The Oriental Institute's Iran
April 13-30, 2002
Days 1 - 3 - Saturday - Monday, April 13 - 15: USA TO TEHRAN - Trip members will depart their respective home towns on Day 1 to connect with Lufthansa's flight LH600 to Tehran via Frankfurt, arriving in Tehran on Day 3 at 1:40 a.m. Everyone will be met upon arrival and transferred to the Laleh Hotel. After a trip briefing over breakfast on our first morning, we'll begin our explorations of Tehran's environs. Tehran was first chosen as the capital city by the Qajar rulers in the 19th century. The city is now home to some thirteen million residents. Tehran slopes from 3000 to 5000 feet (1000 to 1500 meters) in the foothills of the Elburz Mountains which stretch from the northwest of the country to the northeast. Nearby is Iran's highest peak, Damavand (18,600 feet; 5671 meters).
Tehran has never aroused much affection in travelers. "Except for its bazaars it lacks charm," Vita Sackville-West wrote in the 1920s (though Freya Stark paid it a wonderfully left-handed compliment: "I liked it particularly, [it was] neither eastern nor western, but with a character of its own, colorless, but clear"). Before the Islamic Revolution, Paul Theroux gave it some of his best splenetic prose: "Tehran, a boom town grafted onto a village, is a place of no antiquity and little interest, unless one has a particular fascination for bad driving and a traffic situation twenty times worse than New York's... In spite of its size and apparent newness it retains the most obnoxious feature of a bazaar, as Dallas does, and Tehran has all the qualities of that oil-rich Texas city: the spurious glamor, the dust and heat, the taste for plastic, the evidence of cash." For an American, of course, Tehran exerts a powerful intrinsic fascination, and an unavoidable part of our trip to Iran, and perhaps especially to its capital, will be taken up with matters quite beyond sightseeing and ancient history. Our experience may help us pierce or at least dent some American and Iranian misconceptions and misunderstandings. This afternoon, enjoy a traditional lunch at the Tehran Central Park and tour the Qajar Palace of Gulestan and the Ethnographic Museum. Aftwards, we'll explore the Sa'dabad Palace, a complex of palaces from the Pahlavid Dynasty that ruled Iran until the revolution. Laleh Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 4 - Tuesday, April 16: TEHRAN - Tehran is famous for its museums. One of its most acclaimed is the outstanding National Museum (formerly called the Archeological Museum) which displays finds from the 7th millennium BC through the Sassanid era. Half the contents of Persepolis are here, as well as a fine collection of items from prehistoric times up to the Sassanid Dynasty and an excellent display of Islamic items. Time and weather permitting, we will visit one of Iran's largest prehistoric sites, Cheshmeh Ali, excavated by the Oriental Institute and the University of Pennsylvania in the 1930s, followed by lunch at the nearby spring. Afternoon visit to the Seljuk capital of Ray and the Tower of Toghrul (ad 1139). Tonight, we will have a welcome dinner at the traditional restaurant of Huz Khaneh.Laleh Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 5 - Wednesday, April 17: TEHRAN TO HAMADAN - We'll drive to 210 miles west and slightly south to Hamadan, tucked in the shadow of Impressive snow-capped Mt. Alvand (12,300 feet; 3750 meters). En route, we'll enjoy a picnic lunch break at Sultanieh, site of the Mausoleum of Oljaitu, the fourteenth-century Mongol king. We will visit Ganjnameh (Treasure Book), two Achaemenid cuneiform inscriptions on a spur of Mt. Alvand, written in 3 languages (Neo-Elamite, Neo-Babylonian and Old Persian), paying homage to Ahuramazda. We'll carry on to the Alavian Dome, once a Dervish monastery and later the mausoleum of the Alavian family who ruled Hamadan for some 200 years. The entire facade of the building was covered with extraordinary stucco decoration in high relief. We finish our sightseeing with a visit to the Tombs of Esther, the Jewish wife of Xerxes I (486-465 BC) and Mordecai, her uncle. Enghelab Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 6 - Thursday, April 18: HAMADAN - We'll drive out to Bisotun, a unique bas-relief of the Achaemenid period (480 BC) carved on a rock some hundred feet high up the mountain. The carving represents Darius, the Achaemenid king, and his royal prisoners. There are inscriptions in cuneiform in 3 languages of Neo-Babylonian, Neo-Elamite and Old Persian under the bas-relief, in which Darius explains how he captured his enemies. (This bas-relief is under reconstruction at the moment and the work may not be finished by the time we visit it. We recommend binoculars to see the carvings from a distance.) Near Bisotun is Taq-e Bostan, the 'Arch of the Garden.' Two grottos feature beautiful carvings and bas-reliefs cut into the mountain overlooking a lovely pool and garden. The sculptures represent various scenes of hunting, coronation ceremonies, adoration of Ahuramazda, etc., dating back to the Sassanid era. We will also visit the Parthian period Anahita Temple in Kangavar. The remains of the temple stand on a stone elevation of considerable dimensions, and consist of several capitals, stone friezes and a number of round pillars. Return to Hamadan this evening. Enghelab Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 