Road signs in Arabic script are to be read from right to left, but Persian numbers (at the centre) from left to right.
This is Part 3 of our exploration of Iran in a Peugeot Pars. You can see Part 1: Tehran here and Part 2: Isfahan here. After enjoying the breathtaking beauty of Isfahan’s mosques, we continue on our journey, Persian Gulf- and southward-bound and stopping in Shiraz. If this name is familiar to wine aficionados, that’s because this was a major wine-producing region for a whopping 7000 years before the Islamic revolution of 1979 shut down wineries, ripped up commercial vineyards and banned alcohol consumption. No hope of drinking Shiraz wine in Shiraz! Even more intriguing is the fact that current Shiraz wine consumed all around the world isn’t actually made with imported Shiraz vines: DNA tests made in 1998 in the Rhone Valley (France) vineyard at the origin of the current Shiraz appellation indeed showed no correlation with Iranian vines. The Shiraz name has therefore been misused all this time. More on this Shiraz wine intrigue in a BBC article here.
The road to Shiraz.
Driving from Isfahan to Shiraz, population 1.46 million, I realise that the standard Western format of “shopping-suburbs” filled with giant supermarkets and malls is totally absent here. Ubiquitous chains such as Ikea, Walmart, Carrefour or Aldi are not allowed to operate in Iran due to US sanctions and can’t be found anywhere. All of the shopping in today’s Iran still occurs in centuries-old bazaars and the only small local supermarket I saw in the entire trip was in Shiraz and the only Western brands I spotted were Coca Cola, Pepsi and Fanta. Another consequence of economic sanctions is the fact that ATMs won’t accept your international card, so you can’t withdraw cash anywhere in Iran and must go to an exchange bureau with US$ or € withdrawn prior to your trip. Money transfers such as Western Union don’t operate here. A minor inconvenience for foreigners, for locals it means you can’t send or receive money overseas and you can’t pay for overseas products or services online – one glaring example being the fact that Iranian BSCB readers aren’t currently able to purchase memberships.
Shiraz is celebrated as the heartland of Persian culture for over 2000 years, and comes across as even more laid-back than Isfahan was, its monuments decorated with world-famous multicolour-stained glass and featuring rose-pink floral tiles, a signature feature of Shiraz. The pictures above fully capture Shiraz’s particular atmosphere. From top to bottom, the winter prayer hall of the Nasir-al-Molk mosque – probably the most photographed location in the whole of Iran, the Vakil mosque, the stalactite ceiling of the Bagh-e Nazar pavilion, Persian detail of the Naranjestan-e Ghavam Pavilion (the closest we’ll get to Persepolis art), teenagers playing volleyball in front of the Arg-e Karim Khan fortress and a particularly colourful grocery shop.
Zamyad Z24 and Paykan in and near Shiraz
As we get further away from Tehran, the ratio of light pickup trucks is steadily increasing in the local car landscape, with the Zamyad Z24 (a 1970 Nissan Junior still produced locally) now fighting for the title of king of the roads in-between cities. Another element that I started noticing in Isfahan is the much stronger heritage of Pakyan sedans, a models that is estimated to have topped the Iranian sales charts for no less than 35 years from 1967 to the early 2000s. As wealth levels go down, people tend to keep their cars for longer and many more Paykans have survived here, including the pickup variant, than further north in the country. This was particularly true in Shahreza, a town with a population of 135,000 located south of Isfahan on the way to Shiraz. Also of note in Shiraz is the presence of Paykan taxis, something I had not seen prior.
The Saipa Pride is ubiquitous in Shiraz.
The most frequent vehicle in Shiraz is, consistent with the country’s sales charts over the past decade or so, the Saipa Pride. It’s not rare to see entire streets with only Prides in them (see third picture above).
Saipa Saina in Shiraz
A surprise in Shiraz is the prevalence of Saipa Saina, relatively new in market and very discreet up until now.
Peugeot Pars, 405 and 206 sedan in Shiraz.
Although their are less ubiquitous than in Tehran, there is still a reasonable amount of Peugeot 405 taxis and Peugeot Pars private cars in Shiraz streets, but the difference here is potentially more 206 including the sedan variant.
Lifan 820, JAC S5, J3 and Chery 5 Arrizo in Shiraz.
There’s no easing up in the Chinese charge as we continue our exploration of Iran, with many examples of locally-produced models on show, including a couple of trucks of shining new JAC S5. Sedans are favoured in Iran so the Chery Arrizo 5, Lifan 820 and JAC J3 have arguably found a warmer reception in Iran than at home in China in terms of market share.
Tarsa, my valiant Peugeot Pars on her way to Shiraz
One of you asked yesterday how I called my Peugeot Pars. This is an excellent question I will address now. After Sven the Volvo XC40, we need a Iranian female name starting with T as the Pars is a passenger car therefore female in my mother tongue, French. Among corresponding Iranian name my preference is for Tasra. Let me know what you think! I also owe you an update on the driving, and unfortunately this section of the trip wasn’t the most enjoyable, with the Pars struggling mightily on highway hill climbs. The engine was showing its age today…
This concludes the Shiraz section of our Iranian series, stay tuned for Part 4 in Yazd coming shortly!