7th November 2010 – 201 miles
We spent most of today at Esfahan, which according to Lonely Planet, and we concur, is “Iran’s masterpiece, the jewel of ancient Persia and one of the finest cities in the Islamic world“.
Here we spent time getting lost in the bazaar, sampled traditional Esfahani cuisine and drank tea and chatted with the locals in marvellous teahouses.
Esfahan is the hub of Persian culture and most sights are found in and around Imam Square, the second largest square on earth after Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Here spectacular mosques and palaces can be found.
We were assisted by our guide, Mohamed, who we stumbled across when asking for directions. He took us to places that tourists would not normally see including a spice mill, textile dye factory and carpet repair workshop.
Mohamed is a chemical engineer by trade but previously a german-speaking tour guide. Since 9/11 and more recent political tensions, tourism in Iran has dwindled which is a real shame as Iran has so much to offer.
As a consequence, and in true Persian style, we were treated like celebrities wherever we went.
We met an Imam, Asgar Aghaei, outside Esfahan’s Madraseh who informed us that over 30 of his students had come from the Indian sub-continent to study Islam; some teenagers at Imam Square; students of architecture at Jameh Mosque; and Mohsin at a restaurant who completed his PhD at Leeds!
For lunch, we ate beryani, an Esfahani speciality – which bore no resemblance to biryanis that we’re used to back at home – but nonetheless tasted great!
Johur and Nasir are now sporting Gucci and Armani watches respectively after a shopping spree at the Bazaar. I’m not convinced they’re the real deal though.
Before setting off for Yazd, we watched the sunset (thinking about our wives back home) whilst chilling out at at an atmospheric tea house beneath Si-o-Seh Bridge, one of several fairy-tale bridges that cross the Zayandeh River.
At Yazd we stayed at Dad Hotel, a spectacular hotel in the old city, where we were made most welcome by Hasan and his staff.