Years ago, when I was still a small child and…
I arrived in Shiraz after a 7 hour bus journey from Esfahan. A taxi driver and a family got my attention and I joined them to the shared taxi stand. When I saw the taxi I regretted my decision as the car was falling apart. There was no window and the rear tailgate could not close. My backpack was stuffed in the back and off we went. As we were stuck in traffic the driver started to warn me about the dangers of Shiraz. I was to take extremely good care about my bags as Shiraz was full of thieves. Apparently he was unaware of the fact that my backpack was now in the back of his car with the rear tailgate wide open for anyone to grab.
Both me and my bag arrived safe and well at my hostel in one of the oldest traditional houses of Shiraz. The city where many poets like Hafez and Saadi were born. A city of gardens, shrines, mosques and a lively bazaar. I left every morning to walk around Shiraz having a rough plan and before I knew it was getting dark.
Things to see and do in Shiraz
Shiraz had one of the liveliest and most colorful bazaar’s I have seen in Iran. In the mountains around Shiraz live the Qashqai people. Some Qashqai still live a nomadic lifestyle. The Qashqai women wear colourful dresses and Shiraz’s bazaar was full with traditional clothes. The bazaar also has some lovely courtyards and nice places to eat.
2. Shah-e Cheragh Shrine
Shiraz is also home to the third most important shrine in Iran. The Shah-e Cheragh shrine is where the sons of the 7th Imam were buried. As a foreigner I was not allowed to visit the shrine on my own, but they provide a guide to show you around. My guide was a young girl eager to practice her english. The shrine is an interesting place and a lot of glitter and glamour.
3. Imamzadeh-ye Ali Ebn-e Hamze
The Shah-e Cheragh shrine is not the only shrine in Shiraz. When I was walking around I found two other shrines where I could enter without a guide. The shrines were the same glitter and glamour as the Shah-e Cheragh shrine, but much smaller and more quiet. The Ali ebn Hamzeh shrine was one of the friendliest shrines I visited in Iran. Not only was I allowed to enter without a guide, I was also invited for a cup of tea.
4. Alaudeen Hussain Ibn-e Mussa Kazem shrine
I found another shrine in a back street near the Nasir Al Molk mosque. It was very local and I did not see any other tourists here. People gathered to pray and touch the enshrinement of the tomb. I saw women crying here and holding their baby’s up against the shrine.
5. Nasir Al Molk mosque
Another highlight of Shiraz was the beautiful Nasir al Molk mosque. It is said this is the most beautiful mosque in Iran and it is not hard to agree with that. In the early morning when the sun is rising the light shines through the colored mosaic windows giving a free spectacular show.
6. Vakil mosque
Another mosque with intricate colorful mosaic tilings worth visiting is the Vakil mosque in the bazaar.
7. Vakil hammam
Vakil hammam is quite similar to those in Kashan and Esfahan. Iran’s historical hammams remain beautiful and they are worth taking a look inside. Very few hammams are still active tough.
8. Madraseh – ye Khan
This theological college has some beautiful intricate mosaic tilings and a nice courtyard and garden. Apparently it is not always open, but if you are lucky the caretaker might let you in for a tip.
9. Narenjestan garden
This old traditional house of the wealthy Mohammad Ali Khan Qavam al-Molk has a nice garden and some nice mosaic tilings.
10. Quran gate
The Quran gate is a wonderful place with a wonderful view over Shiraz. There is a park nearby where Shirazi’s families come to have a picknick. Two old hand written Qurans are in the room on top of the gate and they say that everyone passing underneath the gate will receive the holy blessings of the books.
11. The Karim Khan fortress
This nice fortress is close to the bazaar and worth taking a small detour to see.
12. The tomb of Hafez
No visit to Shiraz is complete without a visit to the tomb of Hafez. One of the most famous poets in Iran. It is said most Iranian people have at least two books at home. The Quran and Hafez’s poetry. Iranians even believe the book of Hafez can be used as a sort of divine fortune-telling. Whenever one faces a difficult decision one can open the book and it is believed that the first sentence upon which the eyes of the reader falls gives the answer. Outside of the tomb men are selling Hafez fortunetelling cards. Sentences from Hafez’s poetry picked out by a parakeet especially for you. People come here to pray to Hafez like he is a saint. There is also a nice restaurant serving good Asht-e resteh.
13. Dinner in Saray-e Mehr restaurant
One of the nicest restaurants I visited in Iran was Saray-e Mehr in the bazaar in Shiraz. I had a delicious stew with eggplant. As with most Iranian stews it doesn’t look too great, but it tastes really good.
Niayesh Boutique hostel : Despite my reservation the hostel was full. I was brought to a new section of their hotel that was still under construction. Just as me and the other dorm guests were discussing whether we were ok with this emergency setup one of them actually went through the bed. As it was late he decided to sleep it out with the mattress on the floor. The next morning we were all transferred to the actual hostel itself. I can still recommend this scenic hostel. Service is a bit mixed. Some people are very friendly, others not so, but it is good value and the breakfast buffet is wonderful.
Saray-e Mehr (excellent restaurant in the bazaar, recommended !!)
There are frequent buses to and from Tehran (13 hours), Esfahan (8 hours), Yazd (7 hours) & Bandar Abbas (11 hours). THere are overnight trains between Tehran and Shiraz (25-45$, 15 hours). In April 2016 Iran railways has started a luxurious 5 star trainline, called Fadak between Tehran and Shiraz.