What to think of Tabriz?

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ November 11th, 2007. Updated on April 18th, 2009. Published in: Travel blog » Iran.

Travel Journal Overview: I arrived into Tabriz late in the evening, all was closed. The streets were crowded and I spotted a small hotel on a main street. I was carrying a few photocopies from a guide book, and knew little about the place.

The Blue Mosque in Tabriz, Iran (click to enlarge)

The Blue Mosque in Tabriz, Iran (click to enlarge)

I was awake by 6am, but by force and dread of using a shared squat stayed in bed until 10am. Breakfast consisted of fried eggs and a large sheet of thin bread that looked much akin to bubble wrap, though thankfully better tasting. Then to a slow Internet, where I got a mail from a Korean girl I had met in Goreme who was also visiting Iran, though she had typed it in a Korean font so my mail naturally could not read it. I replied from hotmail and included my hotel address number and anything else that could possibly suggest I wanted to travel with someone.

Yes I was finding Iran not to be so great. It was western in every extent, bar the covering of ladies with headscarf’s. I so wanted the Tourist office to be open, I knew that was the key to opening up Iran to me. The stories from fellow travelers about the brothers that ran it seemed to pull me into waiting.Yet another side of me wanted to leave, and leave fast. I figured I could wait until Sunday, if it was not open by then, I would leave for either Mashed or Esfahan.

I spent the next day roaming the streets of Tabriz, and being unimpressed. No other foreigners were at the hotel, nor roaming the streets. I was bored. TT quotes of overly friendly people, and joyus sights were far from the Iran I was in.

So by Sunday I was very glad to see that the tourist office was open, and the stories of the Brothers Nasser and Bassin were true. Indeed Nasser took me on a quick tour of the local Bazaar and I learnt that in this part of the world the gold dealers had the best exchange rates for money. And I learnt how the market worked. Tourists made up only 5% of the exchange in currencies, and seeing my interest in the more non-touristic points of business Nasser introduced me to some of his friends in the business. I changed 500 Euro for 13,500 toman, or rather 6.5 million rial and learned the meaning of the Iranian currencies.

I was fed all the information I wanted. Taxi fares, food costs, places to see and of course what I could and could not do with my camera. I headed straight for the Blue Mosque and began photographing great chunks of blue tile scattered on a heavy stone floor. With percise persion artists stenciled in delicate lines and designs where new tiles would be painted on in a new form of restoration. The allure of the Blue Mosque was strong, the work would take years, perhaps decades to complete. And all could again be destroyed by another earthquake.

Broken blocks from the Blue Mosque in Tabriz

Broken blocks from the Blue Mosque in Tabriz

I returned to Nasser that afternoon to keep for the promise of being shown a good meat eatery. Instead I was introduced to a scarf covered Canadian girl, Kirsty. Nasser’s first comment was “Do you want to go on a tour with her to Kandahan today? You will share the price, is good?”

Company!! Why I was so hungry for company I do not know. Maybe because in a place not as imagined, one can find solace with a fellow traveler. Hunger was put back an hour or two, and so we set off in the little black  and headed to Kandahan.

The little light brown mountainside village was much like Goreme in Cappadoccia. Only here people seemed to actually be living in the little cave like dwellings. It looked to be like a simple life in the village. People carted supplies up the narrow hilly lanes on contented mules. Women folk wore more colorful headscarf’s, while small children occasionally posed shyly for photo’s. Yet deep down as I looked at a few stores below on the road, and the odd restaurant I wondered that in the past, or perhaps as a vision for the future the village had been purposely left as it was.

That night Kirsty and I had dinner together, and she spoke of her 1 month in Iran. Tales of meeting fellow travelers, and of a group of ignorant Australian photographers hassling local women spewed forth. I listened as she vented her mild anger and frustration at them, and recapped her stories of the simple Iranian lives she had stumbled onto. I was happy for the company,and happier still to here of another travellers experiences in Iran. Kirsty was flying home the next day, and so it was then I decided it was time to move on, and bought a ticket to Rasht for the dayafter tomorrow. My fruitful day had inspired me to see this little green hillside town nearby Rasht called Mashed. A quick photo on the street for Kirsty and we bid each other goodbye.

Again I slept in, this time until 10.45am, it was my last day in Tabriz and I would be on a sleepless night bus tonight, so the rest was welcome. From the looks of the toilet paper scattered in the shared squat there seemed to be another tourist around. Only as I checked out and had my bags stored the manager seemed not to care and devulge and information to me about the person.

I headed back to Naseer and was taken to the enterance of a local resteraunt that held the promise of good food. It was in fact a basement resteraunt, filled but for one corner bench with both young and old Iranians smoking hooka’s, sipping sweet chai and eating from metal plates. I moved into the vacant corner and sat. Immediatley a pleasently smiling youth brought me over a aluminium platter holding a bowl, jug of stew and some more bubble wrap bread. Then much like an infant my host began to pound the stew with a metal plunger and tore my bread up for me. Later he even returned a second time to mash up more chickpeas and potatoe, before my nods of yes I know what to do now brought a smile to his face.

