I’ve always been curious about Persia. A land shrouded in mysteries and great historical tales. A few months back I travelled to Iran with 3 of my girlfriends on a mission to capture Iran’s beautiful architecture and experience its unique culture.
I always knew Iran would be a magnificent place to shoot photography but in the end this place totally exceeded my expectations. My experience here was of a wonderful and welcoming country that is filled with incredible sights and amazing people.
Iran may be the friendliest country on earth. No matter where we went the people would ask us the same question – “What do you think of Iran?” You could tell that they genuinely wanted visitors to enjoy their time and leave with positive memories.
I must admit that at first I was a little bit apprehensive about some of the cultural norms expected of women. Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 all women in Iran are required by law to wear loose-fitting clothes to disguise their figures and cover their hair with headscarves.
In everyday life, though, you see many young women (especially in the cities) wearing skinny jeans, high heels and colourful rusaris. Of course, I had no issues with wearing beautiful silk and cotton scarves!
From Shiraz to Teheran in 17 Days
Our journey through Iran started in Shiraz where we visited the mesmerising Nasir ol Molk Mosque or Pink Mosque. The mosque was built during the Qajar era between 1876 – 1888. What makes this mosque unique is the extensive use of stained glass in its façade, including a large number of pink tiles.
Hot tip: visit the mosque at sunrise and you might get a chance to see the sunrise over Shiraz, where the sunlight streams through the tiles and illuminates the mosque with dazzling colours. This way you can avoid the crowds and enjoy a one of a kind experience.
Next, we visited the ancient ruins of Persepolis which are located seventy miles northeast of Shiraz. This ancient city served as the capital of the Persian Empire, which spanned across large parts of Africa, India and Southern Europe.
Walking around Persepolis you get to appreciate the monumental architecture, urban planning, and technology that went into this city. You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy this place, the sheer aesthetic beauty and devotion to detail will leave you feeling inspired.
Venturing into the Remarkable Lut Desert
After a few days spent in Meymand we headed into the remarkable Lut Desert where temperatures can rise to 70 degrees Celsius. The desert boasts some of the tallest sand dunes in the world alongside massive rock formations, salt plains, sinkholes and mysterious forgotten castles.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned for its spectacular yardangs (massive corrugated ridges), as pictured below. The yardangs are so massive that they can be seen from space. The Lut Desert was definitely a highlight of my trip to Iran, the landscapes were out of this world.
Dusting ourselves off from the desert we headed to Yazd with its winding lanes and mud-brick houses. Yazd is located in the middle of the Iranian plateau and is very much a desert town. Water is supplied through a qanat system developed to draw underground water.
Along with the Lut Desert, Yazd was my favourite place in Iran. The traditional districts with their mud houses, bazars, mosques and hammams were a delight to walk around. We would pop into quaint tea houses and enjoy delicious pastries like Baghlava accompanied with sweet tea.
Enjoying the Food & Delicacies in Iran
One thing to note is that the food in Iran is absolutely delicious, but you have to like rice! Bread and rice are the staple foods of the Iranians which they eat with meat and vegetable dishes along with herbs and yoghurt.
Fun fact: did you know that Iran is the largest producer of rosewater in the world? It is mainly exported to neighbouring Arab countries and Europe where it is used for cosmetics and rose essential oil. The Iranians also incorporate it into pastries and tea for the aromatic effect.
Before finishing our trip in Teheran, we visited the hidden jewel of Isfahan, the ancient village of Abyaneh, and the rosewater capital Qamsar. Looking back on this trip I have so many wonderful memories in such a short 17-day period. I couldn’t recommend Iran enough for female travellers!
It’s always the people that make a place and in Iran its safe to say the people are its biggest asset. If you get the chance to experience Iranian hospitality, jump at the chance. The people here are sophisticated and warm-hearted.