Part two of my adventures in Iran, this time I’m taking you to the south of Iran. Meet the beautiful desert city Shiraz. Beautiful gardens, the famous tomb of Hafez, bazars and beautiful architecture is what awaited me at the former capital of Iran.
Adventures in Iran
Chapter 0 – Traditional Food of Iran
Chapter 1 – Arriving in Tehran
Since I would spend the 12 day long workshop in Tehran I decided to discover the country by myself. I arrived in Iran 9 days prior to our workshop and had already booked a flight to Shiraz (for about 50€) the former capital in the south.
At Shiraz airport I was welcomed and picked up by a hospitable young Iranian. His name was Mohsen, his English brilliant and we immediately clicked. He showed the same kindness and interest as my former acquaintances and loved singing along (very fervently and dramatically) with traditional Iranian music while driving. He sounded far better than my dad singing in the kitchen while cooking though, I have to grant him that.
The traffic in Iran btw is chaotic and crazy as fuck yet the Iranian drivers seem to be totally at ease with everything (one could really have saved the paint for the lane markings since no one is giving a shit about them at all anyway).
The story of how I met my host Mohsen
The story of how I actually got to meet Mohsen is fairly simple and not complicated or interweaved at all.
I asked a dear travel blogger friend (Jenny from Discovering Legacies – we created the Restaurant Guide Hamburg together) if she knew any people from Iran. She did! Her old school friend Isabella, is originally from Germany and currently living and working in Tehran.
Isabella already offered me a sofa for my time in Tehran but she was also one step on my path to Mohsen.
Isabella’s boyfriend, a most charming and lovely guy from Syria studies in in Shiraz. He asked one of his fellow students, Sara if she would host a guest from Germany.
That’s how far everything went until I was in Tehran.
You must know that Iranians are fairly spontaneous and things might change quite a lot. So when I was at Neda’s place and had my new sim card set up I received a message from Isabella that Sara would be out of town and couldn’t host me.
Instead she asked her brother in law – and now we’re finally getting there – Mohsen to host me during those days. Since Mohsen still lived with his parents (as many, many young adults in Iran do) we stayed at Sara’s and her husbands place.
The Iranian Hospitality
As I said this whole scenario is totally straightforward and not weird at all. Hosting a total stranger – the friend of a friend of an acquaintance with no questions asked and no expectations in return. Just plain hospitality. Ask any German and he or she would do the same – not.
I myself always felt like a reasonable, good enough host – I love having friends and guests in my place and showing them around, helping them have a good time. Yet the Iranian culture has taught me a lot about making guests in my country feel even more at home and welcomed.
Mohsen and his sister in law did not only provide me with a place to sleep. No, since Mohsen had the week of we spend the whole time together and I had the best tour guide I could imagine.
Exploring the most beautiful places in Shiraz
Except from talking about differences and similarities in German and Iranian culture we self-evidently explored the beautiful desert town Shiraz.
Unfortunately we arrived at a time when the sky was mostly cloudy which might make the place appear a little dull but trust me, Eram garden is the perfect spot for a nice and relaxing walk – especially for plant lovers.
With Hafez, an Iranian poet being one of the most important figures in Iranian history this place is a must visit.
One of my favourite places all over Iran. While the huge bazar in Tehran stressed me out more than once Vakil Bazar in Shiraz was the perfect size, not too full and had so many different goods to offer. Carpets, copper ware, spices, nuts, fabrics, jewelry, clothing – you’ll find everything you need.
I particularly fell in love with the Iranian copper ware and tried to fit as much in my suitcase as possible.
After a couple of days in the full and buzzing cities of Iran I felt like I needed a little break from all that and told Mohsen. He could totally comprehend my feelings and together we made a little trip to Galath, not far from Shiraz. A beautiful, calm and green area where we did some beginner hiking (let’s call it walking) and had a nice break in a traditional coffee shop, where I tried Doogh, a sour yogurt drink (similar to Ayran) for the first time.
Best food in Shiraz
I wouldn’t be a food blogger if I didn’t ask Mohsen for some food hot spots. And Mohsen delivered. Big time.
There are two restaurants that you shouldn’t miss when you’re in Shiraz for both – the food and the atmosphere.
This restaurant as majestic as it sounds. If you want to sit on the balcony you might want to try and get a reservation first (or you are a sweet German girl and have an Iranian guy with you who insists to be seated on the balcony). The food was simple but delicious. I had beef kebab marinated in yogurt, fresh veggies, delicious rice and a salad Shirazi.
Haft Khan Restaurant
Nothing shouts fancy, traditional Iranian restaurant more than the Haft Khan in Shiraz. This restaurant complex has several floors all covering different themes. I’m afraid I forgot some but you can chose between BBQ (on the very top), fast food, buffet and traditional Persian cuisine (in the basement). You might have guessed right that we went for the traditional restaurant.
Not only was the food delicious – I had fesenjan, a dish with chicken, walnuts and a thick and sweet-sour pomegranate sauce, Mohsen had lamb – but also the atmosphere send me directly into the Iranian culture. White interior, huge beds to sit and dine on and even traditional live music happened while we were there.
Social Life in Iran
Apart from food and sightseeing I was also invited to meet Mohsens parents. While I was staying with Mohsen his parents called him several times to ask if he was taking good care of his guest and if I was having a good time. I can’t even try to imagine my parents doing this when I have a guest at my place. Haha!
So one night, after our little hike in Galath we paid a little visit to Mr. and Mrs. Mohsen (I don’t know their last name ^^).
While the communication only worked with Mohsen translating everything into Farsi we had a great time, drank tea, ate fresh dates and I even learned how to play backgammon – though I was awful at it.
My other night in Shiraz I met some friends of Mohsen (back at Sara’s place).
Since there are no (official) night clubs and alcohol is banned in the country a young and wild European might ask himself what the heck can you do at night time? The Iranian twenty-somethings I met usually meet at home – in private, where you are more free to do the things you want to do (also no hijab or other clothing restrictions).
We bought “some” fresh fruit, since you ALWAYS offer food to your guests and I tried an excellent homemade wine. The evening consisted of talking, talking and even more talking again about our cultural differences and wishes and plans for the future. I almost felt akward and uncomfortable when I was asked about the countries I’ve travelled so far since it’s so hard to get a visa for European countries if you have an Iranian passport. Yet during my 3 weeks I’ve met countless Iranians who told me about how much they loved Germany – some even talked to me in German. Iranians truly love Europe and especially Germany is what I’ve learned.
I must admit that this farewell was the hardest of my whole stay. I enjoyed the time in Shiraz with Mohsen immensely and I wish I could have spend more time in this beautiful city. But as soon as I sat comfortably in my seat of the luxury bus to Isfahan and saw the rocky deserts and mountains pass by I was excited for the next unknown people and days ahead of me.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of my adventures in Iran.