My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.

"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Iran: A Persian Odyssey - a day in Shiraz

At the mosque
stunning stained glass winter prayer hall
at Nasir-al-Molk mosque 

The first thing I notice from the coach as we drive through Shiraz is how clean the streets are - swept and hosed regularly. Many days later in Tehran I see many men in high viz vests who tour the streets on bicycles and motor bikes with besom brooms and continually sweep where needed. Sadly the main roads between the towns are a very different story, strewn sometimes with quite disgraceful litter. But who are we to talk in the UK? Litter seems to be a global scourge, and one which I find deeply depressing.
winter prayer hall Nasir-al-Molk mosque
Shiraz is surrounded by mountains - looking very stark from my hotel window, dotted with clusters of conifers. The traffic is bad - and seems somewhat chaotic with little lane discipline - in fact it looks a bit of a free for all! White cars predominate. The Ayatollah Khomeini looks down upon us from street posters everywhere! Over the years since the revolution his image has increasingly changed from severe to benign, the black beard increasingly portrayed as white and his face softer, even slightly smiling. Everyone we meet seems very friendly and full of smiles.
mihrab at Nasir-al-Molk mosque
We pass the citadel which we will visit later in the day. It is hot, but a dry heat so not so uncomfortable. In fact I am very happy with it. Roundabouts look very pretty and well tended, often decorated with neat rows of ornamental cabbages, which are propagated at the Shiraz municipal nurseries in the gardens at the Law Faculty of the University.
We walk through the Vakil bazaar. Vakil means "regent", the bazaar built as it was by Karim Khan, regent to the last Safavids (1501-1736), their rule reflected in the magnificence and wealth of the stunning architecture we later enjoy in Esfahan.  Soon we arrive at the 
the cow well
Masjed-e Nasir-al-Molk, a very charming nineteenth century mosque, said to be one of the most elegant and photographed mosques in Southern Iran. The deep blue tiling is wonderful, the stone cable-spiral columns most imposing, the colourful stained glass in the winter prayer hall playing beautiful patterns down on to the floor. We also see there, just off the opposite prayer hall, the cow well, where cows walked downhill to raise the water.

the winter prayer hall Masjed
So back along the streets, back through the bazaar to lunch, at the Sharzeh Traditional Restaurant in Vakil Street; as with so many Iranian restaurants it seems, this is downstairs, and is very popular with locals. There is a renowned salad bar with amazing spread, which would have satisfied me for lunch - but they make me a huge plate of stir fried vegetables - very tasty but just too much and a little boring after a while. Nevertheless a good place to eat. 

plates in the bazaar


  1. This is fascinating. I took an art history course in Islamic Art, mosques and gardens. Loving the photos. Like you, I'm a vegetarian, so I'm always interested in how you find things to eat!

  2. Thanks Heather lovely to have your comment. I took over 1500 photos and so hard to choose which to post! As a veggie I did OK although disappointed that I did not see the best of what I am sure they do cook for veggies - perhaps because we went as a group. In one restaurant they just fished the meat out of a stew and tried to pass it off as a veggie dish but I caught them out on that one when I found a small piece of chicken in it!! I certainly did not go hungry though.