Breakfast at our hotel, Safavi Hotel, was quite uninspiring after the breakfasts we enjoyed at the Tehran Grand Hotel. We spent a bit of time catching up on emails and our website etc and met our Guide from Uppersia in the lobby at 12.00pm.
It was a late start but as Friday is prayer day we would be unable to get into the Mosques in the morning. Vince and I were a bit concerned it might be too hot…but we really wanted to see some sights before we leave tomorrow – it all turned out okay as although it was hot we were mostly inside cool buildings.
Somayeh, our Guide was very knowledgeable about the places we visited and willingly shared some of her own life and insights into Iranian culture. She is hoping to immigrate either to Australia or Germany and run tours to Iran from there.
The Esfahan Royal Tour is a walking tour taking in Imam Square, 3 palaces and 2 mosques….so it is pretty full on. First we went to Chehelsotun Museum, which used to be a palace. This was not used as a residence, but as a palace for ceremonies and functions during the Safavid reign. The name related to the luck of number 40….and the 18 pillars, plus two at the back make 20 on the terrace. These were originally covered in mirrors and the reflection on the pool in front made the number 40. The entrance was covered in mirrors and was very impressive. There were many paintings on the walls and these related to the Shahs of the 1500 and 1600’s. There was also a display of the Qoran in kufic script with the seal of Imam Hassan (9th Century) behind glass….this is very precious in Iran.
Then we walked a little way to the Hasht Behesht Palace. It was build as part of the Safavid governing complex in the centre of the Nightingale Garden, hence the proliferation of nightingales throughout the artwork in the building. It has two floors, with about 20 symmetrical rooms with hexagonal elements. This was build by the Shah for his Herem and family. It was mostly a summer or spring residence but there were fireplaces to the women and children could come at other times also. The pool out the front was for them to swim in. The second floor was under restoration so we were not able to go up there, but we could see some of it from the ground floor. The rooms were beautifully decorated and Vince and I found the place very tranquil and cool….we even had a little kiss there as it felt so romantic…..we are not allowed to touch each other in public at all….so that was a bit naughty!
Next we walked towards Imam Square. Along with way we passed may Iranian families picnicking and having BBQ’s in the Park. Prayers were still happening at 2.20pm when we arrived so we decided to go for lunch. Somayeh took us to “Partikan” where we tried some authentic Iranian dishes….delicious! During lunch had us write in her note book she keeps on the people she meets….Vince wrote a bit about what to see when she gets to Australia, and suggestions of music and films to watch. I wrote some words of wisdom from our earlier discussions…..she cried when she read it…..but quickly regained her composure….she said I remind her of her mother. I told her she is only two years younger than my own daughter.
In Imam Square we visited the Ali Paqu Palace which has 6 levels and 94 steps to climb. In the entrance the courtyard has 4 corners where guards would face the wall when the Herem would pass. The people on the diagonal could talk to each other and no one else could hear…..we tried this out and it was amazing! This palace was used for politics and administration. The King would listen to peoples requests and make arrangements with other rulers….there was a reception room where foreign dignitaries met to discuss things and above it were some windows where the Kings wives from the Herem could look down and give a nod or not in approval. The most impressive room was the Music Room with fabulous acoustics due to holes in the ceiling….amazing the technology they had with limited materials all those years ago. One of the guards knew our guide and invited us into a “forbidden” room where Vince stole another little kiss!. Somayeh told us she has never been in there before. I took a photo of a fresco on the wall – that not many people would ever have seen….Vince says the lady is wearing a GoPro….I don’t think so! LOL
We then walked across the square to the Royal Mosque (also called Shah Mosque, Imam Mosque or Abbasi Mosque), where we were able to go inside. We could see the peacock in the centre of the dome and Somayeh explained about the way the light hits it to show its tail and about the script that is timed to be illuminated at sunrise and sunset. She also explained about the shrine and how humble the architect was. We then walked to a little “tea shop” where there were many young men partaking of the Shisha (Hooka) – smoking. We had some tea and some Iranian candy and sugar. We walked through the Bazaar and she showed us some camel bone boxes adorned with handprinted pictures. These have two little compartments with places for wedding rings…..we had earlier shared some stories as we had mentioned to some girls who stopped to talk to us that it was our honeymoon. She was quite intrigued by our blended family situation, and shared some of her own stories….pressure to marry as she is the eldest and her brother and sister can’t marry until she does. She is more interested in writing a book on Iranian people and culture with a German friend of hers.
We then walked to Shikh Lotfollah Mosque but didn’t go inside. By this time it was around 6.30pm so we said our farewells and headed back to our hotel.