When I got back to Shiraz, I went out wandering and found the bazaar. I’m not generally much of a shopper, but Iranian bazaars–and Dubai souqs, too–are so much fun to just get lost in.

I had another awkward encounter–a guy approached me and said he’d met me the previous day but I couldn’t for the life of me remember him and I really wasn’t in a mood to talk, so I told him that I met a lot of people and as such didn’t recall him. He followed me for a bit, but when I insisted that I did not want to talk to him, he headed off in the opposite direction. I promptly remembered him as an oil executive who’d stopped to chat the previous night, but again, I hadn’t felt comfortable around him so I didn’t regret being a bit rude. And again, I still felt safe because of all the other people around.


For dinner, I bought ice cream–strawberry and chocolate for 20,000 rial from a place in the bazaar. He insisted that I sit while I ate it, and of course, the Iranian next to me tried to convince me to try her vanilla. Iran doesn’t know how to do chocolate, but the strawberry was really good with a lot of real chunk of frozen berries mixed in.

I got back to the hostel just as my Italian friends were leaving and they invited me to come with them to something they could barely describe. Always up for an adventure, I agreed, and I’m so glad I did–despite having trekked around historical monuments all day, this was probably the most cultural and riveting experience of my entire trip.

We went to a little place under the bazaar known as a House of Strength, or a zurhoneer–someone please correct my spelling. This used to be the most popular sport in Iran, but has died down. Still, some of the men come to this place every night for a few hours and practice. It’s a way of worship as well and is focused on one of the prophets, Ali. One man leads a chant/prayer and plays the drums while the others exercise in various forms. We watched for a good hour or so while they warmed up and a little bit of their actual ritual, and it was really fascinating and cool to see their camaraderie.

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Even Obama participates!
Even Obama participates!
After we left, we walked around a bit and found a pretty palace--nothing new, just Iran!
After we left, we walked around a bit and found a pretty palace–nothing new, just Iran!