I like order.
I don’t like chaos.
I like everything in its place. I liked Shiraz. It was an orderly place, clean and tidy. People moved with purpose. They knew what they had to do, where to do it and when. It is the economic hub of Southern Iran and the centre for arts and culture. It is the home of poetry.
Poetry or rhythmic verse is very important in Iran. The most impressive work involving such is the epic “Shahnameh” or Book of Kings. I spent many fruitless hours in Iranian bookshops searching for an English translation and never came across one. Pity.
I toured Shiraz on my own. I enjoy group tours but, with my condition, I also enjoy some time to myself, down time, my time and Shiraz was the ideal place, on a beautiful sunny day, to wander the streets and take in the view. I visited the Tomb of Saadi, one of the two greatest Iranian poets with its abundance of flowers and butterflies dancing in the breeze and I took a tour, at my own pace, through the bazaar where everyone wanted to try out their English on me.
As evening approached I hailed a taxi and gave him the address of my hotel.
I’m not keen on taxis.
I wish I hadn’t got into this one.
I knew roughly where my hotel was. I had a decent idea of my bearings. I knew what it looked like and what it was near.
My taxi driver knew none of these things.
He was, to put it mildly, completely off his rocker!
He pulled away from the kerb with such ferocity that I was thrown into the back seat and I crashed into it and rolled unceremoniously about clutching my back. By the time I had righted myself, the speedometer was up to 60 and he was frantically banging on the car horn as he weaved in and out of the rush hour traffic. He would then brake suddenly and throw me into the front seat before starting off again gesticulating at everyone else on the road. I had no idea where I was going or whether his driving was legal.
Then it became clear. He had a plan.
His plan was born out of the fact that he really didn’t know where my hotel was but, by process of elimination, he would find it.
So it went like this. Drive like a maniac. Spot hotel. Drive up to hotel. Do emergency stop in front of lobby doors. Turn to terrified passenger. Waggle eyebrows ferociously and hook thumb in direction of doors. Nod head. Passenger shakes head. Drivers eyebrows meet in middle. Driver slams car into gear. Off we go again!
Seven hotels. Seven. Part of me thought about getting out at one and just paying the man, then taking another cab. But I was immobile and dumb.
My hotel came into view. I sighed. He drove past it. I tapped him on the shoulder and pointed back the way we came. Brakes slammed, car skidded, gears screeched and he turned around.
Arriving at my hotel I paid him generously. His meter was broken so I had to guess based on what the guide had told me about costs. His expression never changed so, eventually, I backed way nervously from his car and waved him away. His tyres screeched and he was gone.
As I stood in front of the hotel I was conscious of a figure appearing at my shoulder. It was the doorman. He eyed up my dishevelled state and gazed thoughtfully in the direction my taxi had taken, “Pleasant journey Sir ” he said. ” Not really” I replied. He nodded “They sure are damn crazy drivers”.
You can say that again!
Reuniting with my companions I was upset to learn that two of our party were in hospital after collapsing with exhaustion. Peter explained they would be kept in overnight and hoped to rejoin us in the morning. I don’t think any of us had appreciated how large Iran is and how much travelling is involved in getting from A to B and, in some cases, it was only adrenaline keeping us going. We only had a few days left but how many of us would make it to the end ?