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City Tour in Shiraz and Family Visit

Shiraz is the southernmost city we will visit during our stay in Iran. The city is mainly known for two things: Shirazi Wine and literature. You might ask how it comes wine is produced in an Islamic country? Actually this is not the case anymore but Shiraz used to be the wine capital of Persia and some of the finest wines in the Middle East were produced here. They were white and either dry for drinking young or sweet for aging.

During today’s city tour with our local guide Mehdi we discovered the second aspect Shiraz is known for which is Persian literature. The first site we visited was the Tomb of Hafez who was a Persian lyric poet. Honestly, I haven’t heard anything about Hafez until I stood next to his tomb. Before actually entering the tomb complex Jason and Alistair purchased a piece of paper predicting their future. It was in a small box together with a number of other papers and the guy selling the papers was holding a budgie in his hands that was picking one of the papers with his beak. The fortune of Jason said he will receive a message which he will like very much and the fortune of Alistair said he will become pregnant. I’m really wondering how this should work since obviously Alistair is of male gender.

The tomb complex of Hafez itself wasn’t too exciting for me since I’m more into living people than dead ones. The tomb is situated in a pavilion and there were quite a number of local people touching his marble coffin or praying right next to it.

The next stop of our tour around the city of Shiraz was the tomb of Saadi, another major Persian poet I have never heard about. It was again a big marble coffin being touched by people and in case you understand Farsi you could read some of his poems on the wall of the building. At the tomb complex they were also selling some Shirazi ice crème and although I wasn’t in the mood for it Mehdi made us tasting it since he was convinced it’s the best ice crème in all of Iran. I don’t share his opinion and wasn’t even able to finish the two scoops of ice crème together with my roommate Isabella.

We continued by taxi to the next sight which was the Arg of Karim Khan. In former times this citadel was used as living quarters and prison. Today the citadel is a museum only. From the outside it very much looks like a fort and from the inside it looks like a residential area. You could even find a hamam inside its walls.

The last stop of today’s tour was the Vakil Mosque which is one of the older mosques in Iran. Interestingly I was the only one in our group who didn’t need to pay an entrance fee since my outfit looks very much Muslim. The guy at the entrance thought I’m here for praying and therefore I didn’t need to pay an entrance fee. The highlights of this mosque were the beautiful tiles on the wall and the ceiling as well as a large number of columns.

When we came back to the hotel our driver Sam was working on the truck. He had oil all over his hands and really seemed to enjoy this filthy look. My roommate Isabella felt somehow sorry he wasn’t able to join our tour of the mausoleums and went to buy a softdrink for him. While doing so she got completely lost in the narrow streets of the area and popped up in our room two hours later.

In the evening Sam had showered and was ready to follow the invitation of our guide Mehdi to come and visit his family. Chris and Alistair managed to sneak out. Chris, who is crazy about football, was watching a match on TV and Alistair went for one of his long walks around the city. All others went to Mehdi’s home. He even had arranged his brother driving some of use while others followed in a taxi.

After half an hour drive we arrived in the residential area Mehdi is living in. We quickly purchased a bunch of flowers and sweets for his mother which Isabella handed over to her. The flat of the family looked very modern and inviting. Mehdi, who is in his late twenties, is living here together with his father, mother, sister and brother who were all there when we arrived. While Mehdi’s sister was serving tea and dried fruit, his mother was offering us strawberries and oranges. The weird thing about it was we were the only ones eating and although we offered them a few times to eat with us they refused to do so. It seems to be part of their culture that only guests are eating but not the host. Also the conversation with them was a bit weird since I tried to connect to Mehdi’s family by asking questions which Mehdi answered straight away without translating them. His parents were only sitting there smiling and sometimes talked to each other. After I asked Mehdi several times to translate what we are saying the atmosphere improved and we managed to have a little chat with his family.

One of the first things Mehdi’s parents wanted to know is if I’m Muslim because my outfit looks really Muslim like. They also offered us to take off our headscarves which Isabella and Patricia were glad to do. I kept mine on since I really want to experience how it is to be completely covered at all times during my entire stay in Iran. Mehdi’s mother also told us during specific times of the year the government is not only requesting all women to wear a headscarf but they are also requested to wear black color only. I guess my current outfit is really much conservative in an Islamic sense and would even be perfect for this request.

It was also interesting to experience which questions are considered appropriate and which not. I asked Mehdi to tell us how his parents have met. His answer was that my question is inappropriate to ask. On the other side Mehdi’s mother asked straight away for the age of all women in our group. We spent approx. two hours with the family and I really much enjoyed this look behind the curtain and wish we have more opportunities to do so.

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