There was a huge bunch of stuff that attracted me to Iran. I was interested in exploring the architecture, relaxing in the city gardens and being exposed to the wonderful Persian hospitality that I had heard so much about.
But if I am being honest, I must admit that my main motivation for travelling to Iran was to visit Nasir ol Molk – the site more commonly referred to as ‘the Pink Mosque’.
So what is the Pink Mosque?
From the outside, this building appears much like many other Persian mosques, but it houses a lot more than meets the eye.
Construction of Nasir ol Molk commenced in 1876 as per the order of Mirza Hasan Ali Nasir al Molk – one of the famous lords of the Qajar Dynasty. Designed by Muhammad Hasan-e-Memar and Muhammad Reza Kashi Paz-e-Shirazi, construction was completed in 1888.
So what is is that makes the Pink Mosque so special?
Well, if you visit in the morning, it will light up your life – quite literally!
When this mosque was built, the placement of the large stained glass windows and doors was made to allow the morning sunlight to hit said glass and brilliantly illuminate this other-worldly mosque.
I first learned about this mosque several years ago, and ever since then, a visit to Iran has become an inevitability. I couldn’t wait to marvel at the colours, the glass and the domed ceilings. I couldn’t wait to see this truly awe-inspiring place with my very own eyes.
Now, with such high expectations, one does worry that a place will not be as lovely in person and that it could cause disappointment, but lucky for me, this was not the case.
The Pink Mosque was everything I had hoped it to be, and even a little bit more.
So now, lets talk logistics.
If you plan to visit Iran in the near future and think that a visit to the Pink Mosque is simply unmissable, then there are a few things you should know.
Firstly, timing is everything.
You will want to aim to arrive at the mosque by around 7.30am, but the absolute best lighting is between 8.30am and 9am.
So why arrive early?
Well, getting a stunning photo at this mosque doesn’t exactly happen by accident.
Shooting with auto-mode will look okay, but if you really want to capture the mosque at its absolute best, then some adjustments to the shutter speed, ISO and aperture functions will definitely be required. Getting there early gives you a little bit of extra time to play with your settings and make adjustments so that you are ready and raring to go when the best light hits.
However, just because there is only a small window of “best light” doesn’t mean that the lighting outside of this time isn’t worth staying for. I stayed at the Pink Mosque until around 10am as the lighting stayed absolutely beautiful until that time.
Furthermore, if you want to get photographs with yourself in them, try to do so outside of that golden window of “best light”, as this means you won’t be in the way for other people and potentially invading on their photographic endeavors.
Secondly, unless you are a wizard who just downed a vial of felix felicis (liquid luck for my non Harry Potter enthusiast readers) it is highly unlikely that you will get to explore the mosque without anyone else around.
Despite Iran not being one of the more touristy countries that I have visited, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t tourists! On the morning I visited Nasir ol Molk, I shared the mosque with around 20 or so other people, and as a result, had to be a little bit, er, brutal.
Unfortunately, quite a number of these tourists were either complete idiots or just downright rude, and as a result, in order for people to take photographs without anyone else in them, a bit of herding and verbal persuasion was required.
Through herding, my new travel buddy Hayden and I were able to get most people to one end of the mosque (so that people could take the most beautiful people possible) but a few people just did not get the hint.
After politely asking a couple (who were sitting almost smack bang in the middle of the photograph and just looking at the photos they had already taken) to move and having absolutely no luck. My frustration got the best of me and I ended up saying something to the effect of “you are ruining everyone’s photos – move.”
Possibly not the best way to have handled such a situation, but it got the job done and everybody else seemed pretty grateful!
Lastly, entry to Nasir ol Molk is open from Saturday to Wednesday and closed on Thursday and Friday. The official opening hours are listed as 8am-11.30am and 2.30pm-5.30pm but people have been known to be able to gain entry to the mosque as early as 7am.
Entrance will set you back 150,000 rials (approx $6 AUD) which is actually cheaper than the entrance fees for most attractions in Iran.
In terms of appropriate dress, women are not required to wear a chador – regular Iranian dress codes apply.
If these photos haven’t convinced you to add the Pink Mosque to your bucket list, I honestly do not know what will! But in all seriousness, if you have any opportunity to visit Shiraz and Nasir ol Molk, I urge you, please do it, you most certainly wouldn’t regret it.
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
Nasir ol Molk Mosque: Entrance to the mosque costs 150,000 rials
Dress Code: Men get to wear whatever they want (lucky bastards) women will need to wear a hijab and loose clothing
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2/8 lens
Remember: Everyone visiting the mosque will want the opportunity to take beautiful photographs, so be respectful to others