Feeling the cultural pulse of Persia

Nasir Ol Molk Mosque (the Pink Mosque), Shiraz, Iran. Note depictions of nature (flowers, birds) and Christian churches.
Picture: Stephen Scourfield The West Australian
Photo of Stephen Scourfield

The ancient city of Shiraz is at its 'jolly' best in spring.

I am in the heart of Persia. For I am in the Fars province of Iran, which was historically called Pars, and where the name of Persia finds its roots.

More specifically, I am in the city of Shiraz, the cultural capital of Iran, and an important staging post on both the old Silk and Spice roads.

And I am here in the best month of the year, May. It is spring in this city of roses and nightingales. It is a mellow evening. In looking for a word to attach to Shiraz, I hadn’t expected to be tossing up between “calm” and “relaxed”.

Either would do but I’ll settle for the first, for “calm” does encapsulate a place where a woman stretches out her hand to you in a park, and bids you “welcome to my city”.

This is a place of beautiful, confident but covered women. In restaurants, they fill big tables and have a wonderful, chatty, gossipy time. 

It is a city which was noted on clay tablets in 2000BC and, at an elevation of 1500m, the homeland of shiraz wine. 

It was said to have built its reputation even by the 9th century and was noted by the French Christians coming here in the 18th century, though now this is a “dry” Islamic country — no alcohol, not even in hotels.

Shiraz, now with 1.5 million people, has had many heydays, and several times been the capital of Iran. It has long been a centre of science, education, poetry, literature and thought. Persian poets are important to Iranians, and there are many young people at the mausoleum of the great lyricist Hafiz.

They are wandering, sitting, reading.

Karan Jami, who is showing me around, says the people here are “outdoorsy”, and then explains: “You won’t find them spending the weekend watching TV on the couch. They want to try new things — coffee shops, restaurants.” 

You will see them in parks, and Iranians love picnicking.

“It’s quite a jolly atmosphere in the city of Shiraz,” Karan adds.

It makes my word, “calm”, seem rather limp. Yes, Shiraz is jolly.

Picture at top: Nasir Ol Molk Mosque (the Pink Mosque) in Shiraz. Picture: Stephen Scourfield

Fact File

Travel Directors 30-day Treasures of Persia and the Caucasus tour visits Iran, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. It is from September 4 to October 3. The tour is $17,450 (single supplement $3760). It includes international flights, all travel within countries, accommodation, all meals, all tips, gratuities and entrance fees, tour manager and local guides. Travel Directors or 9242 4200


Stephen Scourfield was in Iran as a guest of Travel Directors


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