Well, after Esfahan Shiraz was a bit of a let down. Iím sure the heat and the terrible Zand Hotel didnít help. Besides some large species of cockroach I also meet a few other bikers there. First an older couple, dare I say going on sixty, on R100 and R80 Beamers with a very impressive repertoire of anecdotes of previous motorbike trips. They are on their way through the Stans to Mongolia. They are very modest about their accomplishments. I hope Iíll be as energetic when I reach that age. The attention I get here is a bit much at times but probably nothing compared to what happens to that lady when she takes her helmet off!
Next is a UK/German duo fresh from the Iran/Pakistan border, hating everything they have seen so far in Iran. Severe case of having been on the road for too long. I make my excuses when they want to join me for a trip to Persepolis. In all fairness I have to say that 50+ degree heat does funny things to your brain and Iím sure theyíll fully recover.
They are lucky they made it through at all. After a bomb blast on 5/29 in Zahedan, near the Pakistan border, that killed 25 people, followed by riots and an arson attack on a bank that killed another five people, the Iranians have closed the border to Pakistan. Three people claimed to be involved in the terror attack have been hanged publicly already. Justice can be swift. I just hope they got the right guys. A French overlander got abducted on the Pakistan side in the last few days as well. My decision to give Pakistan a miss for the time being seems to be the right one. Hopefully the border will reopen soon. There ought to be a few bikers stuck on either side as this is smack in the middle of the narrow time window for making the trip from India to Europe or vice versa.
I do a bit of early morning and late afternoon sightseeing. Shirazí center is dominated by the large Zand period Karim Khan citadel with a nice garden inside.
One of the corner towers has a distinct lean and the citadelís Haman next to it is being blamed for that.
I wander through town a bit, going from one ice cream or smoothie place to the next, locking at what is on offer in the bazaar
and nearby stores. Something black for the ladies?
or maybe a space cowgirl outfit for the little one?
Iran bread. It goes stale the second it comes out of the oven. Nothing like the tasty Turkish flat bread.
Just in case you need to know your weight and height, there is a machine for that.
A corner is dedicated to motorcycle shops.
This is as good as it gets: a 200cc Enduro for the uebercool hipsters
I watch a funeral procession
and have a look at the Iranian Disneyland
before I watch a snake charmer. His combover was more impressive than his snake charming.
This must have been a mirage. An open air pool in Iran? No way! I was so tempted to fall in.
I visit the tomb of Persian poet Hafez. I have to admit I know nothing of his work but most of it would be lost in translation anyway. The way it goes with poetry.
When I get there I do realize that they really do like him still, a lot. Old and young practically throw themselfes on his grave, shedding tears.
This is also the only place I have seen where Iranians donít dare to litter. I just sit there and study the spectacle when a couple asks me to take their picture. After that another couple asks me and soon is becomes the popular thing to have your picture taken by the foreigner.
On the way back to my hotel I visit the shrine of Emir Ali, housed in a domed 19th century building, which has every surface inside covered by mirror ornaments.
After many failed attempts I do get into the Vakil Mosque
and the nearby Haman, turned carpet museum.
I decide to extend my visa here, which means I have to stay at least until Sunday. Iím cutting it a bit close at the rate Iím going and my last day would be the election day, which is probably not a good day for a border crossing. So, off I go on a Saturday morning in search of the visa office. Once I get there they send me straight back to the Bank Melli near my Hotel to pay the 20,000 Rial fee. Someone at the bank helps me fill out the deposit slip and I hand the cash and the paper work to a cashier. All is going well until a feisty women barges in and throws a huge wad of cash on top of my little money pile and starts arguing with the cashier. Iranians have no notions of queuing or privacy. They always go straight to the front and interrupt anything that might be going on. The clerks try to deal with everyone at once and the result usually is that everyone has to wait forever and mistakes are being made. Being shy in these situation just means you will be pushed aside and wait forever. I remind the cashier frequently of my existence and eventually have to get a little pushy Iranian style to get my deposit slip stamped. I dash back to the visa office. A very friendly young officer helps me fill out the forms and leaves me in the office of the senior officials who actually do the extensions. The jeffe is in a foul mood. Yelling at subordinates and generally being an ass to everyone except me. He does give me a full 30 days though, starting at the expiration date of my original visa. So, not bad and all done in a couple of hours.