The Carrot Juice & Saffron Ice-cream Float

Prepare to visually experience the most delicious thing since the milkshake…..

In the neighborhood of Chahar Bagh Bala, Isfahan…..


I present to you, the “carrot juice and saffron ice-cream float”:


This drink is really one of those things you need to try for yourself. You may have drank carrot juice before in America but I doubt you have ever come by traditional Iranian saffron ice cream. It is the most delicious ice cream flavor, you really need to trust me on this. If you’ve never tried pure carrot juice, you should try it to get an idea of what it tastes like, because I know they sell it at Hannaford. The juice itself is actually really sweet, carrots have more sugar than any other vegetable. It is this sweetness that complements the ice cream. The combination of the saffron ice cream and carrot juice together is a flavor explosion!

DSC02540This is an ice cream shop in Chahar Bagh Bala, Isfahan. It has everything from ice cream and milkshakes to fruit juices.DSC02548 DSC02551 DSC02555 DSC02556 DSC02558 This ice cream stand guy was pretty cool, he willingly smiled for the camera :). Ice cream shops in Iran are pretty sweet, they have such a variety of flavors and drinks and they open up right onto the street. The drink machines and ice cream dispensers are right on the street.

DSC02562 DSC02563 This is something really cool. If you’ll notice the drink on the left it’s called “Esfarzeh” and it is a drink made with chia seeds. When the chia seeds absorb the drink, they swell up (if you’ve ever put chia seeds in your smoothie). I thought this was pretty cool because I didn’t know they had chia seeds in Iran! The drink to the right is a drink made with another kind of seed, which is a little smaller and resembles poppy seeds. This drink is called “Khakehsheer.” Both of these drinks are known to have healing properties.

DSC02566 If you’ll remember from a previous blog post entitled “Bazar-e Vakil,” I talked about a desert called “faloodeh” made with rice noodles. In the photo above are different colored faloodeh that they had in the same ice cream shop. I thought it was pretty cool and the colors are really pretty.


 The other really interesting type of ice cream that they had in Isfahan are these cool ice cream pops made with fruit that are dairy free, they are basically like sorbet pops. I didn’t try them but they look delicious!

Naqsh-e Jahan Square

Naqsh-e Jahan (“Image of the World”) Square:


In the time of the Shah, Naqsh-e Jahan Square was called Shah Square. The square is located in the heart of the city of Isfahan and was constructed between 1598 to 1629. The square is one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites. The square is 160 meters wide and 560 meters long. Within the walls of the square are two very spectacular mosques and king Abbas’s palace. Also within the walls of the square is Isfahan’s largest bazaar that is built inside the walls and spans the entire perimeter of the square.


Something very special about the square is that anywhere you stand within the square you do not see any buildings or skyscrapers peeking out from behind the walls of the square. The only obstacles in view that are not part of the architecture of the square are mountains. This is very unique in a huge city such as Isfahan where skyscrapers poke out from every street corner. As part of a world heritage site, this is a regulation that must be met.


In 1598, Shah Abbas moved the capital of his empire from the city of Qazvin to the city of Isfahan. It was then that he chose chief architect Shaykh Bahai to redesign and urbanize the entire city. What was special about building this square was that the Shah would bring together the three main components of the Persian empire: the clergy (represented by the mosques), the merchants (represented by the bazaar), and the Shah himself (represented by the Ali Qapu palace).


Young children take advantage of the large reflection pool inside the square to cool off on a hot day in Isfahan.DSC01455Buildings from the Safavid era surround the square. Included are multiple world-famous mosques, the Shah Mosque and Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque, and the Ali Qapu Palace. (Blog of pics from inside this mosque above to come)

Horse & Carriage Rides:


One of my favorite things about the square are the horse-driven carriages that give rides to passengers. The horses have been at the square for as long as I can remember ever since I was a child, and is definitely worth experiencing at least once. The carriages circle half of the square and each ride is either one or two rounds.


My cousins waiting for an empty carriage.