7 - Friday, April 19: HAMADAN TO ISFAHAN VIA MALAYER - This morning, we'll depart for Isfahan, stopping at Malayer en route. Isfahan is the capital of Isfahan Province and the center of the greatest concentration of Islamic monuments in Iran. Like Shiraz, Isfahan has inspired much praise. At the turn of the century H.M. Stanley (finder of Dr. Livingstone) quoted "a Persian writer" as boasting that "he who has not been to Isfahan has not seen half the world." Stanley wrote of his 1870 visit that Isfahan's _profoundly blue sky, clear air, dusky groves, gorgeous temples of pleasure, lofty minarets and egg-shaped domes . . . fulfilled my dream of the Orient." Freya Stark wrote that "Isfahan gives the feeling of a great deal of thought spent on the light, airy, evanescent side of things." And no one was more taken with the city than Robert Byron, who wrote of his 1937 visit: "The beauty of Isfahan steals on the mind unawares... and before you know how [it] has become indelible, has insinuated its image into that gallery of places which everyone privately treasures."
The city was built in the 3rd century, but most of the historical works we see today date back to the Safavid Era of the 17th and 18th centuries. Our explorations will begin with the city's heart, the Naqsh-e Jahan or Imam Square. A polo field during the Safavid era, the Imam Square is one of the largest squares in the world. The square is a huge rectangle surrounded by numerous monuments. Ali Qapu Palace, on the western side of the square, was built by the order of Shah Abbas I in the 17th century. It consists of an imposing portal and a six-storied edifice with fine wall paintings and plaster works. Imam Mosque (Shah Mosque), located to the south of the square, was constructed between 1612 and 1630, and is an architectural masterpiece with superb tilework and sculpture, a majestic cupola and high minarets. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, on the eastern side of the square, is one of Isfahan's grandest and most exquisite historical monuments. It was built as a family mosque and does not have minarets. But the harmony of its proportions, the dome, the entrance portal, the fine tilework covering the interior of the domed hall, a superb Mihrab, marble cornices, beautiful inscriptions by the famous calligrapher Ali-Reza Abbasi, and mosaic tile ornamentation all combine to make this monument a true architectural masterpiece. Byron expends more than a thousand words of praise on Masji-e-Sheikh Lotfollah, and ends by admitting that "I have never encountered splendor of this kind before. Other interiors came into my mind as I stood there, to compare it with: Versailles, or the porcelain room at Shonbrunn, or the Doge's Palace, or St. Peter's. All are rich; but none so rich." Abbasi Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 8 - Saturday, April 20: ISFAHAN - We'll travel to the Jolfa District of Isfahan built between 1655 and 1664 and visit the Bazaar Vank Church which features a mixture of Islamic and European architecture. Chehel Sotun Palace (Forty-Column Palace) was constructed during the reigns of Shah Abbas I and Shah Abbas II. It possesses a lofty 20-column aivan with a huge pool in front of it. The shadow of the 20 columns in the pool makes 40 columns, hence the name. There are some very fine murals in the palace and a small museum. Beautiful mirror-work and stucco-work decorate the palace. Friday Mosque is a museum showing the last 1000 years of Iranian architecture. Hasht Behesht Palace was the royal residence of Shah Suleiman (1669). Its fame, apart from its architectural and decorative merits, rests upon the lavish use of marble slabs, stalactite vault decorations, wall paintings and stunning mirror-work. Abbasi Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 9 - Sunday, April 21: ISFAHAN - The day begins with a visit to the Safavid palace and mosques at Naqsh-e Jan Square and the medieval bazaar. After lunch, visit the Khaju and Si-O-Se Pol bridges on the Zayandeh-Rud River which divides Isfahan into two parts. The bridges date back to the Safavid era, but are living monuments to life in Iran in nice weather, when the locals come out in droves to sit along the bridges, smoke `hubble-bubble' and chat. We'll enjoy tea in the lower bridge tearoom, just above the river. Time allowing, we'll visit the Museum of Decorative Arts. Exhibits include superb miniatures, lacquer work, painting, antique Khorans, calligraphy, ceramic, brass work, wood carvings and traditional costumes. The rest of the day is at leisure, or set aside for special events.Abbasi Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 10 - Monday, April 22: ISFAHAN TO SHIRAZ - We'll tour Isfahan this morning, then take the late afternoon flight to Shiraz. 100 miles from the Persian Gulf, Shiraz is the provincial capital of Fars, the southern region of Iran, where Farsi, the Persian language, originated. The greatest of Central Asia explorers, Sven Hedin, passed this way early in his career. From Persepolis "we proceeded toward the south," he wrote in My Life as an Explorer, "and from a narrow pass, we had an unforgettable view over the city of Shiraz, lying on the plain below. They call this pass Tang-I-Allah Akbar, because Persians, approaching for the first time, and seeing Shiraz in the distance, exclaim in surprise "Allah Akbar!" (God is Great!)."
