30th of Khordad – 2nd of Tir 1390/June 20th-23rd, 2011
As the title of this post suggest, Shiraz is indeed where the lovers go. This charming city is home to two of the greatest Persians of all time Khwāja Shamsu d-Dīn Muhammad Hāfez-e Shīrāzī, more commonly known as Hafez and Abū-Muḥammad Muṣliḥ al-Dīn bin Abdallāh Shīrāzī, Saadi Shirazi, or simply Saadi. These Sufi (Islamic mystic) poets are celebrated throughout the world, and I challenge you to find a Persian home without the works of Hafez. Both poets were born and buried in Shiraz and their tombs are Shiraz’s biggest attractions. (More on that later.)
We came to Shiraz by bus from Yazd, which was not a part of the initial schedule we devised of our travels. Originally we planned to take a train in the early hours from Yazd back to Esfahan and then take a train late at night from Esfahan to Shiraz. Unfortunately there is no train from Yazd to Shiraz. As much as this made sense on paper while we were arranging our travels from Tehran, when we were in Yazd, we didn’t feel like all the travelling by train when you could take a bus directly from Yazd to Shiraz. Though the bus ride was a bit long, I would recommend it as the road between the two cities is very beautiful in my opinion with lots of bends and valleys. Also I can now say I’ve been by taxi, bus, plane, train and camel through Iran. The only disadvantage to the bus was when we actually arrived to the outskirts of Shiraz. The bus had to stop several times at check points, where the bus driver had to exit the bus and show his paperwork to the proper authorities. However, this led to young boys climbing on to our bus to sell the infamous fruit Iranians love – Goje-Sabz!
To be honest I’m not a fan of the little green fruits, which I’ve described earlier as being hard like an apple, but with a sour and bitter taste. After due diligence online I have discovered they are a kind of unripened plum, however what kind of plum that is I have yet to discover a solid legitimate answer. Now I’ve eaten goje sabz on several occasions, not ever having liked it. The little fruit is far too bitter for my taste. Sadra being my lovely husband likes to take advantage of my unwavering trust in him, especially when we are in his home country of Iran, where I do not indeed know better than him. When he bought some of the goje sabz from the young boys on the bus he asked me to try one. I thought in my head, “these look like goje sabz and I don’t really like goje sabz.” Armed with the knowledge that I do indeed hate goje sabz, and that I also did not know the English name for them, my dear husband reassured me that these little green fruits were “green plums.” “Oh,” I thought to myself, “I guess they must be different.” Plopping one in my mouth I was horrified to discover my instincts were true. I had been goje sabzed! I have coined this term as an alternative way to mean being tricked. From this very day I yell “Goje Sabz” when I am misled or tricked, especially by my husband.
For those of you who might not know what goje sabz looks like.
Enough of evil green fruits and back to Shiraz.
Now again I would recommend travelling by bus to Shiraz, however we hit a few snags having to stop at check points. This continued for a few times with passengers on the bus asking to be dropped off on certain intersections or neighborhoods so they wouldn’t have to travel all the way to the bus station like Sadra and I. This was a bit annoying as it seemed to take forever to get to the station. Having no place to stay, Sadra and I grabbed a taxi and set off to find a hotel. After a few hit and misses at a couple of hotels, Sadra and I settled on one we both liked. Though it wasn’t as pretty as our hotel in Mashhad, it certainly did the job. It was also down the street from the Citadel of Karim Khan, a popular site in Shiraz. Since we got in at night, there weren’t too many sites to see, so we wandered around the streets a bit and got us some dinner in a tiny fast food place with space for shelf and four chairs. We decided to call it a night early since we were headed to Perspolis the next day. I’ll mention Perspolis in greater detail in my next post.
When we returned from Perspolis the next day, we showered and relaxed and set off to Hafezieh (The tomb of Hafez). What a beautiful memorial it is. You enter the walled in garden from the street. In front of you stand men with little bright colored yellow, green and blue finches that sit on their worn hands to greet you with fal. For a small price the little birds are trained to pick a fal (or little poem) to give to you. Many Iranians like to interpret the poem as a fortune, however what that poem says is quite vague and its fortune is left to your own interpretation. Iranians also like to use collections of Hafez’s poems as a kind of fortune teller. They’ll flip through the pages and pick a page at random, read the poem, then interpret its meaning into their own lives. At first I didn’t realize what these birds actually did, so I walked by them quickly to enter the garden. One of my biggest regrets! I hope to return one day and receive a fal from a bright yellow finch.
Credit to Reyhaneh~A at Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/paradis_3/2841843625/
Once you pass through gates you enter a beautiful and lush garden. Beautiful pink flowers contrast against green leaves that compliment the turquoise in the monument. Potted shrubs frame the walkways on one side while tall pines outline the other side. Everything is a lot more peaceful and quiet, despite the noise from the traffic outside. Inside the gardens you hardly seem to notice such things. You can notice couples young and old strolling through the gardens, whispering to one another, reading the various poems written by Hafez displayed. Outside the tomb itself, within the gardens, are little stalls for vendors to sell gifts. Though surprisingly none of them sell Hafez’s poetry. I guess one can assume every person who wanders through that garden owns at least one book of Hafez. Like I mentioned earlier, you’re not really Persian without one. Climbing a few steps you first encounter Hafezieh, Hafez’s tomb. Compared to other memorials in Iran, Hafez’s is quite simple, which is how I think he would have wanted it; surrounded by the beauties of nature and couples drunk with love walking about. Although there is delicate detailing carved into the columns, it is the detailing in the dome above Hafez’s grave that is truly stunning. Geometric patterns of shades of blue, turquoise, orange, green and red are splashed so intricately it would be hard to find a particular shape that’s prettier than the rest. Although I don’t know much about the dome itself, the best way to describe it is like beautiful colored stars splashed across a turquoise sky. Perhaps if Van Gough was Persian and worked in mosaics, this dome would be his Starry Night.