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Center for Persian Handicraft:

DSC01526Isfahan is famous for being the center of handicraft in the country of Iran. For example if you want to buy fabric or rugs, you have to buy them from Shiraz. If you want to buy handicraft such as gold and silver jewelry or hand crafted metal work and enamel work, you have to buy them from Isfahan.


A metal work artist creating a famous Persian handicraft called “qhalam kar.” It consists of ink paintings on silver pots, plates, candlesticks, vases, etc.DSC01530

Another famous Persian handiwork is called “mina.” It is hand painted-enamel work on metal. Mina work can be made into anything from plates to vases. Usually, these plates are hung up on walls and used as decoration.

Hand Block Printed Fabric:

DSC01532DSC01538One of my favorite handicraft that’s unique to the city of Isfahan is block-printing. When we visited Naqsh-e Jahan Square, we walked into this block-printing shop that is located within the walls of the bazaar. I was lucky enough to catch an artist mid-action and take pictures of his work step-by-step. Block printing is done on plain white, thin canvas-like fabric. The artist starts by painting his carved block (similar to a large wooden stamp).DSC01542He paints his fabric one color at a time. Here, he was in the process of creating a table cloth. He starts with the color red and uses multiple uniquely designed blocks to stamp the entire cloth. Once the red dries completely, he will move on to blue, and then green, and so on, until a beautifully designed table cloth is complete.


I spent so much money in this store, because I love this work so much. I bought a table cloth, four couch throw cushion covers, and two side tablecloths for my apartment :). The things I got were all turquoise-blue colored.


Here is a glimpse at some of the stuff I bought: this is the table cloth, the throw cushion covers and side table clothes were in the same pattern 🙂

table cloth

The Zayanderud and it’s Many Bridges

DSC01900The Zayanderud (Zayandeh River) is the largest river in the central plateau of Iran. It crosses directly through the city of Isfahan. In 2010, the river dried out completely after several years of draught. Today the river flows with water once again, however the city continues to close and open the dam throughout the year depending on water shortages throughout the districts. The water that forms the river originates from the inside of the Zagros Mountains and flows 400 kilometers. The 400 km of river is spanned by may historical bridges that were built in the Safavid era. The Zayanderud is the reason for the prosperity of the central Iranian provinces of Isfahan and Yazd. Two of the most famous bridges on the Zayanderud are the Siosepol (33 Bridge) and Pol-e Khaju (Khaju Bridge).
DSC01901 Women wearing head-to-toe hijab are having kayaking practice on the Zayanderud. They are padding upstream while simultaneously passing a volleyball back and forth. It is great to see that despite the suppression of women from participating in sports, they continue to do so.

Khaju Bridge:

The Khaju bridg was built by the Safavid king, Shah Abbas II, around 1650. The bridge serves both as a pedestrian bridge and as a dam. Furthermore, the bridge has multiple rooms on the inside which used to serve as meeting rooms and now serve as tea houses and restaurants. In the center of the structure, a pavilion exists which Shah Abbas would have once sat, today there are remnants of a stone seat.




The Khaju bridge has 24 arches. The pass way of the bridge is made of bricks and stones with 21 larger and 26 smaller inlet and outlet channels.






Siosepol, which means 33 Bridge in Persian, is one of the eleven bridges of Isfahan and the longest bridge on the Zayandeh River. It was constructed during the Safavid period in 1632. It is one of the most famous examples of Safavid bridge design. It is named 33 Bridge because of its 33 arches. The Architectural design of the bridge is a double-check arch bridge, which means for each large arch on the bottom there are two smaller arches on the top.


The bridge was constructed specifically to serve as a pedestrian bridge and still serves the same purpose today.


Swan Paddle Boats 🙂

One of the best parts about the Zayandeh River are the swan paddle boats that I have always loved to ride since I was a child. The river and its paddle boats bring back memories from when I was around five years old. No matter how old I get, I will never get tired of them. Now that I’m older, the older cousins take the younger cousins out on the river so they can make the same memories :).

