Hearing the word Shiraz you perhaps think of a nice glass of red wine. You'd be half right in this case. The region around this most fondly loved of Iranian city is reported to have produced the finest wines in the Middle East from the 9th Century onwards. But 18th and 19th century European tourists were raving about sweet white 'port-esque' vintages; it turns out the link between the city and the popular Syrah grape variety ends with the name. For all you Onophiliacs it's all rendered moot anyway as those much vaunted vineyards have been producing raisins since the Islamic Revolution.
Mention Shiraz to an Iranian however and they are likely to think one thing: Poetry. Iran is a country where poets are revered and where poetry remains a vital cultural currency. Tehran may have the jobs, Esfahan the architecture and Mashad the holiness but Shiraz has the verse.
Two names ring out above all in the pantheon of Iranian poetry. Hafeez and Saadi (Fans of Ferdowsi and Rumi may splutter.) and both are sons of Shiraz.
Even after all this time,
the sun never says to the earth,"You owe me."
Look what happens with a love like that.
It lights the whole sky. ~Hafez
The sun was out as I wove my way through the late morning traffic to the old quarter where I left the main streets and picked my way along winding alleyways flanked by high whitewashed walls in search of the well hidden Niayesh boutique hotel. Sounds expensive but fortunately it wasn't with a single room abutting the central courtyard kindly discounted to a manageable $5 a day.
One effect of my chosen mode of travel is solitude. It's something I have come to treasure deeply but taking a break from it in Shiraz was a pleasant change.