This also brough smiles to the other patrons and some chuckled from behind there bubbling hookas. Still I managed conversation, mainly thanks to my lamenated map. I used the story of writting a book of my travels to bring more interest to my red lined map. And then I grnered many Inshallas. I kind man also gave me two tickets to go and see another mosque, or rather garden mosque.

I headed to the bazzar next, not nearly a touch on the Marakesh souq’s, but I did release my camera again and took a photo of the vendor who sold me toilet paper. Not to mention his six other friends, who also really liked my book writing story so much they gave me a tube of free toothpaste.

Some more cyber, and I collected my backpack from the hotel before heading back to the Modern Tabriz Restaurant for another relaxed slap up meal. Then it was off in a taxi to the bus terminal where along the way I met up with Nasser’s brother for another farewell. Again I was told of the beauty that awaited me in the little town not far from Rasht

The night Bus to Rasht was 8 hours, meaning a 5am arrival,and another night of having an idiot slouching ontop of me. Do I look comfortable to sleep on? I better stop washing for a while. The night was cold, and by 2am my stomach was churning, prompting me to lash out grouchily at my slouching neighbour. I put in my headphones as a few snorers started up a musical from Hell’s Choir. 6 am slowly drew up, and still no Rasht. I was red eyed and felt like my stomach was ready to deliver something bad. By 7am we arrived, I was tired, sore and non too happy as I made my way to the porto cabin style bus office. I had a strange feeling this was going to be a bad day…

Some related links from this website that  you might like:

How to guides – Turkey to Iran overland

My Iran country guide

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5 Great responses to What to think of Tabriz?

  1. mine says:

    Hello, how are you?
    Do you remember what was the local hour of the bus from Tabriz to Rasht?

    I am planning to visit Tabriz next week, I’ll be there in lately evening and I wonder bus time if I can catch it. If you sill kept the ticket maybe there is the bus company’s number etc.. to let me know, but I think it must be in pharsi language

    • -Mine- Hello, all i can remember is that it was am overnight bus. I arrived at 6am. Just as the station opened up. I imagine you can do this if you arrive not too late in tabriz. Just beware of thursday night traffic as its the start of the weekend and can gridlock the city. If you get stuck i really recommend the tourist office there as the brothers running it are very helpful.

  2. Farzam says:

    Hello !
    I hope you had a good time in Iran,specially my home-city Tabriz(but seems like you could have had a better time than what you had according to what you wrote)
    I just wanted to ask you a question.What do you think about natives trying to talk with you?Personally,I love to meet people from other parts of the world.But I can’t travel abroad for some reasons so meeting tourists is a great way.But once as I met a tourist from Europe,I started to rethink about communicating with them.I asked if he would like me to show him around my city and some places which he couldn’t find by himself(Tabriz has some great places which you couldn’t find them anywhere else but there are no advertisements about it).He acted like he is interested and said it would be great and etc but after I kept my afternoon empty because of him(2 afternoons) he didn’t call me and when I called him to see what happened he was just bringing excuses.till I noticed he isn’t really interested.But I didn’t get why he was just acting.I would have been ok if he would just say “I prefer to be alone”(I even asked if he wants to)
    anyhow,sorry for the little story but I just thought it may help you to answer me about whether you prefer such reactions from natives or not and what would you feel if someone suggested you to show you around?

    Thank you for reading


    • Hello Farzam,

      You are bringing up a point which few people ever do. Well done!

      I have seen your situation many times over. Local comes up to tourist, offers to show them around, or even “just to talk”.

      It’s a difficult one to answer in a comment as we are talking about different global cultures and experiences here. But, for the most part think of it like this.

      Tourists are bombarded with people constantly asking them for money, tours, taxi’s, etc. Many, in certain regions, are also often cheated. Many also come from countries where people don’t just come up and offer help to them. The end result is that many tourists, especially from developed countries, are often very wary of people coming up and asking if they need anything, or to be shown around. Hence, they try to do it alone.

      When approached by a stranger, like in your situation, many cultures in Europe will be polite, and not want to hurt you feelings. So they will often make it sound like they think it’s a good idea, but won’t go through with it. Then again, there are some cultures who will simply just tell you to go away.

      It also depends on what the person wants to see. Not everyone is interested in seeing “a local market”.

      I can only suggest you ask them what types of things they find interesting. Then tell them about where these things are, some information about these places, and how to get there. The tourist probably won’t know how to get there, but, if interested, would then be more inclined to help you. I would also be up front if you are looking to get paid or not.

      • Farzam says:

        Thank you alot for replying.
        Well personally I prefer to hear “Thanks,but I prefer to be alone” rather than being indirect(maybe because I’m a direct person myself)
        P.S. I am only looking forward to have a nice time and maybe learn some from a tourist,I wouldn’t accept any money even if the tourist wants to give it(in some case I may even feel offended)

        I’m aware that different tourists may prefer different stuff.Tabriz is a big city.It has modern parts and in the same time historical sites(which not all are famous).you came to the blue mosque.But I think you missed the “Iron age museum” which is next to the blue mosque(there aren’t proper signs)
        If you like history,Tabriz has 19museums inside it !

        But in the same time,there are new places,modern and neat districts which you may want to visit or just a park like the El-goli park(shahgoli)

        But anyway,I got most of my answers in your reply.so big thanks for it