Northern Iran

Chaykhuneh Azadegan Medan Emam Khomeini
One of the most atmospheric places I visited in Iran was the Chaykhuneh Azadegan in Esfahan near the Emam Khomeini Square.  The entry is impossibly difficult to find so asking locals is essential for finding the teahouse.  After the entrance foyer which contains royalist parephernalia (it's one of the rare institutions in the city with no pictures of any Ayatollahs), the smoking room filled with nargilehs leads toward the family room in the back, for eating.  A plethora of glass curios and classical Iranian musical instruments decorate both rooms. 


Esfahan Bazaar

The Esfahan bazaar was the most extensive and lively that I saw in the country.  Here pictured during the lunch pause, hidden delights such as ancient hammams and islamic madrassahs abound within the extensive web of passages that requires hours of exploration.   





Lotfallah Mosque

The Lotfallah Mosque is justifiably one of the jewels of Esfahan.  Situated on the Emam Khomeini Square (formerly Shah's Square), it is overshadowed by the neighbouring larger Emam mosque with its four majestic minarets, but in terms of decoration and mosaic work, the Lotfallah is second to none, in Esfahan or in Iran..


Qom shrine graffiti

Holy graffiti on a section of wall inside the confines of the shrine complex devoted to the sister of Imam Reza, in Qom, considered the second holiest Shi'a site in Iran.  Like the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad, non-muslims are permitted to enter the complex (women in full chador mandatory) but not into the shrine itself.  The devotion of pilgrims, who come in from around the country day and night, at these shrines is one of the most memorable sights on a visit to Iran.

Yazd badgirs

Rooftops sporting badgirs (wind towers common in the region to combat the brutal summer heat) in the delightful old city of Yazd, as viewed from the roof terrace of the Amir Chaghmagh mosque.  Few Iranians or visitors dispute that Yazd is home to the friendliest people in Iran, and many stay here much longer than they expected.


Kharanagh village near Yazd
The abandoned city of Kharanagh is one of many interesting sites in the desert near Yazd, which also include important sites for Zoroastrianism, a pre-islamic relgion born in Iran and still centered around Yazd.  The desert extends  endlessly eastward toward Afghanistan.

Jameh Mosque Yazd

Madrassah Khan Shiraz

The Jameh Mosque in the old city of Yazd (above) and the Madrassah Khan in Shiraz represent a couple of fine examples of islamic art involving floral and quranic script patterns, which can be seen almost anywhere in the muslim world.