Shiraz Diary

I took the Iran Aseman flight from Dubai to Shiraz paid at the airline’s office in the terminal (‘cos I missed my original flight with another carrier, but that’s another story).

It’s a fairly short flight, about an hour, but you do get nice kebabs for the meal. It is on one of those aging Tupolevs which have a tendency to crash, though.

Shiraz airport is small, sleepy, and a breeze to get through. Personally I am developing an affinity for small regional airports compared to massive international hubs. Chennai airport in south India is far more civilised than Delhi or Mumbai.

All the other passengers seemed to be Iranians. I was a bit of a curiosity for the immigration staff. Not least when they asked where I was staying and I said that I was still thinking about it.

The luggage carousel was next to the immigration counter and the exit a few of yards further on. On the way, I made up my mind to stay at the Eram Hotel and asked the driver to take me there.

In London, I’d bought a copy of the Bradt guide to Iran and had emailed all (four) of the Shiraz hotels listed in it. Two had replied – one offering US$95 (Homa Hotel) per night and the other $45. I opted for the $45. Not least because I had also asked both about sightseeing and how much a full-day’s taxi would cost. The Homa had said that they could arrange for an English speaking guide for US$22 per day – add on the cost for transport and this was starting to look pricey, so I opted for the Eram.

Along the way the driver asked whether I wanted to go to Persepolis etc. He would charge 300,000 riyals per day (16,000 to the £), so between £15 and £20. He was driving a Mondeo equivalent Peugeot – so I asked him to come into the hotel with me so that we could conduct negotiations with the hotel staff helping out with translations. He really wanted me to start the next day and I preferred to do my sightseeing within Shiraz first – so I kept his number and left it at that. The hotel staff also preferred me to use their recommended taxi service, they said because it offered better security, obviously because they got a commission. Given the grief I’d give them about sightseeing tips, I settled for that, about the same price as the first chap, but a smaller car.

The room was tidy, bed firm and the adjoining bathroom clean. The television showed international channels.

I am small so the 1 foot gap between the sink and toilet to get through to the shower area was not a problem, towels were rough though. Not speaking any Farsi, or knowing anyone locally, the only solution for working out where to go and how was to take up residence at the reception desk. I needed to check how much could practically be covered in a day and how I could get between places – checking the prices to be given to taxi drivers was also useful. Luckily the hotel is walking distance from the main sights in Shiraz, so that made the first day much easier. 

Having paid £6 for dinner at the hotel, for a couple of nights in a row (soup, salad, lentils, chicken kebab with rice), I decided to go somewhere less pricey and found a burger bar along the road from the hotel. £1 for some roast chicken, with naan bread and salad. As usual I was having dinner at 5pm so it was a bit early, but the owner was very hospitable.

I asked for some tea, they didn’t have any but suggested that there was a teashop in the basement of the shopping centre next door. I made my way there and found it a little difficult to explain what I wanted. Luckily the owner of the first shop had sent someone behind me and he explained to these people that the foreigner wanted some tea and I was served. Peculiar experience – all the customers were seated along the walls of the shop, smoking hubble/bubble pipes, and I was the only one drinking tea.

The second time I went to the burger bar, the owner was very generous with the portions and refused to take payment. Apparently he’d worked for 20 years in Germany for Siemens and had come back to Iran to raise his family.

All information provided in good faith, please check as appropriate before you travel (c) 2009