Taking tea is an Iranian institution - everybody does it somewhere, sometime every day. Tea is the refreshment of choice. Always drunk black from a small glass, sweetened and flavoured by a a disc of sugar candy (often lemon or orange or even saffron flavoured) that is placed on the tongue and the tea sipped over it.
The teahouses are really a man's territory but women tourists are accepted. Just be aware of local sensibilities and be discreet. The teahouse in the Abbasi Hotel is lovely and you will see women and families there.
All over Iran you will see all kind of buildings decorated in beautiful tiles, especially in Esfahan around Imam Square. There you will find the most exquisite mosaic tiles, often with floral motifs or calligraphy, covering the walls of mosques and palaces. Iranian tile making had its greatest period in the 16th century, during the Safavid era. At that time they made tiles in two forms. Moarraq kashi are very small mosaic tiles put together, while haft rangi are larger with a painted surface (using seven colours). Using the larger painted tiles (mostly used inside buildings) was saving time when constructing new buildings.
Esfahan has a good number of beautifully designed parks in addition to its traditional gardens and promenades. The following is a short listing of the main parks:
I. Bustan-e Sa'di, southwest of Pol-e Felezi (Steel Bridge).
2. Bustan-e Mellat, between the Steel Bridge and Sio Se Pol.
3. Bustan-e Ayeneh Khaneh, between the Khaju Bridge and Sio Se Pol.
4. Bustan-e Sahel, east ofKhaju Bridge.
5. Bustan-e Zayandeh Rud, northwest of the Steel Bridge. :
6. Bustan-e Kudak, northeast of the Steel Bridge.
The historic mausoleum called Menar-e Junban (The Shaking Minaret) from the Mongol period and 6 km to the west of Esfahan, consists of the tombstone of AInu Abdollah Karladani (bearing the date 1316 AD) and two shaking minarets each soaring high on either side of the mausoleum ivan, as the main attraction of the place. If you climb up the very narrow stairway to the top of one of these minarets and lean hard against the wall it will start to sway back and forth, and so will its twin, and the whole ivan, decorated with polygonal azure tiles. Although by no means unique in this respect, the Shaking Minarets of Esfahan are probably the most famous of their kind. The site is open from 8 AM to 5 PM.
Museum of Natural History
Located in Ostandari Street, formerly called Talar-e Taimuri (Timurid Hall), and used as the Officers Club until the victory of the Islamic Revolution, this pafatial building is a Timurid epoch monument. 'Incorporated in the city by the ,Municipality of Esfahan in March 1989 as an endowment to an Esfahani university professor named Dr Ja 'farian to promote the study of natural science and related subjects, the museum consists of seven halls. It maintains exhibitions in all 'branches of natural history, including anthropology and ecology. As a result of the wide explorations and program of research of its initiator in a period of 37 years, the museum has acquired specimens and data of great value. Among the facilities for study are an extension library, illustrated lectures, publications, programs for young people, cooperation with city schools and universities.
An eleventh-century inscription in verse and a valuable stone-trough in the garden area can be seen in addition to the entrance ivan with its brick stalactite arid stucco decorates of remarkable value
This is a sign for the Ladies toilet (bathroom). Save this tip on your ‘Custom Travel Guide’ here on VT. Then, before you go to Iran, print it up so you can use it when the call of nature is greater than your language skills!
Contemporary Arts Museum
Located in the vicinity of Chehel Sutun Palace in the center of Esfahan, the two- story building of the Museum dates back from the Safavid era, when it was called Jobbeh-Khaneh. It was reconstructed during Qajar Dynasty. At that time it was being used as the residence of the ruler of Esfahan, Mas'ood Mirza (Zel os-Sultan). The ruler, who was very interested in hunting, used the building for keeping the horns and corpse of hunted animals. He named it the "Hall of Horns." When the ruler moved his residence, the building was used as the ruling headquarters of the city. During the Pahlavi dynasty, the building was used by the general governorate of Esfahan Province. In 1994, Esfahan Municipality repaired the building and entirely renovated parts of it. Since then, it has been allocated to the Esfahan Contemporary Arts Museum. At present it comprises four large halls, a library, a gathering hall, and a hall for the museum staff. It was actually used as a museum only when the province authorities reconstructed the partly destroyed building in 1994 and finally in 1996, the museum was officially inaugurated.
Since then the museum has focused its activities on the fields of classical and modern arts, and has held several exhibitions displaying classic and artistic modern woks.
However, the museum tries to put the works of renowned old artists on display as well, considering the skill of artists and inherent values of the works themselves. Based on such mutual understanding, the artists and art collectors are handing over some of their works as gifts to the Museum while participating in the meetings and artistic-cultural seminars held in the museum. As an example, the Golden Deer", which is one of the remarkable works of the late Master Hossein Joharian has been presented to the museum as a gift.
Imam Khomeini Art Gallery
Inaugurated in May I996, this modem three-story gallery of the art loving people, artists, and artisans of Esfahan on Feiz Street to the south of Khaju Bridge occupies a total area of 1800 square meters. It is affiliated with the Institution for the Compilation and Dissemination of the Works of Imam Khomeini, the late founder and leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In addition to housing the works of the late Imam Khomeini, the gallery consists of an amphitheater for holding assemblies and screening plays in the basement, a book shop, a periodic gallery for the display of Iranian and foreign art works relating to Imam Khomeini, and a museum in the first floor for the preservation of his works, letters, personal belongings of him an his son Haj Ahmad, and some loose leaves of his manuscripts.
One of my Iranian friends told me “We sleep in oil”. Iran is the 2nd largest exporter in OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries). The numbers are staggering: Has the 2nd largest natural gas reserves in the world, 9% of all oil reserves. The price of gasoline/petrol is 38 U.S. CENTS PER GALLON! Or about 7 Euro cents a litre! It does not take much looking around to see, however, that Iran is not as wealthy as some of its Arab neighbours. In fact it has to import 50% of its petrol needs because it has such low refining capacity in the country. In fact, they are now rationing fuel!
A 'Dizzi' is also known as 'Abgousht'. This is a meat (usually beef), bean and potato stew. But it gets more interesting. It’s all cooked in a pot that is brought to your table. The juice is pored out into a separate bowl (pictured) and is like a kind of soup you eat with flat bread. Then the waiter puts a spoon into the small pot and sirs around furiously to make an almost sort of puree placed into a second bowl. I know the word is actually Persia, but I like to think it’s called a Dizzi because watching the waiter stirring can make your head spin. It tastes good and is almost 2 dishes in one.