Hedin is in illustrious line of Shiraz-praisers. The old saying is that "when Shiraz was Shiraz, Cairo was one of its suburbs." In 1634 Sir Thomas Herbert wrote (unforgettably) "Here art magic was first hatched." Two-hundred fifty-eight years later, the imperious Lord Carson approvingly quoted the poet Saadi to the effect that "Shiraz turns aside the heart of the traveler from his native land." The poetry of Saadi (born in 1176) and Hafez (1318) contributed to Shiraz' reputation as "the city of wine, women, songs, and luxuriant roses," as Hedin wrote. The great conqueror Tamerlane so admired Hafez that he broke off campaigning to visit him in Shiraz. As for the town's famous wine, Robert Byron went so far as to claim that "etymologists dispute as to whether sherry derives its name from Xerez [in Spain] or Shiraz." ("Persians," he wrote, "drink mainly for the sin of it, and care little for the taste.") Homa Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 11 - Tuesday, April 23: SHIRAZ - Today, we will take an excursion to the famed Achaemenid capital of Persepolis, which was excavated by the Oriental Institute in the 1930's. In 521 B.C., following Cyrus' death, Darius moved the capital from Pasargadae a few miles down the road to Persepolis (now Takht-I-Jamshid), which Alexander the Great sacked and burned after an epic drinking bout in 321 B.C. (though he was sober enough to remove Persepolis' vast library beforehand). The ruins today, although a mere flicker of their former glory, are impressive, with gateways, staircases, and almost 200 feet of stone reliefs. In all, the landscapes and ruins in this area are the very pith of antiquity. We'll carry on to the tombs at Naksh-e Rustam, believed to be those of Xerxes, Artaxerxes, and Darius II. We'll also see the prehistoric mound of Tall-i Bakun, and Ka'beh-ye Zardosht (Cube of Zoroaster), a fire-temple dating from the Achaemenian period, some fine carved stone reliefs from the Sassanid Dynasty. Homa Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 12 - Wednesday, April 24: SHIRAZ - We'll have another full day to explore and soak in the atmosphere of Shiraz. Visit the mausoleum-gardens of Shiraz' two immortal poets, Hafez and Saadi, for which Shiraz is so famous. We'll also see monuments from the 18th century when Shiraz was the capital city of the Zand Dynasty, including the Shrine of Shah-Cheragh, the burial place of Hazrat-e Mir Seyyed Ahmad, son of the seventh Imam of Shiite. The building is magnificent, and the mirror-work of this shrine is unlike any found elsewhere. This afternoon, we will visit the nomadic Qashqaii tribe around their winter pastures at Firuzabad.Homa Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 13 - Thursday, April 25: SHIRAZ TO YAZD VIA PASARGADAE - Today we drive to Yazd, stopping at Pasargadae on the way. Pasargadae was the capital of Cyrus the Great, and his tomb stands almost intact amid many evocative ruins. (When Islam came to Iran, Cyrus' tomb became the legendary resting place of Mader-I-Suleiman, the Mother of Solomon.) We continue to Yazd, the provincial center of this desert region. Yazd is surrounded by salt desert, and Shirkuh `the Lion Mountain' -- overlooks the city. Despite its altitude of 4000 feet, Yazd feels the dramatic temperature swings on its desert environment, and the town is designed with this in mind. Yazd was the second city that was officially recognized by UNESCO, after Venice, for its unique architecture specially designed for the desert. Living rooms are underground and tall windtowers perched on rooftops funnel fresh air from the slightest breezes down to cool the depths. The city was founded in Alexander the Great's time (the third century BC). Some say that Yazd is named after the Sassanid king Yazd-e Gerd. Others say that the name is derived from "yazd don," which means clean or pure (also a metaphor for God, according to Zoroastrians). Yazd Inn (B,L,D)
Day 14 - Friday, April 26: YAZD - Yazd is the primary center of Zoroastrianism in Iran. We'll visit the Zoroastrian fire temple and see a fire that has been burning for 1525 years, and the "Towers of Silence," where the Zoroastrians disposed of their dead until about 50 years ago (the Shah stopped the practice). The town also features twelve bazaars and numerous mosques. It is famous for gold, silk and brocade, and baklava, and we'll see all of these items for sale in the bazaars. Yazd Inn (B,L,D)
Day 15 - Saturday, April 27: YAZD TO KERMAN - Today we drive south and east to Kerman (200 miles; 360 kilometers). Time permitting, we'll visit the Kerman bazaar which houses fine examples of a traditional Persian chaykhune (teahouse) and a traditional bathhouse.Kerman Inn (B,L,D)