Hafez is said to have known by heart the works of the other great Shirazi poet Saadi. Born over 100 years before Hafez, Saadi traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and witnessed the destruction and pillage of his land through the Mongol invasion. Educated in Baghdad, Saadi was an expert in Islamic Sciences, law, governance, history, Arabic and theology. Known for his aphorisms, Saadi, in my opinion was ahead of his time.
I share with you the English translation of Saadi’s Bani Adam, still as relevant today –
“Humans (children of Adam) are inherent parts (or more literally, limbs) of one body,
and are from the same essence in their creation.
When the conditions of the time hurts one of these parts,
other parts will be disturbed.
If you are indifferent about the misery of others,
it may not be appropriate to call you a human being.”
Saadi’s tomb is quite different than Hafez’s, though they both share the common garden feature. His mausoleum is much larger than Hafez’s with pretty turquoise features throughout. To compare them would be discouraged, just as comparing their work. They are both quite beautiful in their own way, though I must confess I did prefer Hafez’s overall aesthetic more. However, when I come to think of it, I almost prefer the works I’ve read of Saadi’s to Hafez’s. Ah the comparisons continue when I strictly forbid myself to. I guess I can agree with myself that they are wonderful poets, and have wonderful memorials by which we remember them.
After visiting both tombs Sadra asked the taxi driver to take us to the best restaurant in Shiraz, which apparently was on the other side of town. Funny story, we asked a taxi driver the very next day the same thing and we were brought to the same exact restaurant. The restaurant was tasty, but not without its flaws, as seen in the picture below. What was most disappointing however is that we could not eat salad shirazi (a salad of cucumber, tomato, onion all chopped very tiny mixed with lime juice and dried mint). The waiter informed us they only sold the salad for lunch, but did manage to find some for us. Seriously though, who doesn’t eat shirazi salad in Shiraz?! It’s a travesty I tell you!
Now back to Shirazi food, you cannot leave Shiraz without trying faloodeh shirazi. It’s an alternative to ice cream with frozen noodles drizzled in various flavors, most commonly lime juice. It is freaking delicious and strange. It should be noted that Yazd has it’s own faloodeh named faloodeh yazdi appropriately. The difference is that faloodeh yazdi uses a cold, not frozen noodle, so it’s still wiggles in your bowl of rosewater, like a cold soup. In the battle of faloodeh, Shiraz is the obvious winner as frozen noodles make all the difference. All things considered, I do think faloodeh has potential to be popular in the U.S. However as I continue to write about faloodeh, I am beginning to crave some more. So I will cease describing it’s delicious flavors mixed with its frozen, crunchy texture…now.
On our last day in Yazd we managed to see a lot of sites. We began in Eram Garden a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Eram is a Persianized version of the Arab word Iram meaning heaven. So the time it was built, the gardens were to reflect the aesthetic beauty of heaven. With fountains and large gardens, it is quite beautiful. We tried to see all of its gardens, but did not have enough time to capture everything. After eating some faloodeh in the garden, we stumbled upon a stray little kitten. She was so sweet and adorable. It took everything in my power not to get a shoe box and bring her back to Tehran with us. She followed us around the garden for some time, so saying goodbye was quite heart breaking.
Our adventures in Shiraz also took us to Vakil Bazaar, which was established in the 11th century. Through it’s long, narrow tunnels that curve back and forth it is quite easy to get lost among the shops. Occasionally, the shopper will discover pretty courtyards in the light, but then it is back to through the tunnels to try and find your way out. Sadra and I got lost a few times, but managed to find our way to the Vakil Mosque. Along the way Sadra and I discovered a new business venture-buying shirts with ridiculous English written on them and sell them for high prices to hipster kids in the U.S.. We stumbled upon a really special saying at a shirt stall in the bazaar. It was hanging in the stall’s entrance for everyone to see; the shopkeeper clueless to its meaning. Out in plain view the shirt simply stated “Porno Rap.” It seemed so absurd that Sadra and I kept laughing hysterically for a good three minutes before the shopkeeper could finally get Sadra to respond why we were laughing so hard. Sadra finally explained the meaning of the shirt into Farsi, and the poor man’s mouth dropped in horror. Once we told him we wouldn’t be buying it as it was stained, he quickly placed it in the back of the stall for no one to see. I wish I could remember half of the English phrases we saw printed on shirts. They were absolutely hilarious and nonsensical.
After wandering through the market, we did manage to find our way to Vakil Mosque. After Sheikh Loftallah mosque, I would have to say Vakil Mosque is my favorite mosque I’ve seen in Iran. It’s color and tile pattern is very unique compared to other mosques. With hues of soft pinks, oranges, blues and greens, the mosaics portray beautiful flowers and trees. It reminds me of a love letter to spring. Inside lines twist up the rows and rows of columns that form arches. Simple and beautiful. How I like my mosques.
Last there was the Arg of Karim Khan, a citadel located in Shiraz leftover from the Zand Dynasty. Inside is a pleasant courtyard with a garden and museum displaying traditional medieval clothing of the time.
And I’ll end this post with a cute picture of some men hugging outside the citadel.