Thursday, April 30, 2009
Memo to all Indians reading this: if you have a few days and a little money to spare, and enjoy travelling, come to Esfahan. Iran Air flies to Tehran and the connecting flight to Esfahan will probably be thrown in free; it is very cheap anyway. Week-long tourist visas are available to Indians on arrival in Tehran, so that's not an issue. Just pack a bag and get on that plane, the weather should be good till the beginning of June.
We've seen just a couple of the highlights of this town, but they're magical. Now we are talking of buildings of the calibre of the Alhambra, the Taj Mahal and Chartres Cathedral. These aren't places where you walk in, say hey, this looks interesting, look around for a few minutes, click a couple of pics and head for the next mosque or museum on your list. No, here, your breath is taken away as you enter, you linger for half and hour, an hour, scrutinising this and that detail, and then return in the evening or the next day. These are not places you get confused about a week or a month down the line. "Where did we take this photograph? Was it the Vakil mosque in Shiraz? Or maybe the other one in Yazd?" That kind of memory failure will not happen in the case of Esfahan's Imam mosque and Lotfollah mosque. You will remember them, and you will remember walking out into the marvellous Imam Square, which is comparable in impact to Venice's St.Mark's square, though its atmosphere is entirely different.
Esfahan has, apart from amazing mosques and an atmospheric plaza, some exceptional palaces and gardens, a river with lovely bridges, some of which hold cosy teahouses where you can while away an afternoon, a bazaar selling superb handicrafts, and hotels of every class. Once Iran turns more liberal about liquor and women's clothing, Esfahan will develop into one of the world's favourite heritage tourism destinations. I recommend forgoing the liquor, bearing up with the scarf, and getting that ticket right away.
We have squeezed the rest of our itinerary to make space for three whole days plus an evening in this city. It's been four consecutive days of travelling hundreds of kilometers (trip to Persepolis / Parsagade; bus to Yazd; trip to Meybod etc.; bus to Esfahan), but I'm really happy we planned things the way we did.
I will write in more detail about Esfahan tomorrow or the day after, but right now I want to continue with, and conclude, the discussion about Persian nose jobs. Since I wrote last, I have seen, not just dozens of women, but a fair number of men with the nasal bandage. It appears to be a status symbol in these parts. They say some people wear them without even having had the operation. I didn't believe it till I spotted this mannequin.