While the boys are stuck in the workshop with the motorbikes, Mirjam and I try to get some practical stuff done. First on our to do list, is to get our Iranian sim cards sorted so that we at least can get connected again with the home front. We find a shop but it’s a lengthy process. Apparently it is not that easy for a foreigner to get connected. While we are waiting, there is another girl in the shop, and we are intrigued by the way she is able to keep her scarf on her head. We constantly need to check ours to make sure it hasn’t fallen off and hers just seems to be glued right to the far end of her head. So we just ask her how she manages to keep it there! Ladan is a fashion designer and she speaks German fluently. Her answer: a pony tail, pins and sticking the scarf behind your ears. Ok, both Mirjam and I are lacking the pony tail but the pins and ears should work.
Next, we want to go to the Turkmenistan embassy to figure out if we can get those visa in our passports. According to Ladan we can get there by metro and she even drives us to the metro station. However, it turns out that there is no metro in the neighborhood where we need to go and an elderly man suggests to help us get a taxi. His name is Mehdi and while we walk with him to the taxi place near his home, we learn that he is a retired fighter pilot. That explains of course why he speaks English so well. He tells us how he fought and survived the war with Iraq. From the stories he tells us, we can tell he must have been a brilliant fighter pilot but he lost a lot of fiends too. He also tells us his wife had passed away a few months before. He’s clearly still grieving her loss very much. But the way he talks about her, with so much love and affection, is heart warming. Mehdi takes us to a taxi place and arranges a taxi for us, at the normal rate for a change, and then sends us off to the embassy. Both Mirjam and I are really touched by his story. This was one of those people you instantly take into your heart!
We reach the embassy in no time, but it turns out to be closed. So after a quick lunch, we make our way back to the center. Mirjam is looking for a pair of lightweight trousers and Ladan ensured us that we would find them near the Moniriyeh metro station. So that is where we’re heading! Sure enough, plenty of camping gear and trekking shops but we have difficulty finding the right trousers. With the third or fourth attempt, we run into some local girls and they immediately decide to go on the trouser quest with us. Zoe and her friends are part of the Tehran taekwondo team and they look really hip according to Iranian standards. They drag us from one store to the next. At least they know where the good shops are and they can make sure we’re not overcharged. Mirjam finds the trousers she needs and then we decide it’s time for some juice.
At the workshop, in the meantime, they have taken apart Jo’s engine down to the last bolt and nut and we know now that it’s a crankshaft issue. Since there’s a national holiday coming up and the workshop will be closed for a few days, Ahmad and Saeed (whom we’ve met in Georgia) have decided that we need a break and so we are shipped off by bus to Esfahan where Saeed will pick us up.
The bus ride is pretty uneventful and we feel a bit caged riding through this beautiful desert landscape but only seeing it from behind the window. We also realise how different the experience of traveling through Iran can be if you are limited to public transport and especially how privileged we are being able to experience it from these different points of view. Our motorbikes stand out and we attract people’s attention immediately. In the bus, no one even talked to us!
In Esfahan, we meet Saeed and his wife Azadeh who are waiting for us at the bus station. They are so kind to invite us to their home in Yazd for a couple of days. But first they want to show us around Esfahan!
We visit the Naqsh e Jahan Square and the bazaar where Saeed shows us around and explains all the different handicrafts. The carpets and pottery are so incredibly beautiful! I’m even feeling sorry now that I’m traveling by motorbike and don’t have any luggage space.
Because it’s getting a bit late, all sights are closing, but Saeed tells us we will come back the next day to visit!
When evening falls we visit some of the bridges. The river has dried up, but the bridges are beautiful at night.
We are invited to spend the night at the apartment of Saeed’s aunt and after a nice breakfast, we go back to the city center.
First we visit the Chehel Sotoun Palace. It’s a beautiful building, famous for it’s 20 pillars reflecting in the water of the pond in front of it. The murals inside are just breathtaking, telling some interesting parts of Iran’s history.
From Chehel Sotoun it’s just a short walk to the Naqsh e Jahan Square and we do the tour of all the sights there, starting with the Ali Qapu Palace. It’s nice to have Saeed and Azadeh with us, so the can tell us about the history of the place.
The building is really impressive and the tour takes past the balcony with incredible views over the square to the top floor where the music room used to be. All over the building, the paintwork on the walls and ceilings is really beautifully done, but the ceiling in the music room tops it all. The ceiling is an intricate mixture of holes made out of thin plaster work and then painted in the most beautiful colors and patterns. The holes should enhance the acoustics, we are told, and the entire room was designed to impress visiting nobles and merchants. Of course, what else?
Next stop is the Shah Mosque, also known as the Jame or Friday Mosque. It’s a huge site with a center square and a madrassa. We take our time walking around the site. The main mosque has a beautiful high domed ceiling. When you stand below at the center point, the acoustics are perfect. The guide showing some German tourists around demonstrates that nicely by singing some praise. Goosebumps all over!
We also visit the Madrassa. It’s very quiet and peaceful there after the busy mosque. In a corner, a clergyman is sitting on a bench with some french tourists. You can ask him questions about Islam and have an open conversation with him. Nice concept.
By the time we made our round around the sights of the Naqsh e Jahan square, it’s lunchtime. So Saeed and Azadeh take us out for a quick lunch and then we’re off to Yazd where we will be staying at their home for the next couple of days.