……..Then there was Shiraz, a city that has become synonymous with education, poetry and wine. Unfortunately the last one is no longer cultivated here. After locating ourselves in the centre and securing Voukefalas, we decided to spend our time exploring and organizing our trip. The city itself served as the Iranian capital during the Zand dynasty (AD 1747–79). Many of its most beautiful buildings we see today were built or restored during that period. For most Iranians this is the city of poets, as it is home to the graves of Hafez and Sa’di, both major pilgrimage sites. Shiraz is also famous for its splendid gardens and exquisite mosques, making it a pleasant and rewarding place for those who stay longer than just one night.
Iran kept one of its best secrets for last. In our research for our final destination in Lonely Planet I read: ‘This mosque is about 180 years old. It’s the newest building in the village.’ That got my attention. So we headed to Meymand, a troglodyte village that has been continuously occupied for more than 3000 years and consists of 2560 rooms in 406 mostly uninhabited caves dug into the walls of a valley. It’s similar to Cappadocia in Turkey, but smaller and without the tourists. We spent the night in an old cave and we exchanged our no longer needed heater with a day’s food for the two of us.
Further on our way we passed the port of Bandar Abbas, a city of no particular interest or beauty. Unfortunately we were stuck here for two extra days while waiting for
the Roll On, Roll Off boat to come from the UAE. The service is notoriously unreliable but it was the only option we had. At least that’s what we thought until then. Our Iranian adventure had for us a very stressful end up its sleeve. The Ro-Ro Boat was canceled for the second time. As our visas were expiring we had to do something. We rushed to Bandar Lenkeh, a nearby cargo mostly port. This time was not just us. We had two more overlanders from the Czech Republic, Dani (Mr. Have a Chat) and Peter (The Quiet Power) on their Land Cruiser, also heading to UAE on their way to Oman. After our overnight camp on the beach outside a hotel, all four of us set out on a mission. We drove through the port gate determined to finish the job. In Bandar Lenkeh we managed to literally mobilize the whole port. We talked to almost every high rank officer available and asked for help. We became the event of the century for the whole port, a sight to see. Here almost everybody was kind and they all tried to help us, exactly the opposite from Bandar Abbas. At the end and as we were running out of options, they all pointed out to one man, Mr. Mohamed, the man who makes everything happen. Mohamed knew one word in English, “excuse me, excuse me” in an unforgettable Farsi accent. I cannot describe in words what went on for the next six hours and how we managed to sort things out but Mr. Excuse Me arranged an old onion boat to deliver the cars in Dubai. With a lot of running around to beat time and the Iranian bureaucracy, in six hours we managed to be ready to load the cars with a crane on the deck of the boat and clear Iranian Customs for good. As the crane picked up our cars we all looked at them getting loaded in the most unorthodox way and wondered if we would ever see them again. Cross your fingers! After that we said goodbye to Mr. Mohamed and got a taxi straight to the airport. Our story wasn’t finished yet. At the airport we found out that there were no seats available for the flight we had to take. The stress was back. Somewhere between discussions Mr. Kyounass popped up, helped us get our tickets and this way ended our odyssey. We would like to thank our Czech fellow travelers for their help and support in our common effort to succeed. It was a real pleasure to spend our last 24 hours in Iran together and we welcome them any time back in a future overlanddiaries adventure.
At that point our Iranian adventure had reached its end. If you think like us that the main reason to visit the Islamic Republic of Iran is because there’s a lot to see from when Persia was a great world power, you’d be right at some level and you certainly won’t run out of sights. But to think of Iran only in terms of ‘sights’ is to miss the real story. Here is where you will “redefine hospitality”. Even through our crazy end of this crossing we met people that really helped us and changed the way we see this part of the world. The people of Iran make it what it is. Do not make your decisions based on what your friends and family say because you’ll probably never make it here. Discovering the real Iranian people is the most wonderful surprise that captures every traveler.