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Hotelnet: Fri 19:45

Irancell are holding onto the following message

Thursday, 30 September, 2010 16:13

Currently at lat/long: n29 37.337 e52 32.465

Sent from Ian's Irancell number.

Aryo Barzan Hotel, Shiraz, IR. Aryobarzan was a great local commander only losing Persepolis to Alexander (who, let's face it, was pretty Great). Nice trundle around the tombs of Darius the Great and Xerces a little further up the road (like Petra in style). IRs really are the nicest people-how does Iran get such a bad rep? I can only fault their driving (again). Managed to get sunburnt arms for the first time-head and neck get scarlet in the UK so they're a given.

end of message

Friday, 1 October, 2010 19:45

As a side note, the iPhone has lost the Irancell connection several times since arriving in Shiraz -- it's lost it again now.

Today was a walking tour of Shiraz -- how do I always manage to time my tours for a Friday when the bazaars are shut? Have there been extra Fridays in the last month? It certainly feels like it.

I went to the Arg (the generally mud-brick citadel) which was a bit dull not aided by the only highlight according to the LP -- a collection of photographs -- not being open or advertised. One guy had a chat about the films he wanted to make for the UK and Europe about Iran and wanted my views on what was good. Put a bit of everything in, I suggested. A quick trot round a museum and gardens.

So the bazaars were shut, fair enough, as was a baths complex (though it was hinted it might be shut). A bit further down the road is a shrine to some key figure whose name and story have merged with every other key figure in Iranian culture, ie. I forget. What was a bit more interesting was firstly, separate entrances for men and women though that might have been because secondly, they were frisking everyone going in. Once the camera had been spotted I was packed off towards the depository and I re-imagined that as not bothering.

I stopped a little further down the road to consult the fabled LP and a man stopped hos motorbike on the pavement and started to chat partly about the rotten motorbikes they're limited to in IR (sub-250cc?) before he was moved on by the police. Then I noticed that there was a generally increased level of policing which in these parts of the world means soldiers with guns. I moved on, capturing a quick snap of the shrine (big blue dome) on the way.

I patiently belived in the LP map that there was an attractive gardens and museum 300m down the road. A good fifteen minutes later I'd all but given up and thought just one more block and there it was. The Najarestan(? the LP is upstairs) Gardens is a Zand dynasty palace (pre-Qajar) although they're just as keen on the glittery gaudy stuff. They were a bit more into intricately painted ceilings (rather than just glittering mirrors).

I headed back up the road over the extremely dry river (so dry, the LP reports, they've concreted part of it over) and on up the Hafez's tomb. Hafez was/is the greatest figure in Iranian culture, a poet whose verse you can almost taste (as the guy at the Arg said). He used to write his poetry under the influence of the eponymous local Shiraz wine which Islam forbids and Iran hasn't had a literary figure quite like him since.

Almost as soon as I got in I was being recorded by some teenage girl who wanted an interview to practice her English, I think. I can't imagine why she wanted to record the conversation but I don't think my soul has been stolen. I asked her as part what she thought of Hafez and she replied that his verse was too good. Too good? Yes.

I've not seen an English translation of his works and the bit I had quoted at me did at least rhyme if only because so far as I could tell the same two words were repeated at the end of each line. Still, it seems to please the IRs. The tomb is in a nice enough garden where I was subsequently waylaid by a couple more groups with the obligatory picture with the foreigner thrown in.

The LP reported that the teashop in the garden was a great place but they seemed wholly disinterested in me so I shuffled off towards a gardens further up the hill which turned out to be closed.

A little bit back down the hill I popped in for the regular sugary drink and handed over IR10,000 for what is normally an IR5,000 purchase (I would let Persepolis off as it seems a global fashion to charge more at a tourist attraction). The bloke next to me translated the shrug of the shopkeeper as "it is enough." I'm sure it was. USD1 for a tin of pop is hardly going to break the bank but it is a reminder that not all Iranians are saints.

Five hours tramping about in the 30C dry heat seemed like quite enough for a "day off" so a bit of a snooze and a surf which is suggesting that getting into Bhutan might be a bit more tricky than I'd hoped as the Horizons Unlimited search engine is hopeless but what I did glean was that there's very few contact details floating about and you do need to apply for a visa somewhere between 30 and 60 days before arrival. Oops.

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