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Inspiration

Me, myself and Fuji in Iran

· 7.February.2017

Iran, why Iran? I heard the question quite often before the trip. Even more: is it safe? All questions made by the western media. Iran does have a bad reputation, but the people don´t deserve it (the neighbouring countries are excluded, of course). Let me come back to why I wanted to travel there. Years ago I have read the novel Medicus and since then I had always wanted to go there. Since the new president has taken over, the situation in the country has changed for the better. The people I have met are extremely open and very hospitable. They are truly friendly and don´t see you as a walking wallet. 

The trip started in the capital, planned by Yomadic (2 globetrotters, offering tours in Iran and the Ukraine at the moment). Together with 11 other participants, the best bus driver and best Iranian guide in a small bus the 12 day trip started. More importantly it was my first trip with my new X-T2 with the new XF23mm f/2 and the XF35mm f/2 lens instead of the Fuji X-T1. A huge advantage was to be able to run around the whole time clicking away like with my Canon without having to wait for the camera to refocus. Thanks for that change Fuji. Just up front… writing about Fuji I am not into the technical details, just writing about my personal experience.

Tehran is like any other capital, loud, busy and hard to grasp. As a bazaar fan I loved the old bazaar. Its paths run for 10 kilometres. All the time you hear people exclaiming „welcome to Iran, good that you are here”. Food is offered and everyone wants to have a picture taken, which is a bit difficult, as I don´t like posing. Oh and the fresh pressed juices shan´t be missed. Delicious!

As expected the X-T2 is a great street photography camera, which enables you to take pictures without being noticed. Of course, the Iranians are open to pictures, but I love the everyday moments and these can only be captured if you ask. Hereby I have to mention that my try to shoot with a remote app (on iPhone 6 Plus, newest iOS and Fujifilm’s firmware and app) quite failed. It took long to connect, often I needed to restart the app. That worked much better with the X-T1. The network stability was slightly better than with the X-T1, when it finally worked.

To my sorrow after just a full day there, we were off direction Kashan, with a stop in Ghom. We visited a holy place, the shrine of Fatima Masuma, one of the most important places of pilgrimage of the Shiites in Iran. You notice very fast how religious the city is, about 60% of its population is in one way or the other involved in religion. As a group of travellers you are in the centre of attention but in a good way. Imagine that at the Peter´s square in Rome.

In Kashan we had a walk on the roofs of the local bazaar and enjoyed the sunset and the clouds of the afternoon sand storm. It had a touch of the old Star Wars movies. Of course we also went through the bazaar and there I used for the first time my new Instax SP2 printer. There were a lot of interesting people and the place wasn´t as packed as Teheran. I just managed to get one before I took the flight. After asking and taking pictures I printed the pictures and gave them to each person. The honest enthusiasm and gratitude was a seldom-experienced thing. The quality of the polaroids was really good. To my sorrow the films are quite expensive but the feedback was so worth it. Great.

We spent the night in a hotel partially with rooms below the earth, built with clay as well as the whole town.

Afterwards we went to Isfahan, the city and above all to the Masdsched-e Emām – mosque I had always wanted to see.

Its dome is built so that when you are standing in the middle you can be heard no matter where you are. Our guide demonstrated this with a call to prayer. Goose bumps. All the little coloured tiles built in different fascinating patterns were very beautiful. I tried the video function of the Fuji X-T2 for the very first time. Had I had the focus right (who reads manuals? The video was a spontaneous idea) it would have been great. At least I could be convinced of the great quality, calling for more videos of travels. Isfahan is also a feat because of the great bridges, sadly without water. If you are happy you can hear the men sing under the bridges.

Next was the city Yazd, one of the oldest cities of Iran. The water supply is still based on canals from the ancient history, so called Qanats. There is also a good museum there which tells the whole story about ancient water supply. Fascinating are the small streets and the alleys made of clay, which are a part of world heritage. On the way to the next stop – Shiraz – we stayed a night in the Caravanserai Zeinodin to watch the stars. A great experience especially if you know that the newest buildings have been built 1600 und are on the old Road of silk – history was made here. There was a sand storm the whole day, read it was very stormy. In the bus, in the clothes, there was sand everywhere.

But the Fuji didn´t mind, she worked perfectly. Also because of the good weather sealing of the lenses. Through that the whole system is waterproof as well as safe from sand.

Another comment on the new 23mm f/2 lens. I got this one before the trip, because of the faster AF, the sealing and the lesser weight. The lens completely met these expectations, it is almost a pocket lens due to her size, when it isn’t attached. Also the sound of the AF is much more silent than its predecessors one. But the biggest disadvantage in my view was the noticeable blur when shooting at 2.0 at a close distance compared to the older model. This was then reason for reselling that lens after my travel, because I was a bit disappointed. In the future I will stick with the f1.4 model.

For the occasional portraits I had the new 35mm f/2 in my bags – its performance was great, given the good weather sealing, fast and quiet AF. In contrast to the 23mm lens, the 35mm is sharp enough at f2.

The last stop was Shiraz, the coolest big city in Iran. The inhabitants are straightforwardly considered comfortable.  You can notice that in the traffic flow, which is quite slower than in Teheran. What you also see more is the green. The city didn´t get the name The Garden of Iran for nought. Iran is otherwise quite sandy and dry. Historically seen Shiraz is the cultural centre of Persia since Alexander the Great has destroyed the big Persepolis.

To sum it up Iran is the country to visit in the following years, if the things with the new president work out and the new US president is interested in normal relations. The Relations Iran-USA has always been special, for example Americans aren´t allowed to travel or walk around without a guide or there will be trouble. Once again back to safety: the most dangerous thing for me was to cross the roads, primarily in Teheran. Just imagine: 4-6 lanes without traffic lights – just walk, slowly, no stopping. Works.

Here is the travel route of the 12 days:

Tehran, Ghom, Kashan, Abyaneh (2800m), Isfahan, Yazd, Zeinodin Caravanserai, Persepolis, Shiraz

Tips:

Only cash, credit cards don´t work because of sanctions, but clean, not folded and not written upon if you want to exchange it. The country is on 1200 meters. The air is quite dry because of that, therefore you need more cream and something for your nose. When it comes to clothes – women need a headscarf, but not everything has to be covered. What must be covered is the bottom. Men´s shorts aren´t advisable, they are not forbidden, but nobody wears them.

The best time to travel is April and October, sunny, but not too cold. Vegetarians might have a problem here and there. Chicken is not considered to be meat. Vegans? Doesn´t look good. Otherwise the food is really yummy and extremely fresh – bio. ☺ Regarding coffee – things are happening, for example there has been a small café in Isfahan with really good coffee for the last two years. In Shiraz there is Ferdowsi Cafe, a fancy Café with the best chocolate cake ever, great café and young modern guest. A must.

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