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 Siosepol (33 Bridge) at night:

At night, every single one of the arches of the Siosepol lights up and it’s a truly beautiful site.



Isfahan Bound!

iran-1232[1] A few days ago I made the trip from Shiraz to Isfahan, traveling north for about 6 hours. My dad’s side of the family is located in Shiraz whereas my mom’s side of the family is in Isfahan (apart from my one aunt who lives in Tehran). The city of Isfahan is capital of the province of Isfahan (like Shiraz is the capital of the province of Fars). Isfahan is about half way in between Tehran and Shiraz and is Iran’s third largest city and third most populated (about 4 million) after Tehran and Mashhad.
DSC01395 (640x420)An image of the inside of the VIP buses that travel to and from almost every city in Iran, definitely the cheapest and best way to tour the country. The seats are super comfortable and bend way back, it’s air conditioned, and they give you snacks and drinks throughout the whole ride!
DSC01419As Shiraz flourished in the Zand and Sassanid dynasties, Isfahan flourished in the 16th century during the Safavid dynasty when it became the capital of Persia for the second time in its history. Isfahan is one of the most beautiful cities in Iran (I think it surpasses Shiraz in beauty). The city still retains its former glory and is famous for its Persian-Islamic architecture, beautifully landscaped boulevards, famous Zayanderud river and its many covered bridges, palaces, mosques, and minarets.

The city is located in the lush plain of the Zayanderud River at the foothills of the Zagros mountains. The province of Isfahan is considered to be a desert and has an arid climate (with very little rain throughout the year). However, cool northern winds blow toward the city making it a livable climate.
DSC01427Isfahan and many other cities in Iran have sites that are designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. One of the most famous sites in Isfahan is the Nagsh-e Jahan Square (post to come), which is one of the largest city squares in the world and has remarkable architecture and is surrounded by two mosques and a bazar.

The history of Isfahan can be traced back to the Paleolithic period. Archaeologists have found artifacts dating from the Paleolithic period to the Bronze and Iron ages. In the Pre-Islamic era, Isfahan was home to the settlement that developed into the Elamite civilization (2700 BC) and was the home of the Median dynasty until Cyrus the Great unified Persian and Median lands into the Achaemenid Empire ~ 600 BC.

One of the most beautiful streets in Isfahan is Chahar Bagh (literally translated to “four gardens”). Chahar Bagh is split up into Chahar Bagh Bala (upper Chahar Bagh) and Chahar Bagh Payeen (lower Chahar Bagh). The long boulevard which spans almost the entire length of the city is a beautiful tree lined street with shops on either end. The span of the boulevard also contains multiple rotaries and bridges and runs over the Zayanderud river (which runs perpendicular to the boulevard through the city).

Night out in Shiraz: Quran Gate, Sonati Restaurant, and Selfies with Strangers

(PSA: First, I would like to apologize for posting my blogs so slowly. The Wi-Fi in Iran is SO slow that every time I upload photos online for a blog post I want to poke my eyes out. So please bear with me as I hurry to post blogs more frequently as I am getting very backed up.)

Shiraz has an amazing nightlife. Because the days are so hot, people stay in their air conditioned homes like hermits during the day but night is when the cities come to life. For example, stores in Iran are open from 9AM-1PM, close from 1PM-5PM, and reopen again at 5PM until midnight or so (restaurants are open even later). Iranian people love to pack their kitchens and living rooms into their cars and come out to the parks and green spaces at night, throw out blankets, and have luxurious picnics for themselves.

Last night, a couple of our relatives and my family went out to the Quran Gate, which is a great place to visit during night or day.



The Quran Gate is a historic gate located in the north of Shiraz, Iran. It is located at the northeastern entrance of the city in the direction of Isfahan. Years ago, beneath the gate was a road and cars had to drive underneath the gate if they were headed North out of the city. In recent years because the population of Iran has skyrocketed, they have had to expand the roads and highways and the road underneath the Quran Gate has been transformed into a pedestrian only path.

