Hello from the beautiful city of Shiraz! This is the city of poetry, celebration, gardens, and more. It was once the capitol of the Persian Empire before it was moved to Tehran. We have been seeinf some really amazing sights on this tour. From Kermanshah where I last checked in, We have seen palaces and temples, shrines and mosques. The main highlights of our visit in Ahwaz, a city in the southwest of Iran, are the sites of Susa and Shushtar, and a Temple of Anahita. We also visited another Jewish sight at the Tomb of Daniel, in Susa. The tomb is revered by both Jews and Muslims, who visit it as a pilgrimage sight. On the day of our visit there were many people there as it was a Friday. The women and men enter through separate entrances to view the tomb, pray, wish for blessings from the prophet Daniel, and reflect.
Ahwaz is in the oil center of Iran. We passed by numerous refineries and pipelines and noted that while Iran has no shortage of oil and deisel (which it exports to Iraq) there is a shortage of gasoline for cars. There is a push to get more vehicles converted to CNG or LPG, and in several cities we have encountered congestion due to massive construction projects for new subways and other infrastructure. Gas is rationed based on the type of car you own, so for your ration you would pay only about $.16 per gallon (or maybe its liter, but still it is very cheap!). Once you run out of your ration of gas then you pay market price which is similar to what we pay in the US per gallon.
Speaking of similar to the US, it is really amazing how many similarities there are between Iran and the US, and how little we as Americans know if these things. Speed traps are common on the highways- something I think most Americans can relate too! Also, there isn’t universal health care in Iran, but they do have a system to help those who cannot afford their own insurance. Liability insurance is mandatory for all car owners. Unrationed gas costs the same in Iran as it does in the US.
SOme other little known facts we have picked up over the last several days – chess, backgammon, and polo come from Persia. Thursday night is wedding party night. Coincidentaly, Thursday is also funeral day. Thursday is actually treated like Saturday is in the US. People are off of work or only work a very short day, then they spend the rest of the day and Friday with friends and family. Many take the opporunity to get out of the cities and get some fresh air in the country.
Cyrus the Great made the first declaration of human rights law, dictating how prisoners of war were to be treated, how people of other religions were to be treated – which he declared they were to be allowed to practice their religion without hassle. The Jews looked on him as a liberator after he freed them from Nebakenezer (sp?).
There are still many nomads in Iran and they have become an integral part of the economy. So much so that the government provides them with mobile health clinics and teachers. The nomads provide meat and other products from their sheep and goats. We had the opportunity to visit a nomad tent the other day, which was a really great experience. We watched the woman baking bread which she was kind enough to give us a taste of and it was great! The kids were about as fascinated with us as we were with them.
On the whole, we have been really well received and people are always eager to talk to us. Many people speak Englsih extremely well. We had a local guide the last 2 days in Shiraz and her name is Niloufar. She was excellent and gave everyone another opportunity to ask questions about women in Iran and how they are treated and must act. Quite interesting! More on that in another post!
OK, well, I think I need to try and get into my email again. The interent has been somewhat challenging here, but no less than expected. I can log into Blogspot, but sometimes not Yahoo email. I have yet to get into Facebook, no surprise there! Hopefully we will have internet access in Yazd or Isfahan.
More to come!