Excellent advice for traveling or life in general: it is best not to judge a book by its cover, or a building by its entrance.The famous Pink Mosque or Masjed e Nasir ol Molk in Shiraz is a case in point. The approach via an undistinguished street gives only a hint of the beauty that lies within.
Once inside, you are surrounded by the most exquisite mosaics. The more I looked, the more I saw. The details and the hidden images (think Where’s Waldo) were absolutely amazing.
The Pink Mosque is only one of the wonders in Shiraz. In 2011, UNESCO designated The Persian Garden–as represented by nine examples throughout Iran–as a World Heritage Site. Shiraz’s Eram Garden (or Bagh-e Eram) is one. Persian gardens are laid out in a design that has remained consistent since the time of Cyrus the Great. [I had the good fortune to see four of the nine. In addition to Bagh-e Eram, I visited Bagh-e Chehel Sotun in Isfahan, Bagh-e Dolat Abad in Yazd (see Yay for Yazd) and, of course, the original in Pasargadae(see Cyrus the Great Slept Here).]
These young students were armed with magnifying glasses to examine the flora and fauna on a beautiful day. Field trips are a universal source of joy to their participants!
Eram Garden is laid out in the traditional quadripartite manner and would have been walled, originally. I love the fact that the Avestan (language of Zoroastrian scripture) word for walled enclosure is pairidaēza, rendered into Old Persian as paridaida, Latin as paradīsus, and then paradis, paradise, etc. In fact, the Persian Garden was conceived as heaven on earth.
Within the garden, Qavam House is a beautiful mid-19th century building with tiles featuring poems of 14th century native son and renowned writer Hafez (more on him below).
Don’t leave Shiraz without visitig the tomb of Hafez, whose full name is Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muḥammad Ḥāfeẓ-e Shīrāzī. He earned the name Hafez for having memorized the Quran, which he did at a precociously early age. He is revered throughout Iran and his tomb is a favorite destination especially at sunset.
There were people of all ages and stages paying their respects, touching the tomb for good luck and taking selfies!
Historically, Shiraz was known for its wine, women and song (or poetry). While the first is no longer available here, the women (and men) are welcoming and the music is sweet. Be sure to include it on your itinerary.