Esfahan: The Hidden Jewel of Middle East

Esfahan is the third biggest city in Iran located 414 km south of Tehran (7-hours) and 481 km north of Shiraz (8-hours). This 2500 years old city used to serve as Persia’s capital from 1598 to 1722.

I took a night bus from Rafsanjan to Esfahan which was a 6-hours journey. My CS hosts offered to pick me up at 7am at Soffeh Bus Terminal, and so i waited patiently for them as I arrived early at 6.30am. It was so unexpectedly cold in the morning. An old Iranian woman offered me a cup of hot tea while I was sitting on the bench😇 At 6.55am, I sent Tohid a text telling them I’ve arrived. No reply. At 7.15am, I decided to give him a call. No answer. I tried again 5-minutes later, the result was the same.🤔

As much as luck has been on my side in finding good hosts, it is always a must to have alternatives 😎 I waited for another 30-minutes and after which i hopped on a cab and on my way to Seven Hostel (known as Ibne Sina Hotel). Due to low peak, I got myself a 2-bedroom with private bathroom for USD13 per night 🤗

Front of the Hotel

Entrance before entering to reception

Lobby/ Reception area

Dinning Area

Bedroom

Tohid called me at 3pm, apologetically telling me that they had overslept and ask me where am I. 3pm!! 🙄 By then, I had planned my itinerary and also looking out for hosts for next couple of days. He sounded very sincere and feeling real sorry. Eventually, I decided to accept their hospitality and allow them to fetch me to their house in the evening.

And so, Tohid fetched me from the hostel at around 7pm. As we drove pass the city, I then realized there are so many cars in Esfahan. The streets were brightly lit and everywhere seemed to be congested with traffic. Upon reaching the house, I had quite a shock. After visiting quite a few Iranian families, I have an understanding that Iranian women tend to dress conservatively when receiving their guests. However, this did not apply to Tohid’s wife 🤔 I thought maybe, they are more open-minded in the big city. 

Despite being a young wife, Tohid’s wife made delicious dinner for us. I believe it took a lot of effort to do coloring for the rice and made it presentable.

Zayandeh River

After dinner, Tohid drove us to the city and wanted to show me the “beach”. We drove along the Zayandeh River and stopped at one of the bridges.

Si-o-seh Bridge, also known as the Bridge of 33 Arches, is one of the bridges which went through modern constructions. It is 298m long and is a popular dating spot among Iranian couples. Due to Summer season, the river had more or less dried up.  

brightly lit street

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popular dating spot

river drying up because it’s Summer!

Next day, I was unable to go out early because the couple woke up so late, again. Tohid offered to bike me to Naqsh-e Jahan Square since it’s on the way to his honey shop. Iran has a funny traffic law. Women cannot ride bike on her own, but can sit on the bike as pillion without a helmet 🙄🙄🙄

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Naqsh-e Jahan Square

Known as Imam Square, the square is situated at the center of Esfahan City. Surrounded by the building from Safavid era, the place is now one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. The Shah mosque is situated on the South side, whereas its opposite is Keisaria gate opens into Esfahan Grand Bazaar. West side of the square is Ali Qapu Palace, and Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque on the Eastern side of the square. 

nicely manicured landscape

big fountain in the center of the square

Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque

Shah Mosque

part of the bazaar

Dinner was hosted at Tohid’s in-laws family. As the whole family has no clue to converse in English, and Tohid’s English wasn’t that great so the translation was really bad. Throughout the dinner I only mingled with the kids and the adults talk among themselves 😐

Next morning I was being awaken by Tohid at 8.30am because he needed to go visit his bee farm. I was kind of annoyed because he should have given me a heads-up after spending a whole night with his non-English speaking friends till 4am! 😒 Still, I hid my annoyance and quickly wash up and went out with them. 

suit up for the bees!

honey making in process

After visiting the bee farm, Tohid told me he was going to be busy but he had arranged another friend to meet me. I was like….ermmm okay….? 😶

Turned out I had an enjoyable day with the family! 🤗 I had a good conversation with the two teenager kids and learnt about their open-minded views of being an Iranian. The mum cooked sumptuous lunch and drove us to Julfa area where the Armenians live.  

this family is so open-minded that the ladies do not even bother to wear hijab when taking photos

parrot pet

Vank Cathedral 

courtyard of Holy Savior Cathedral

inside the church

in memorial for those who died in Armenian Genocide

I am grateful to have met this family. They are probably the best reason to make my stay in Esfahan worthwhile. After spending a day with the family, there was no news on when Tohid is coming to fetch me back. (And it was already 10pm! 😞) They helped me called Tohid and it seems like there was a small argument. 😥 

In the end, they had to fetch me back to Tohid’s house which was 45-minutes drive away. I felt real bad to be such a burden 😞 When I got back, I could see that they were actually preparing for picnic night 😤 And so, I made a decision to tell them I’m leaving Esfahan tonight. I am pretty sure they were surprised but relieved that i’m leaving. 🙄

 

 

 

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