Discover a true hidden gem
By Esra Alhamal
It is always bewildering for people when I tell them that I love travelling to Iran. One of the first questions is always “But how? Are Saudis even allowed there?”. My answer used to be “Yes!”, but since last year’s ongoing political drama the answer has changed to “It’s complicated.” Until last year, I could get a
“Politics have affected the tourism in Iran strongly,and the situation continuesto change rapidly.”
I visited Iran for the first time with my family when I was fifteen and was lucky enough to return several other times, but for many years I had hoped for the opportunity to explore the country’s art and architecture. In 2015, I was given the opportunity to join an art-study trip guided by Farkhondeh Ahmadzadeh, Shahriar Piroozram and Paul Marchant of The Turquoise Tour. We visited four main cities; Shiraz, Yazd, Isfahan and Kashan. We also stopped by few places on the way including Persepolis, Natanz, Nain and Maybod. The trip lasted 14 days and although I was exhausted by day 13, I still didn’t want it to end! I took over five thousand photos but I still wish I could go back and take more.
We started our trip in Shiraz, which
and Hafiz Tomb. Nasir Almulk Mosque, also known as the Pink Mosque, is one of the
Yazd’s unique old town centre is reminiscent of Old Fez, with quaint passage-ways and domes peeking over the skyline. Four hours east of Yazd is the breathtaking city of Isfahan, and I was most excited for this stop as I had yearned for years to go back there. As they say “Esfahān
“There are many iconic sights to visit in Isfahan including the
Jameh(Friday) Mosque, Shaykh Lutfallah Mosque, Shah(Imam-i) Mosque, Hakim Mosque, Chehal Sutton and Vank Cathedral.”
Another must-see in Isfahan is Shaykh Lutfallah Mosque. From the moment I stepped inside, I was amazed at the scale and beauty of both the hallway and the main prayer hall. In fact, I was so awed by its beauty that I had to sit down to take it all in. I wish time allowed because I thought each place we went to needed two visits: one for enjoying the beauty and another for taking pictures!
Isfahan is also full of beautiful bazaars. As our time there was relatively short, I only had the opportunity to visit the bazaar near the main square which was very relaxed and full of fascinating goods from intricate carpets to hand-carved wooden trinket boxes. I wanted to buy everything!
The last stop of the trip was Kashan, and I really wish we could have stayed longer as it was the perfect spot to paint. Although only a two hour drive from Tehran airport, it also felt like the least touristy city, and was full of peace and beauty. During the two days we were there, we visited the Agha Bozorg Mosque which has become another favourite. It was constructed in the 18th century when Islamic design started to become undervalued and is therefore very minimalist compared to the ornate mosques elsewhere.
Every time I visit Iran I find something new to explore and admire.