When I announced that my next port of entry would be Iran, I received a lot of opinions and concerns regarding the same. I had done my preliminary research and found that here was a country with beautiful and dynamic landscapes ranging from dense rain forests to snow capped mountains to desert basins. I double checked with overlanders who had already traveled through and they just validated my research. In addition to this the hospitable people, delicious food and historic sites all just added to my excitement to experience Persian culture. How could I possibly deny this!
I took an overnight ferry from Sharjah (UAE) to Bandar Abbas (Iran). This is a port located on the Southern border of Iran. I had no clue of what was in store for me for the next 15 days that I planned to spend in Iran. I was entering during the Norus period, which is the Persian New Year. I could see the excitement in people’s faces as the country was in a celebratory mood and would close down for a good one week as part of the celebration.
My first experience at the border wasn’t that great. Although I got the bike cleared in a day, I was racing between tables trying to gather all the required signatures which didn’t make any sense for me. I had time constraints since the customs would close by 2pm, but I was happy that I was off the port premises by evening 7 pm.
I was in Bandar Abbas for a night and headed the next morning to Shiraz. The highways had heavy vehicular movement, majorly consisting of people on holiday with luggage laden cars. There were cars parked off the road and I could see people enjoying their breakfast with family and friends. In fact I was pulled over twice by families, who invited me to join them once for breakfast and for lunch thereafter. A nice hot tea was really soothing in this cold weather… now that’s what I call hospitality.
Where ever I stopped, the locals would approach me to inquire if I needed any assistance or help with directions. Although they weren’t comfortable in English , they managed to communicate. The first sentence that the locals would say is WELCOME TO IRAN and they were keen to know as to how I felt about Iran. It is really unfortunate how the media has undermined the image of Iran. Persian people love meeting travellers from other parts of the world and will be happy to respond to you candidly.
There were cultural variations from place to place within the country, but one thing that remained a constant is the BAZAAR. The Bazaar, plays a very important role in the social and economic structure of Iran. Besides being a shopping arena, it serves as an important venue for get togethers, be it family or friends. The bazaars have a huge history as they were all build centuries ago. The cities were very clean, except for the traffic which was disorganised and chaotic.
My route in Iran was Bandar Abbas – Shiraz – Esfahan – Tehran – Tabriz and then exiting to Turkey.
It is a city with Persian culture that dates back to 2000 years and is rich in heritage, be it poetry, art or literature. This city is home to two prominent yesteryear poets – Hafiz and Sàdi. It is also home to splendid gardens, exquisite mosques and whispered echoes of ancient sophistication. There is also the Persepolis that is situated about 100 km north of Shiraz. The name Parsa meant ‘City of The Persians’ and construction began at the site in 518 BCE under the rule of King Darius the Great. He made Parsa the new capital of the Persian Empire. It’s a must see and do take a guide who will explain the history and the story that lies behind each of the carvings.
This is one of the oldest cities and is a visual treat with old architecture. Having said that, this city can easily be at par with some of the smaller European cities thanks to its tree-lined boulevards, Persian gardens and the old historic buildings. The city has a reputation as a living museum of traditional culture, and we can find many unique craftsmanship specific to Esfahan. The Imam square is the key attraction and is said to be the second biggest square in the world. The Jolfa area and the Vank Church is located in the Southern part of the city. The population is a mix of Jews and Armenians. The area is upmarket and has a different vibe to it.
I had a good time in Tehran as it was the Norus period and half of Tehran was out. It was a quick visit as I am not a big fan of big cities. I was able to see the main attractions thanks to a couch-surfing friend who volunteered to show me places. Tehran is a full fledged big city which can be at par with any international city.
Now this where things get a little interesting. The welcome signage reads ‘Welcome to East Azerbaijan’. Yes you read that right! Added to this the people speak Azerbaijani and in every aspect there is a difference from the rest of the country. There is a resistance among the people of Tabriz against the Iranian rule and this has been there since centuries. The people associate themselves more with Azerbaijan.
One can easily spend a month in Iran and still have a lot more to see. The landscape and weather changed as I rode from Bandar Abbas to Tabriz. It was the beginning of summer in Bandar Abbas, and as I reached Shiraz it was Spring and the weather was 18 degrees. As I continued to Isfahan and Tehran the temperature was wavering between 10 degrees… and as I was exiting Tabriz it was nearing 5 degrees. So I literally transitioned from Summer to Spring to Winter eventually ending in snow!
The people are one of the nicest I have engaged with. I met Anna and her friend in the streets of Shiraz to ask for directions, who were generous enough to cancel their plan for the day and accompanied me to show me the city and even accompanied me to see the Persapolis. Sasan and his family hosted me and showed me around in Tabriz. Ms.Eli Nadri, a couch surfer volunteered to show me around Tehran. I had trouble with the bike while traveling from Tehran to Tabriz and Mr.Murtaza, a good Samaritan, pulled over and took over the situation and ensured I got my motorbike fixed.
To sum it up, it’s been a fabulous experience travelling in Iran. It’s safe, clean, has amazing people who genuinely care for you and a landscape that lends perfectly for the curious traveller.
Turkey is a cultural potpourri that you need to take in as you travel from the East to West. In fact this was the exact route I took entering from
Warrier's Trail is a crazy dream of a simple guy that was inspired by a desire to travel, meeting people, see places and live life full of uncertainty.
The dream is to travel 40 countries, in over 500 odd days in 5 regions (S.E.Asia, Australia, Middle East, Europe & Africa)
A journey of exploration!