“Travelling by myself for the first time in six years without my family; Iran was the perfect place to soak up the wonderful atmosphere, marvel at mosques and indulge my shopping passion in the magical bazaars. Our small and like-minded group were absolutely engrossed and transported by the stories and history our Leader Reza brought to life. In Shiraz, Nasir Al Molk (the pink mosque) made for a tranquil and beautiful start to our trip. The people here of Shiraz are so friendly and enjoyed chatting, as we wandered around Narenjestan Gardens in the afternoon, sipping pomegranate juice. Persepolis and the Necropolis were major highlights for the whole group. I felt like I travelled back in time to the seat of civilisation and walked in ancient footsteps.
Isfahan and its main ‘Iman square’ was my absolute highlight. Wandering around the square you appreciate how minimal the tourist numbers are, in comparison to other destinations. Imam mosque at the head of the square was simply breath-taking in its size. Here we stretched our necks upwards to see how the roof had been expertly designed and intricately built to create up to 7 echoes. From the ethereal light flowing through the windows to the beautiful sounds resonating through the building, it really did feel divine. A German group came into the mosque and 1 couple spontaneously sang a Christmas carol – we all stopped in awe as it sounded so heavenly, the sound soaring around the dome.
Each mosque that we visited was different to the last – combining traditional Persian architecture with intricately designed tiles and different influences from around the world. I’m no historian, but I enjoyed noticing references to early Christian churches and other European influences in the tile work which our Leader was always on hand to describe and explain with a story.
Although a ‘busy’ trip in terms of sights to see and distance to cover we also had plenty of opportunities for free time. I spent mine in cosy, tucked away tea houses chatting with my fellow group members and enjoying local honey cake, having struck a great bargain on some Christmas presents for my family in the bazaars! As the trip progresses, each bazaar is quite different from the last all with a beautiful selection of ornaments and artisan goods – one well prepared member of our group had a separate case for all the trinkets and gifts they bought. I would highly recommend this tip for avid shoppers. With no alcohol or access to Facebook it’s also a great ‘cleanse’ and means you get to really enjoy the famous hospitality and friendliness of the locals and feel you’re a million miles from home in the best possible way.
In terms of clothing, wear things that will keep you comfortable throughout the day and lessen the inquisitive looks – a loose tunic or long shirt with trousers and a headscarf is sufficient and sandals are fine. Our Leader was always on hand to adjust my scarf if it slipped off. I think there are preconceptions about travelling in Iran, especially as a woman. My advice would be to go without question, don’t be held back as you will not regret it!”