|ceiling at the Saadi Tomb|
We are leaving Shiraz today and have a long journey to
Yazd - but first we stop on the outskirts of Shiraz to visit the Tomb of Muslah al-Din Saadi set in its own lovely gardens.
|Saadi poetry panel from The Rose Garden|
Our guide has a beautiful singing voice and treats us to his interpretation of some of the poet's verses which are portrayed in colourful tiles on the walls in the mausoleum. One is a panel of prose from Golestan or The Rose Garden, written in 1257, one of Saadi's major poetic works. The Rose Garden is a collection of stories and wisdom in eight chapters, with each section representing a flower of the garden. It is still very popular among Iranians and our guide will readily quote and explain passages from the poem which is full of moral guidance.
|the gardens at the Saadi Tomb|
Another popular quote from the poet, inspired by his own unhappy marriage, goes thus: "A good wife comes with a good man to dwell - she soon converts his earthly heaven to hell."
There is a man meditating by a pool in the grounds - it is all very peaceful and I would have liked time there myself to savour the peace and quiet.
The loos here are modern and clean - a rare treat here!
We now have a three hour drive to our restaurant for lunch on the way to
Yazd - passing Persepolis on the way.
Seat belts are only compulsory here on the main roads out of town and we are told there are police checks on this. Our coach stops to pay a toll, due also from lorries, but from which the cars seem exempt. We have a fascinating lecture on education through Iranian history, from c. 550 BC onwards, to while away the journey - but I cannot take my eyes away from the scenes which unfold through the window on our way - there are so many interesting sights. We follow the 55N towards Esfahan and
but turn off later to the east at Surmaq towards Yazd.
|scenery on road to Yazd|
It's 24 degrees outside - pleasantly warm for me given the dry heat - with none of the humidity that often makes
UK summer heat
so unpleasant. The message scrolling across the information bar at the front of
the coach includes a safety message about seat belts and a blessing for our
journey in the name of Muhammed - also reminding us that bottled water is
freely available in the fridge by the back door. We need to drink plenty to
A village in the distance prominently flies a huge black flag - we see many of these on our journey - they are marking the mourning month of Moharram, a full 28 days each year commemorating the tragic death of the third Imam, Hossein. This year it covers the month of October - the dates change annually.
There are still many nomadic settlements dotted around near the road - no doubt they are here to help with the vegetable harvesting. A few rather grand villas in their own green compounds are in stark contrast to the dusty looking sandy coloured stone villages we pass and the nomads' tented settlements.
We're now on a high plain - with the road following the course of a dried out river for some time. There are many concrete irrigation channels here set into the fields - with sluice gate controls - perhaps fed by the new controversial Sivand dam nearby (see 5th December post).
There are a few donkeys - not so common in this part of the world - and most farm compounds seem to have a collection of old tractors and combine harvesters and other farm implements. We still climb, and come above the agricultural zone into a rocky terrain criss-crossed with rough side roads and tracks.
The mountains here are rich in minerals and there is much quarrying activity. We pass a very large marble mine for which the region is famous - as reflected in the wonderful and extensive marble tiling and walls and floors we see in many of the buildings we visit.
At midday we arrive at our turn off towards
Yazd, stopping soon for a loo break by a
rather magnificent mosque in a small village.
|fresh bread on the bus|
Ali buys some fabulous fresh bread in the local shop and we tear and share it on the coach. It is lovely. It is still an hour before lunch and we welcome the stop and the refreshments. We continue to drive further north west and higher into the mountains. The terrain becomes increasingly bleak and barren and villages are few and far between here. We are now 195 km from
For a long while we drive through very arid scrubland - but multicoloured rock
faces look rich with minerals - looking like the multi spice "cakes"
for sale in the spice shops in the Esfahan bazaar
we will visit later in the week. A magnificent jagged mountain chain looms out
of the haze of dust and heat on our left. The road is very long and straight
ahead of us.
A lonely man is litter picking into a large yellow sack seemingly a long way from anywhere. I can only guess that he is finding something with a recyclable value.
|snow melt area in otherwise barren landscape|
There is much snow up in this area in the winter and the snow melt catchment areas show green and lush, where many fruit trees are cultivated - peach, mango, cherry, pomegranate, grapes, almonds, apples … Otherwise the area is quite barren.
have decimated the wild life in this area and the countryside to our left is
now designated a National Park.
We stop to eat somewhere on the road around Faragheh to Abarkuh but I am not sure where.
Although the restaurant has a very unprepossessing interior and is geared for tour groups, locals also eat here and the food was very good, the service efficient and friendly. And they made me a lovely veggie dish of aubergine and potato stew, although from later experiences perhaps they just fished the meat out of it! Veggies beware! The low point of the meal was the pre-packaged plastic container of cabbage salad to start - very boring.
|mosque along the way|
There is another beautiful mosque in the middle of nowhere -
|inside the icetower|
|the icetower at Abarkuh|
and we stop to see the ice tower in Abarkuh. These are large fire -brick domed constructions set deep into the ground and formerly used for ice storage, a version of our own English country estate icehouses.
There are old caravanserai (inns with central courtyards built for travellers or caravans) along the route here approximately 30 km apart - to facilitate the change of horses and availability of refreshments for the postal service or Royal Road across the country which was introduced by Darius the Great - and was the world's first postal service! It later became part of the Silk Road.
We drive through pistachio country and see many small pistachio tree plantations.
Our guide tells us that the road to
attracts camels out of the cold desert at night to the tarmac which has been warmed during the
day and retains its heat. For this reason it can be very hazardous to drive
at night - sand storms are another hazard.
The small bushes or Camel Thorn here are very slow growing, stabilise the sand, and can be 200 - 300 years old.
We are now going through miles of desert and its totally barren. At Dehshir we turn left towards Taft and approach a mountain range.
Soon we stop at the side of the road for another welcome picnic - the driver and guide Ali are really good at putting on these impromptu refreshment stops. They put up table and stools and a paper table cloth, serve coffee and tea from huge flasks filled up by the last hotel, and invariably supply delicious local cake and biscuit delicacies which they have bought along the way. Fabulous. Here we have a lovely
view but the road is fast, the litter horrible! Litter
is a very real problem all along the open roads; a sad contrast with the
pristine cleanliness of the towns and cities.
|in the Lion Mountains|
It's 4.30 and the sun is getting low in the sky. We climb up into the mountain range - the
- and my ears pop
as we descend again - the sun makes gorgeous colours in the mountains as it
sets. There are old Zoroastrian villages to the west of the road - they still
have their fire towers and fire festivals take place every year in January apparently. Lion
The Lion Mountains separate Yazd from the scorching hot central desert where the temperature can climb into the 70s, so they are essential to keep Yazd significantly cooler, albeit still up to 50 degrees in the height of summer. The locals tend to have small houses here in the mountains to escape the worst of the summer temperatures. This is a big pomegranate and walnut growing area, with some saffron also. Chicken in walnut sauce is a popular dish here. The wildlife here is protected - wildgoats (I saw a small herd on the mountain side), hyena, wolves, foxes, cheetahs, vultures.
for more on the poet Saadi see http://www.ircv.org/download/Sample_Beyond_Poetry.pdf and
|traditional restaurant in Yazd|
|traditional restaurant in Yazd|