Every so often, I travel to a place and fall head over heels in love with it. Sometimes unexpected, sometimes it could be predicted. In the case of Shiraz, it was a bit of both, as with all complicated matters of the heart. When researching and preparing for Iran, I knew I wanted to visit Shiraz. From the looks of it, it felt like a city I’d enjoy. But surprisingly, I never imagined to really fall in love with Shiraz in the south of Iran. To declare my love, I wrote a love letter to Shiraz Iran.
We met on a warm balmy Sunday. Your palm tree lined streets welcomed me into the city. Your welcome was a bit delayed, as if you were not ready for my arrival just yet. I waited for the taxi driver from the hotel that never came. As I called the hotel, the receptionist indicated to take a taxi and she would reimburse my taxi expenses. Surprised by this gesture, I hailed a cab.
In the bright yellow monster, we maneuvered through the streets of Shiraz. Your palm trees and green patches of grass formed a stark contrast with the dry river bed and the dusty streets. As soon as I unpacked in my hotel room I un winded. A kaleidoscope of colours came to life by your bright sun rays peeking through my window.
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Owh dear Shiraz, you have to forgive me for my first nervous hours of our encounter. As with all love affairs, I was nervous to meet you. But soon you showed me in a calm and patient way, what you had to offer. You showed me the streets of the bazaar and when rain drops fell from the sky, you offered me a few umbrellas to shelter.
It was then that I first smiled at you! Drenched in rain, I swirled around in the busy shopping streets, looking up at the umbrellas. You returned my smile with abundant sunshine that would not leave us anymore for the duration of our time together.
It was that evening, that I discovered your delicious treats and amazing ability to fill me with warm and sweet food. Maybe you’ve learned this from your motherland Iran, but I travelled around Iran for 2 weeks, and never did I taste such delicious food as at your table, my dear Shiraz!
That first night together, you kept me up all night. Making sure I’d wake up in time to see your most beloved treasure. At dawn, I prepared myself for a day of getting to know you even better. Looking back now, this was the most wonderful day I had in a long time, as you slowly unveiled all your secret beauty.
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At 8.00 am I entered a side street, hoping to find one of your famous beauties and you did not disappoint! As the sunlight brought the Nasir ol Molk mosque to life in a kaleidoscope of pink hues, I felt my heart crack a little. It felt as all the love and beauty could not be contained anymore and flowed from the inside of my chest. I leaned against the wall, looking up and around in pure amazement. It is safe to say, I had never seen anything like this before.
Regardless of the sleepless night, I felt new energy flowing through my head. They say love gives you wings and I guess I was floating. I fluttered like a butterfly through your city. I admired your parks surrounding the Kharim Khan castle and felt extremely proud to find the post office. It was like you played hard to get, when I wanted to buy stamps for my postcards, but we managed to understand each other.
I dwelled around in the dark arches of the Vakil Mosque, enjoying the solitude in this house of your prayers. I engaged with the shopkeepers in the adjacent Vakil Bazaar and reflected on our day together at a local tea house. By now, I had already fell head over heels with you Shiraz. I cannot deny it. Maybe I am superficial for admiring your beauty but I also fell for your grandeur and how you made me feel welcome.
A local shopkeeper took me out for the day, showing me more hidden nooks of the bazaar and together we went to a vantage point. From here, you unfolded your extended reach. As far as I could see, I saw Shiraz, basking in the late afternoon sun shine. It might have been this moment when a small tear welled up in my eye. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to meet you and see you, my dear Shiraz. People warned me against seeing you. They said it would be dangerous to explore Iran as a solo female traveller. Maybe they were right: there was a great change of danger to fall in love with you Shiraz.
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That night, I fell a sleep with a smile on my face. My belly full with your delicious foods, my head filled with gorgeous images and loving impressions. The next morning, I woke up early, to explore Persepolis, the Necropolis and Pasargadae.
And I can see why so many travel to Shiraz to explore these ancient ruins. As a bit of ancient history geek, I was well in my element. I roamed the ruins imagining it was thousands of years ago! As we dropped other people off at their hotels in Shiraz, you showed a new side of your beauty. A bit rough around the edges, you unveiled your colorful murals and street art to me. My tired face plastered against the window of our van, I tried to mesmerize the pictures and their location. Maybe I could go back tomorrow and explore more on foot?
Once I got back at my hotel, I decided to go shopping at the bazaar, again. During my visit in Iran, I explored many bazaars, but you know what they say: your first love is the one that leaves the biggest impression. I just loved looking at the big heaps of spices and treasurable saffron. What a sight!
As I felt confident in our growing love, I decided to quench my curiosity and after three days of tiptoeing around the Shah Chéragh Shrine, I decide to go in. I passed the monument many times on my way to and from the bazaar. I heard many great things about it, but I did not know how I would feel to dress up in a chador and explore behind the decorative walls.
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Everything was new to me. From the ladies frisking me at the gate, to dressing up in a chador and maneuvering around with it. Luckily, two young ladies from the foreign affairs office greeted me and were able to explain a lot to me and answer most of my questions. My visit to your shrine showed me your spiritual side and the deeper meaning of all the beauty I admired the days before.
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As I left, my heart felt heavy. Part of me wanted to stay and explore more. Because there was still so much I did not see, like your lush green parks and the tombs of your poets. But part of me wanted to explore more. I felt like I could fall in love with the rest of Iran too, but then I had to leave Shiraz.
I am sorry for leaving you so quickly. It was a short but intense love affair and I thank you for that. I thank you for your warm welcome, your sweet indulgent foods and your pristine beauty. I will cherish our memories together, my dear Shiraz. Please stay your true self whatever the future will bring and make travellers like me, fall in love with you until eternity.
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