A few years ago I went to Shiraz with my mother and my grandmother. At that time my grandmother's condition was dire and going to Shiraz was one of her dreams. Looking back now that she is not among us anymore, I do not regret taking the risk of having her on an airplane despite her doctor's advice. I now know she is smiling at us from heaven enjoying the taste of Shirazi pomegranates.
We stayed at a hotel but now that I look back I wish we had stayed at one of those beautiful old houses in those tight streets with lots of tourists. Parhami Traditional House is one of those beautiful houses where we had the most delicious traditional Shirazi food kalam polo (herbed cabbage rice with meatballs) with a side dish of Shirazi salad or yoghurt and cucumber dip.
Shiraz is located in central Iran but more towards the south. Shiraz is known for its beautiful orange tree gardens, the capital of the Achaemenid Darius Empire (6th century BC) Persepolis and the two most famous poets Hafez (14th century) and Saadi (13th century).
Pink mosque or Nasir al-Mulk Mosque is advised to be visited twice. Once in the morning when the sun starts shining through the colourfully-stained glasses of the mosque and once in the afternoon when the sun is about to set. The magical colours and the reflection of the sun through the glasses creates a magical atmosphere where you find yourself desiring to sit down there and just watch the beauty of the mosque.
Shirazi people are known to love chilling and picnicking. In comparison to Tehran, where I am from, Shiraz is one calm city with utterly relaxed residents. And where is it better to relax than a garden? Eram garden is a world heritage and one of the most beautiful gardens in Shiraz with lots of water fountains and old beautiful orange trees.
If you go to the beautiful Shiraz, do ask a local to recite Hafez or Saadi poems to you. Even if you do not understand it just listening to the verses can make you fall in love with the Persian language. And just like me, you have a weak spot for some sweet indulgence, buy a box or two of Shirazi masghati (saffron, pistachio and rosewater sweet) and make sure you check into one of those old-looking humble shops to get your Shirazi faloodeh (rice noodle in rose water, flavoured sweet water and Shirazi baby lime juice).
The Vakil Bazaar (11th century BC) is the biggest and oldest Bazaar in Shiraz. Besides the joyfulness of just walking there, you can find all sorts of herbs and indigenous Persian ingredients as well as handwoven Shirazi carpets.
Do not miss the Vakil Mosque which is located right next to the Bazaar and enjoy taking pictures of its beautiful colourful tiles and its peculiar design. Arg-e Karimkhan which is now a beautiful museum used to be home to Karim Khan one of the kings of the Zand dynasty before Ghajar and Pahlavi (the last Iranian kingdom before the 1979 revolution).
The best way to see Shiraz for us was to hire a driver and make a list of all we wanted to visit. We discussed the list with him and he made a plan for us to show us around in 2 and a half days. On our way to a beautiful waterfall, we made a compulsory stop for my grandmother to use the lavatory. The driver stopped in the road and knocked on a door and they let us in their home and allowed us to even rest in their little farmhouse. For me, as a Tehrani girl with a city lifestyle, it was quite an experience to cuddle a baby goat and milk the mother with my own hands.
Shiraz is a stunning city with culture, history, art, relaxed people and of course delicious food. Among all the beautiful cities of Iran Shiraz is definitely one of the most beautiful and tourist-friendly cities without which your visit to Iran is not complete.