After a wonderful few first days in Shiraz, it is fairly safe to say that I had fallen pretty in love with the city. The crazy traffic, the stunning architecture and the welcoming locals all blended together to create a place that was undeniably enchanting, and I was completely under its spell.
I had made a new friend in the form of fellow Aussie travel blogger Hayden (check out backpackertrack.com) and together, we spent several days exploring some of the most well known sights in Shiraz, and a few lesser known ones too.
Dating back to the mid 1700’s, Vakil Mosque is considered to be one of the most stunning pieces of architecture from the period of the Zand dynasty. The mosque was restored in the 19th century, and as a result, features large floral designs that are much more reminiscent of the Qajar period.
Entrance to the mosque will set you back 150,000 rials (approx $6 AUD) and even though the mosque is one of the smallest ones you will see in Shiraz, it is worth every single penny.
The architectural details and the designs of the mosaics are utterly captivating. Everywhere I turned I seemed to discover something new and beautiful. Even if you aren’t a big lover of architecture, it is mosques like these that are totally undeniable!
Vakil was also one of the quieter mosques I visited in Shiraz, and only having to share the place with a couple of other travellers and a few praying locals was pretty wonderful.
In this particular mosque, females can comfortably wear their normal Iranian attire, but it is worth noting that in some mosques females are required to also wear a chador for the duration of their visit.
Located adjacent to Vakil Mosque, Vakil Bazaar is one of the most popular bazaars in Shiraz.
I must admit, after having some rather negative experiences at the bazaars in Istanbul I wasn’t exactly keen to visit another one. But as it turned out, the bazaars in Iran are nothing like those in Istanbul, and instead of being unrelentingly hassled, the Iranian shopkeepers were polite, kind and in no way forceful – I had hit the bazaar jackpot!
I wasn’t in the market to buy anything, but regardless, it was nice to just mosey through this foreign bazaar and watch the locals go about their daily business.
Streets and Alleys
One thing that I really loved about Shiraz was that all you have to do is take a couple of dodgy looking back streets from the main roads and you can discover some really interesting stuff.
Just a few streets away from the Vakil mosque were these ruined buildings that almost looked like they had been ravaged by a fire.
Not too far from these burnt buildings was this store selling fruits and herbs, all of which looked absolutely incredible.
Just check out these delicious looking pomegranates!
Also, you never know who will be watching you from behind unassuming doors…
Shah Cheragh Holy Shrine
One of my absolute favourite spots in Shiraz ended up being the Shah Cheragh Holy Shrine. I had heard about this shrine before I arrived in Iran, but I honestly didn’t know much about it and as such, didn’t really know what to expect.
The Shah Cheragh shrine houses the tombs of two brothers – Ahmad and Muhammad – who were the sons of Mūsā al-Kādhim and brothers of ‘Alī ar-Ridhā. These two brothers took refuge in the city of Shiraz during the Abbasid dynasty, in which Shia Muslims were targeted and persecuted.
It has since become the most important pilgrimage site in all of Shiraz.
Shah Cheragh is absolutely enormous, and construction of the shrine was ongoing over many centuries. Some of the earliest structures date back to the early 12th century, with further notable structures being erected in the 14th, 16th and 19th centuries.
Entrance to this shrine is FREE, but foreign visitors are encouraged to be escorted around the shrine by a local volunteer. This may sound strange, but these volunteers can answer just about any question you have about the shrine and its history, so they are worth their weight in gold.
The interior parts of the shrine are usually open to visitors, but I visited right in the middle of the one month of the year in which these areas are restricted to locals who wish to pray – as a sign of respect. It was a little disappointing to not be able to explore inside, but at least the outside of these buildings gave me an idea of what these interiors would look like.
Look at all those mirrors!
Shah Cheragh is one of the shrines that requires females to wear a chador, and for foreign women, these are provided (free of charge) at the entrance.
This is me, happily chador-ing it up! I honestly felt a little bit like a jedi knight in this outfit, and it totally added to the whole experience.
As the sun went down, Hayden and I were invited to have some tea with our volunteer guide. It was an interesting experience to say the least. Our volunteer guide was only a braces-wearing teenager, but had very passionate views on his religion and the perception of this religion to the Western world. He definitely came on a little bit too strong, but to be honest, most of what he was saying was fairly spot on, so I couldn’t really fault him too much.
After we had finished our tea, another volunteer offered to take us up to the roof of one of the buildings to get a different view of the shrine. This next picture that Hayden took of me is an undoubtedly strange one (what up with all the pigeons, right?) but I absolutely love it.
Shah Cheragh was good looking during the day, but it became really special by night. If you ever visit this shrine, you definitely want to be there for sunset.
Seyyed Alaeddin Hossein Shrine + Mausoleum
This shrine was one that I would never had known existed, had I not been told about it by one of the volunteers at Shah Cheragh. She told me that the interior of this shrine was similar to that of Shah Cheragh, and that unlike the Shah Cheragh – I would be allowed to enter!
Funnily enough, Hayden and I were initially told that we could not take photographs, but after chatting with the people who worked there – we ended up being encouraged to take photos while inside. It was unexpected, but I wasn’t going to say no!
I was also required to wear a chador in this shrine, and it was the only place I visited in all of Iran in which I was told that I needed to cover up all of my hair. My chador did slip out of place a few times however, which led to me quietly chastised. Whoops!
Entrance to this shrine was also free, and it was located just a few streets away from the Shah Cheragh. If you visit Iran, it is definitely worth a visit!
Getting to Shiraz: Turkish Airlines fly between Shiraz and Istanbul regularly
Niyayesh Boutique Hotel: A cheap hotel with a few mixed dorms, expect to pay around $12/night
Shah Cheragh Shrine: Entrance to the shrine is FREE
Vakil Mosque: A stunning mosque and well worth a visit, entrance is 150,000 rials
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2/8 lens
Remember: Don’t worry about packing a chador, they are available at every shrine where they are required