The Gate was built during the reign of Adud ad-Dawla and was restored during the Zand dynasty. During the Zand dynasty, two small rooms were built on top of the gate in which were kept two hand written Qurans by Sultan Ibrahim Bin Shahrukh Gerekani. It was believed that travelers passing underneath the gate would receive the blessing of the Holy Book as they began their journey from Shiraz.


Today the gate is a part of a city park where people relax and picnic. To the side of the Gate is a hill on which restaurants and museums are built. We ate at a sonati (traditional-style) restaurant for dinner. Traditional style restaurants in Iran are really cool, the seating consists of raised platforms that are built and covered with rugs and pillows and you have to take off your shoes to sit on the platform. To eat dinner, you throw down a plastic tablecloth in front of you and eat sitting down.


P.S.: You wouldn’t want to go to a sonati restaurant without ordering tea and a hookah for your booth (it’s the culture;)


We ordered one chicken kabob to share and three deezy sangy’s–a traditional Persian meal that is basically like beef and vegetable stew that is prepared in a stone dish. The dish comes with a bowl and a meat tenderizer. To eat a deezy, you pour the stew into your bowl and beat the beef and vegetables with the tenderizer.



This man was standing outside the restaurant and holding burning incents in his hands to wish peace and luck on those who walk into the restaurant. He is dressed in traditional Persian attire.


Just a couple of the pretty sites up on the hill by the pedestrian path of the Gate that features a gift shop and a waterfall.


The picture below is a funny story. This random Iranian girl saw me taking pictures at the Quran Gate (I guess she must have assumed I was a tourist, I don’t know why…) and asked for a picture. I first thought she meant if she wanted me to take a picture of her, so I asked “How?”. She replies, “No, with your camera.” At which point I’m totally confused and ask, “How do I send you the picture then?” After a few seconds of confusion, turns out she wants to take a picture with me and she doesn’t want the picture for herself, she says “No, just for you.” After we take the picture she asks me where I’m from and I was a bit annoyed at this point because I was trying really hard to fit in and not look like a tourist since I’m Iranian….and I say I’m from “here” and she says “nooo…”. I half lied but I really stumped her. My guess is she thought I was from America and wanted to take a picture with me so I could put it on the internet and she could become famous, so here you go nameless girl! 🙂


The picture below is of the Persian poet: Khaju-e Kermani. He was a follower of Saddi and thus followed him to Shiraz. Khaju’s grave is located right next to the quoran gate. There is a monument built in his honor with a sculpture of him and one of his poems is engraved in stone on the brick wall.


Firuzabad Fire Temple

About a one hour (60 km) drive south from Shiraz is Firuzabad, a small town in the province of Fars, Iran. The town is in a very dry and hot low-lying region, which makes it about at least 5 degrees Celsius hotter than Shiraz. Originally, the city was called Gur, which was destroyed by Alexander of Macedonia. Centuries later, the location was taken over by the Sassanians, who formed the Sassanid dynasty. The province of Fars, Iran was the birthplace of two dynasties 1) the Achaemenids founded by Cyrus the great and 2) the Sassanians founded by the Ardeshir son of Papak.


At the center point of the town of Firuzabad is an ancient fire temple, the temple is 30 meters high and circular in its architectural design. There is debate amongst historians about when and why the temple was built. Some mention the site as a fire temple built by the Sassanids, others believe it to have been a palace built by Ardeshir during the late Parthian or Sassanian times.


The conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great in 330 BC did not fully destroy the temple however.


The palace/temple of Ardeshir over looks a small lake fed by a rich spring. The placement of the lake is really miraculous, given that Firuzabad is so hot and dry. The color of the water is amazing as well, it’s so bright and clear that you can see right to the bottom of the lake. The water from the lake was used to feed the city of Gur.


 It is believed that a Persian style garden surrounded the lake and the palace.