Day 16 - Sunday, April 28: BAM, MAHAN AND KERMAN - Rise very early this morning and drive a couple of hours further south (120 miles) to the sleepy, palm-tree studded oasis of Bam. Here we will visit the medieval citadel and walled remains of the old town of Arg-e Bam, one of the most atmospheric and overwhelming sites in Iran. The ancient walled city perches on a hill on the north side of town. It was founded in the Sassanian era and further developed in the Safavid period. We'll enter the old town via the south gate and spend several hours wandering the steep pathways that wind amongst the brick remnants of mosques, mansions, military quarters, town squares, the town bazaar and caravanserai. Drive back north, stopping at the little town of Mahan (or Mahun), 20 miles southeast of Kerman. Within its lovely environs are an impressive mausoleum and an ancient classical garden, the Bagh-e-Shahzade, dating back to the Qajar period.Kerman Inn (B,L,D)
Day 17 - Monday, April 29: KERMAN TO TEHRAN - Today, we will fly back to Tehran. The afternoon is at leisure for shopping or relaxing. Tonight, we will have a farewell dinner. Laleh Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 18 - Tuesday, April 30: TEHRAN TO USA - Lufthansa's flight LH 601 is scheduled to depart Tehran at 3:05AM on Day 18. We'll connect with Lufthansa's flights from Frankfurt to the United States, arriving in the USA on the same day.
Michael Kozuh, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, accompanies the April 2002 departure.
Approximate expected arifare to Iran, per person: $1500
Single Supplement: $650
Tax-deductible contribution per person to the University of Chicago: $400
Your Land and Air package includes:
* Meeting, assistance, and transfers upon arrival and departure in Iran
* Porterage of two suitcases per person throughout. Please ask travel agent for bag size and weight limits.
* Services of an English speaking guide and escort throughout Iran.
* Touring per itinerary in a deluxe, private, air-conditioned bus (with toilet).
* All entrance fees and service charges based on listed touring.
* Hotels as listed, double occupancy. Single surcharge when applicable.
* All meals as listed (B/L/D) table d'hote.
* Farewell dinner.
* All tipping to local escorts, guides, drivers, and porters.
Your Land and Air package does not include:
Passport fees, visa fees, airport departure taxes, excess baggage charges, insurance, and items of a personal nature such as laundry, beverages, transfers for passengers arriving and departing independently and items not on menus.
Tariffs: Tour rates are based on a minimum of 20 participants and subject to change.
Deposits and Payments: A deposit of $400 per person is required at the time of booking. The final payment is due twelve weeks before departure.
Cancellations: In the event of cancellation, refund in full will be made until twelve weeks before departure, less a $100 handling fee. Between twelve and ten weeks before departure, the cancellation penalty will be $600, between ten and eight weeks the cancellation penalty will be $1900 and from eight weeks until the time of departure, the penalty will be $2980 plus other penalties levied by hotels and operators. These penalties could be as high as 100%. Insurance is available to cover these penalties and is recommended. By purchasing your trip cancellation insurance at the time of your initial deposit, Travelers Insurance Company will waive the usual exclusion for pre-existing medical conditions.
Responsibility: GEOGRAPHIC EXPEDITIONS, in accepting bookings for the tour, clearly stipulates that it is not liable for the faults or defaults of other companies and persons that may be used in the carrying out of the tour services; also for accidents, baggage losses, delays, strikes, political unrest, riots, and acts of God and war. In the event it becomes necessary or advisable for the comfort or well-being of the passengers, or for any reason whatsoever, to alter the itinerary or arrangements, such alterations may be made without penalty to the operator. Additional expenses, if any, shall be borne by the passengers. The right is also reserved to withdraw this tour; also to decline to accept or retain any persons as members of the tour. No refunds can be made for absence from the tour unless arrangements are made at the time of booking. The passage contract in use by the companies concerned shall constitute the sole contract between the company and the purchaser of these tours and/or passengers.
To be added to the free Oriental Institute Mailing List please call (773) 702-9513 or send an email to email@example.com
Revised: March 3, 2009