May 11, 2004
Well it's been a little more than 10 days. I am currently sitting under a mulberry tree beginning this account of my spring travels. The mulberries in this tree are white, not the reddish-purple I am accustomed to. When I asked how long until they would be ripe, I was told that they were ripe now. I spent a good half hour feasting on white mulberries.
Mohammad, aged 12, Shiraz
If you have met Mohammad, aged 12, of Shiraz who is practicing his English, please email me (email@example.com). I met him and so, I am certain, did every foreign tourist to Shiraz. We met at Hafez's tomb, where his father and another man were trolling for tourists who could help young Mohammad practice English. He had been studying for a year and already his English was better than that of most of the translators that I have met in Iran. As we spoke, his father urged him to get me to talk faster and ask more difficult questions. I think the conversation was more difficult for me than for Mohammad.
Hafez's tomb was really wonderful. It was packed with tourists and Shirazis alike. People surrounded the grave reciting Hafez's poems to each other. Most squatted by the grave and placed two fingers on its marble slab and whispered a quiet prayer. Mohammad told me that they were whispering verses of the Koran.
I had heard a lot about Shiraz before going there. All over Iran, Iranians told me how wonderful the people of Shiraz were. Iranians complain about each other incessantly, but when it comes to the people of Shiraz and Rasht (I haven't been there yet), they have nothing but good things to say.
I was prepped to fall in love with Shiraz, so it should be no surprise that I did. "The people here are educated," K said. "That's why they are so friendly and why they care so much for their city."
We had lunch in a really wonderful place: a restored bathhouse. Every single person in Shiraz tells you to eat there, so we did. An amazing threesome played and sang traditional music. I would have been happy to pay to see them (which we did, since the food was more expensive when the band was playing.) Children danced. People snapped their fingers. (You haven't heard fingers snapped until you have heard Iranians snap their fingers.) I told K that the whole place felt one beer away from being on its feet dancing.
I read that Hafez was offered several court postings but turned them all down because they required that he leave Shiraz. After going to Shiraz, I have a better understanding of why he would want to stay there.