DSC01222 The arched entry way was built later in the Parthian era, it is a design found mainly in Sassanian palaces. Some homes in Firuzabad have this style architecture as well. As you walk into the palace, you immediately see these very tall doorways which lead to a large 44 foot archway built in 224 AD, the throne room can be entered through this gate.


Within the palace there are many small doorways that are all built with the similar style arch.


One of the doorways connecting two of the large rooms, the doorways measure about 20 feet tall.


The throne room is a large majestic room with the height of a three story building. What is amazing about this room is that there are still remnants of plaster left on the walls which depict patterns from the Achaemenid dynasty.


There are a couple of tall rooms within the palace that have dome style ceilings with open holes at the top. This is believed to have been the throne room. I believe that if the palace was actually a fire temple, these ceilings were made to function as chimneys.


The palace used to have multiple stories as is obvious from the stairway built off of the entrance of the building but they have been destroyed. All that remains of the upper floors is the beginning of a stairwell and remnants of the walls.


A panoramic view of the outside of the temple. As can be seen, the side walls of many of the rooms are completely gone and so are most of the ceilings. Much of the structure still remains after eighteen centuries, which is really amazing given its age and the battles it has withheld.


The image above is very amazing (best for last!). Driving from Shiraz to Firuzabad, you drive through and by a lot of tall mountains. On some of these mountains are carvings from the Achaemenid and Sassasin periods. I took this picture out of the window of a moving car using a zoom lens so it is a bit blurry but it is carved high up on the mountain and is about 20 feet tall and 30 feet wide. It is a carving from the Sassanian dynasty and portrays the coronation of Ardeshir I, the founder of the Sassanian dynasty.

Naqsh-e Rustam

Naqsh-e Rustam is an ancient “graveyard” about 12 km from Persepolis. PSA: we arrived here a couple of minutes after 6 PM and unfortunately the gates were closed so I had to view the tombs from behind the gates and managed to snap some quick photos.

The oldest site at Naqsh-e Rustam dates back to 1000 BC. At the site, there are four Achaemenid tombs that belonged to Achaemenid kings. The tombs are carved out of the rock in the mountainside at a considerable height above ground. The tombs are known as the “Persian crosses” and the entrance to each tomb is at the center of each cross. In the chamber within the tomb, the king was buried in a sarcophagus.

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One of the tombs is explicitly identified as belonging to Darius I the Great. The other three are believed to be those of Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I, and Darius II. The tombs were looted following the conquest of the Achaemenid Empire by Alexander the Great.




DSC01060(Panoramic view of Persepolis)

Persepolis is one of the oldest and most famous historical sites that stands in Iran and is definitely one of the most impressive.

 During the Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BC) over 2000 years ago, Persepolis was the capital city of the Persian Empire. In Persian, Persepolis is called “Takhte Jamsheed” (the throne of Jamsheed) and is literally translated to “city of Persians.” The historically famous ancient ruins display Achaemenid style of architecture. It is believed that Cyrus the Great (“Koorosh” in Persian) chose the site for the city, but it was Darius (“Daryoosh”) who was responsible for building the palaces.

Darius ordered the construction of the Apadana Palace and the council hall (the Tripylon) and its surroundings. It was during the reign of Darius’s son Xerxes the Great (“Khashayar”) that the buildings were completed. The buildings at Persepolis include mainly military headquarters, treasuries, and reception halls.

The city of Persepolis was destroyed by Alexander the Great after he invaded Persia in 330 BC in revenge for the Persian king Xerxes destroying the Greek city of Athens.

If you want to visit Persepolis, you have to do a day trip and visit Pasargad and Naghshe Rostam (post to come) all in one day. Persepolis is also located about 2.5 hours away from Shiraz and only about 43 km from Pasargad.


The “Persepolitan” stairway is a grand staircase that leads up to the main palace. The staircase is double sided and built symmetrically on the western side of the Great Wall.

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“The Gate of all Nations” consisted of a great hall with its entrance on the western wall. A pair of bulls with the heads of bearded men, Lamassus, stand by the western threshold. Another pair, with wings and a Persian head (Gopat-Shah), stands by the eastern entrance, to reflect the Empire’s power.


