Esfahan is really the best most fun city we have visited in Iran, although can’t be compared to our special time with the Nomad family or at the Caravanserai, it’s all just been so different and special with many contrasts.
This morning, Friday, when absolutely everything is closed all morning, at least, we heard that there was going to be an anti American/ Israeli demonstration at the beautiful Esfahan Square. Cameron sensibly suggested that it was probably not the best idea to check it out, however as usual my curiosity got the better of me and so we wandered down to the square straight after breakfast.
Well, I took one look at the size of intended demonstration with ambulances, fire brigades with hoses at the ready, crawling with police and army, many more black chador clad women than usual, speakers, masses of carpets set out for praying, horrible anti American and Israeli posters on display, even I reckoned this demonstration was going to be bigger than expected.
We were afraid of not being able to get out of the square once the demonstration began so decided that DFAT had a point in recommending Australians keep away from demonstrations and wandered down to the pretty gardens at the river beside the beautiful bridges instead. A very pleasant morning.
We met up with Sara and group about 11 am and she accompanied us to the Christian Armenian district which of course was buzzing as they are Christian, not Muslim, so Friday day of prayer does not apply.
In the 17th century, the Shah recognised the value of the Armenian community in regard to their many skills and so transported 150,000 of them from the north of Iran offering them an oasis of religious freedom in exchange for their contribution to the economy and culture of Esfahan.
There was a very interesting museum where we again saw evidence of the the shocking Genocide period by the Turks (which of course they have always denied) as well as the interesting culture and history of the Armenian race.
It was strange walking into a Christian church again with all the gaudy paintings and statues after the beautiful minimalist mosques which are like sanctuaries or havens of peace and beauty.
We had another best and long lunch (if it is possible to have a long lunch without a bottle of wine or three, but surprisingly I have hardly missed the alcohol and experienced some really interesting and refreshing fruit drink combinations (Lucille and Priscilla, I know you don’t believe me)) to keep out of the intense midday heat, in a beautiful restaurant. We tried a couple of new dishes and enjoyed the break before visiting one of the most majestic mosques of all, in the Imam square.
By then the demonstration was over and all the paraphernalia removed and the great atmosphere and beauty from the day before ha returned to the square.
Across from the Mosque was the Ali (yep The name Ali pops up yet again) Qapu Palace, a fascinating 5 story palace used by Shah Abbas to receive guests and ambassadors. The view from the terrace over the Square was great to people watch and you could see right across Esfahan, all the beautiful coloured domes and minarets across the city. The music room was the highlight for me, a stucco ceiling stencilled with shapes of vases and flowers, rose-water shakers to enhance the acoustics.
As usual we ended up in the atmospheric Bazaar with all the spicey smells, sunlight filtering through the ceilings and lattice work, many jewellery, carpet etc merchants. The best part is that unlike Asia and Europe, the merchants are so pleasant to deal with, no hard sell, no bargaining and always ready for a chat.
We watched a miniatures painting artist which was quite fascinating and eventually, surprisingly, all returned to the hotel about 6 pm for a bit of downtime, quick shower and will meet up again at 8 pm for our night out on the town when the fun really begins.
So, I had better go and shower.