Getting to Shiraz, our next destination after Qeshm Island, went a lot less smoothly than it should’ve. What should’ve been a 7-hour bus ride, turned out to be a 19-hour bus ride, because the bus driver took the longest detour ever and then the bus broke down at 1 AM in the middle of a deserted highway.
When we eventually got to Shiraz, 12 hours later than we had expected, it was almost dark and we were as exhausted as anything. We had wasted a day and for that reason had to cut out Shush from our itinerary, so we could spend the next two days in Shiraz instead, as there was a lot we wanted to see in the city, and we also wanted to visit Persepolis, the ancient ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire.
On our first evening in Shiraz, we met up with Qail from Australia, who we had met briefly in Kharanaq. Qail had met an Iranian guy called Reze, who had invited us all for a traditional dinner at a local restaurant. We had a lovely evening with him and it was inspiring to converse with such a funny and good-hearted person. At the end of the dinner, Reze paid for everything and refused to accept our money. He has no family, so I’m guessing that it was his way to say thanks for company that evening. He was a real character and I’m very thankful to Qail for introducing us to Reze.
The History of Shiraz
The city of Shiraz is one of the oldest cities of Ancient Persia and dates back to 2000 BC. The city has been a regional trade center for over a thousand years, and during the 13th century, Shiraz was the leading center of arts and letters with many Persian artists and scholars living in the city. During the Zand dynasty, from 1750-1800, Shiraz was the capital of Persia.
Today, the city is the 6th most populous city of Iran with a population of 1,500,000. Shiraz is one of the most popular cities for tourists, and the “tourist route” usually starts in Tehran with Shiraz as the end destination. There are many famous mosques, gardens and bazaars in Shiraz, and thus we knew that we had to include it on our itinerary as well.
Colour Wonderland at Nasir al-Mulk Mosque
My favourite place of all in Shiraz was the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, built during the Qajar era, from 1876-1888. From the outside, Nasir al-Mulk looks like any other Iranian mosque, but a beautiful secret is hidden inside. Stepping inside the mosque was like walking straight into a kaleidoscope.
In the early morning, the extensive stained windows turn the inside of the mosque into an otherworldly wonderland of colour, a sight that is absolutely enchanting.
This mosque was worth every penny spent to get in. We spent ages in there taking one picture after another – it never seemed to be enough. I could’ve kept on snapping pictures forever. I can’t remember ever being so amazed by light and colour before, it was candy for my eyes. I’d be the happiest of all humans if I could live in a room like that!
The Shah Cheragh Experience
Another cool and different sight in Shiraz was the Shah Cheragh, a funerary monument and mosque from the 12th century, which houses the tombs of Ahmad and Muhammad, sons of Musa al-Kadhim, the 7th Shiite Imam, and thus, the Shah Cheragh is the most important place of pilgrimage in Shiraz.
To enter the Shah Cheragh, I had to wear a muslim veil, which I was given at the entrance. An English-speaking woman guided us for free around the Shah Cheragh and told us about its history and the history of Islam in Iran. It was a change that this mosque was free to enter and with a free guide, as everywhere else in Iran – and Shiraz – you’d have to pay for both the entrance and the guide.
Although we didn’t have much time in the beautiful city of Shiraz, we got to see most of what we wanted, but there’s always more to explore. Shiraz is definitely one of the places that I want to revisit, if I ever come back to Iran. The cities in Iran can seem quite similar after a while of exploring many of them, but Shiraz stood out to me and offered some unique sights that I wouldn’t have been without.
Here’s some useful information on travelling to Shiraz:
- We took a bus that people from outside the terminal in Bandar Abbas got us in. It was the biggest mistake ever. We paid 250,000 rial (8 USD) each for the most dirty and uncomfortable bus that took us on a 15-hour detour and even broke down, resulting in the trip taking 19 hours instead of the promised 7 hours. We also had to pay for another bus in Lar for 180,000 rial (5½ USD) to finally get to Shiraz. Go inside the terminal instead and buy a ticket from a real bus company!
- We stayed at Pardis Hotel for two nights and paid 300,000 rial (9½ USD) each per night for a private room with a shared bathroom. The rooms are very basic, there’s no free breakfast and the Wi-Fi is SLOW – but it’s cheap and somewhat central, and there’s an awesome bakery just across the street!
- Entrance fees: Nasir Al-Mulk Mosque is 150,000 rial (4½ USD), Vakil Mosque (near Vakil Bazaar) is 150,000 rial (4½ USD) and Arg of Karim Khan is 200,000 rial (6 USD). The Shah Cheragh is free.