Achaemenid griffin at Persepolis.


 Engravings of people bringing gifts for the king.


 Engravings at Apanada hall depicting Persian soldiers wearing the rectangular hats and Median soldiers wearing the circular hats. Medians, or Medes, were ancient Iranian people who lived in North-west Iran who spoke the Median language.

DSC01099 DSC01107Persian and Median noblemen in friendly conversation, bringing gifts for the king.


DSC01110An engraving on the Bas-relief of Persepolis on the grand staircase depicting the Zoroastrian tradition of Nowruz (new year): a bull (symbolizing the moon), fighting a lion (symbolizing the sun) which represents the beginning of Spring.DSC01081About a 15 minute hike up into the mountains from Persepolis’s main palace ruins lies the tombs of the kings of Persia during the time of the Achaemenid. 2 or 3 of these tombs within the mountain exist, and it is believed that kings such as Xerxes and Darius are buried within these mountains. I took the panoramic views of Persepolis from the top of the mountain.




One of the most impressive features of Persepolis are the tall columns that have stood the test of time and war. One would wonder what sort of technology existed in 500 BC that allowed for the creation of these gigantic stone columns. 15 of the pillars are still intact today. You can tell how tall the pillars are by comparing them to the people at the bottom of the photo.

Pasargad (Tomb of Cyrus the Great)

Pasargad was the capital city of the Archaemenid Empire built by the Emperor Cyrus the Great (~559 BC), and is also the location of Cyrus’s tomb which is a very significant archaeological landmark in Iran. Pasargad is close to the ancient landmark of Persepolis (43 km away) and also naghshe Rostam (post of both to come). We visited all three places in one day since they are about a 2.5 hour drive from Shiraz; it was a whole day of events!

The tomb of Cyrus the Great is the most important landmark in the ancient city of Pasargad. Today it is guarded by at least 5 on-site guards, a glass fence, and security cameras. The entrance into the grave is from the back side of the monument. The tomb has six broad steps leading to the sepulcher; the chamber measures 3.17 m long by 2.11 m wide by 2.11 m high and has a low and narrow entrance.

Today in Iran, Cyrus the Great still serves as a hero by a lot of citizens and is looked up to by some as a prophet like figure. He was a strong defender of human rights and was a very kind person as well as a strong leader.

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Cyrus has been a personal hero to many people, including: Thomas Jefferson, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and David Ben-Gurion.[84]

In scope and extent his achievements ranked far above that of the Macedonian king,
Alexander who was to demolish the empire in the 320s but fail to provide
any stable alternative.

—Charles Freeman in ‘The Greek Achievement'[85]

The achievements of Cyrus the Great throughout antiquity are reflected in the way he is remembered today. His own nation, the Iranians, have regarded him as “The Father”, the very title that had been used during the time of Cyrus himself, by the many nations that he conquered, as according to Xenophon:[86]

And those who were subject to him, he treated with esteem and regard, as if they were his own children, while his subjects themselves respected Cyrus as their “Father” … What other man but ‘Cyrus’, after having overturned an empire, ever died with the title of “The Father” from the people whom he had brought under his power? For it is plain fact that this is a name for one that bestows, rather than for one that takes away!

The Babylonians regarded him as “The Liberator”.

The Book of Ezra narrates a story of the first return of exiles in the first year of Cyrus; for this, Cyrus is addressed in the Jewish Tanakh as the “Lord’s Messiah”. Glorified by Ezra, and by Isaiah, Cyrus is the one to whom “the LORD, the God of Heaven” has given “all the Kingdoms of the earth”.

Camel Riding!


A few days ago on a trip to Persepolis and Cyrus the Great’s tomb (posts to come), we saw some camels parked on the side of the road and of course we had to ride them! Up until a hundred years ago, Persian nomads in Iran used camels as a means of transportation across the country as well as horses and donkeys. Camels are still frequently used in Iran but most of them are used as tourist attractions.

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