Iranian Crown Jewels. Security at the museum was extremely tight, and for good reason. The scope of the collection was staggering - we have never seen such a collection of valuable jewelry.
Our guide then took us to the Tehran train station where we boarded our relatively modern train for the trip to Yazd. The trip took about 6 hours, and traveled chiefly through dry desert lands. Finally, about 10:00 pm, we arrived at our hotel in Yazd.

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Inside Golestan Palace
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Inside Golestan Palace
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Inside Golestan Palace
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Outside Golestan Palace
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Beautiful tiles outside the palace
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Handsome man outside the palace
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Love the tile work!
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Artifact from Persepolis at the National Museum
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Artifact from Persepolis at the National Museum
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Artifact from Persepolis at the National Museum

Posted by Jimpat 04:35 Comments (0)

Iran

Off to Iran


View UK to the Middle East on Jimpat's travel map.

We got up early and caught the shuttle bus back to the new Istanbul airport. The new airport is far outside of Istanbul, at least an hour’s drive. The new airport is very nice, large, bright, and modern.
Our flight to Tehran was under 3 hours. On arrival at the Tehran airport, we breezed through Immigration. We found a money exchange place, and cashed in 150 euros. Then we got a taxi to our hotel.
En route to the hotel, we compared the amount of Iranian currency that we had received from the exchange place with our fireign exchange app. We came to the conclusion that the woman had given us 3 times too much Iranian money. For 150 euros, we received almost 15,000,000 rials, while we expected to receive only about 500,000 rials. We received nearly 2” of bills! We learned later that the Iranian currency has suffered steep drops in value lately (apparently due to economic sanctions imposed on it).
Our hotel was nice, and we had only 2 hours to wait until the first meeting of our tour group. The group was made up of us 2 Canadians, 3 Yanks, 5 Australians, 2 English, and 1 German. The average age is probably about mid-50s.
Our guide suggested a restaurant, but somehow our group passed it by, and wandered about looking for a restaurant. We finally found a cafe and had an interesting dinner, before heading back to our hotel for the night.

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Istanbul airport

Posted by Jimpat 17:00 Comments (0)

Turkey

Last Day in Turkey

This morning we jumped on the tram and headed to the Karakoy area of Istanbul. One of our friends from the Uzbekistan tour told us about a good baclava place, so we went there and picked some up. Then we went to a little cafe for a cappuccino.
We walked up the hill to the Galata Tower, and strolled the streets in the Taksim area. The Galata Tower was built in 1348 by the Genoese, and is a prominent landmark in this part of Istanbul.
We jumped back on the tram and rode it to the western part of Istanbul.
On the walk back to our apartment we heard the call to prayer. We passed by several areas in which men had soread cardboard on the streets and prayed in ranks of hundreds of men. We assume that the fact that this was happening in the streets has something to do with the fact that this was Friday, and Ramadan.
We spent the balance of the afternoon catching up on emails and internet, and preparing for the next stage of our trip.
In the evening we returned to the same restaurant that we found on our first night, as the food was so good.

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Enjoying Baclava with our morning cappuccino
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Galata Tower
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Side street in Istanbul
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The beautiful Blue Mosque

Posted by Jimpat 11:51 Comments (0)

Turkey

Sunny Day in Istanbul

This is our second visit to Istanbul, so we are quite comfortable here. We wandered up to the Grand Bizarre, and weaved through its labyrinthine corridors. Then we jumped on the tram and made our way to the harbour area. We visited the Spice Market, which seems to be much more sanitized since we last visited 10 years ago. To our disappointment, it now houses relatively few spices, and lots of tourist stuff.
We wandered through the old streets, and eventually found ourselves back near SultanAhmet. We had a nice cappuccino, and then went to visit the Basilica Cistern, one of our favourites sites here. It is still lovely, but now much busier than on our last visit, and lacking any water!
We stopped at a little restaurant for a lunch of Turkish mezes. Then we stopped at a traditional little cafe where we had tea and Turkish coffee, and enjoyed a game of backgammon.
Then we visited Hagia Sophia, one of our favourite buildings anywhere. Built in around 500 a.d., it was originally a cathedral. Later it became a mosque, and finally it was converted to the museum it is now. It must have been a stunning building at the time it was built, and it is still something to behold.
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Grand Bazaar
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Beautiful Turkish light
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Yummy Turkish treats
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Spice Market
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Spices
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Basílica Cistern
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Coffee, tea and backgammon
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Hagia Sophia
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Hagia Sophia
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Hagia Sophia
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Hagia Sophia
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Hagia Sophia
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Hagia Sophia
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Hagia Sophia
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Hagia Sophia

Posted by Jimpat 11:40 Comments (0)

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