I wanted to visit Iran because Japan is allies with USA and we are very pro-America. My view is more influenced by America. Iran, on the other hand, is very Anti-America. So, I wanted to change my view of the world.
There is not much information on Iran. For example, I looked for hotel on Expedia, there were no hotels listed. I had to e-mail hotels in Iran directly.
Also, domestic flights in Iran could only be bought once you are in Iran. Because of economic sanction by America, Iran's airplane are all old Boeings that are difficult to maintain. So, I was very afraid of flying in Iran.
In Iran, you can't use credit cards, so you must have cash. Also, Iran doesn't exchange Japanese yen. So, I needed to have either Euro or dollars. And you can't use Facebook, Google. But, you can use Instagram. I don't know why. In Iran numbers are written in Persian. So I couldn't find my flight easily.
I had a layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for half a day. While I was there, I had Malaysian food in the town.
Then, I flew to Teheran, the capital city of Iran. I arrived late at night, so I stayed in a hotel near the airport.
The next day, I flew to Mashhad. It's a holy place in Iran. There is a beautiful mosque.
After that, I took a plane and a bus to Isfahan. There is a beautiful square which is a world heritage site.
Iran is a Shia muslim country. Today, Shias comprise about 15% of the total worldwide Muslim population. The day I arrived at Isfahan was holiday called Ashura. For Shia Muslims, Ashura is a solemn day of mourning the martyrdom of Hussein in 680 AD at Karbala in modern-day Iraq. Shia men and women dressed in black also parade through the streets slapping their chests and chanting.
It was very interesting, but the only problem was all the shops and sites were closed. So, luckily, they were handing out food and drink for free.
I was handed a cup of milk. When I drank it, it tasted like French dressing. It turns out that I was drinking goat's milk.
Next, I went back to Teheran by overnight bus. I arrived in Teheran in the morning and caught a flight to Azerbaijan, Baku.
Azerbaijan is rich in natural resources, especially oil. Because of oil money, Azerbaijan is a very developed country.
In Baku, they are building what will become the world's tallest building in the world. It will be completed in 2025. The transportation system especially subway and bus systems are very developed. It is easy to travel within the city.
Although Iran and Azerbaijan are both Shia Muslim countries, they are very different from each other. In Iran alcohol is forbidden, but in Azerbaijan it is permitted.
In Iran, women must cover themselves and often wear a Bhurka, it is dress that only shows the eyes. In Azerbaijan, women don't have to cover up, they were dressed in European fashion.
The food in Azerbaijan was very delicious. I ate many things like yogurt soup, dumplings and Kebabs.
I went to see Heydar Aliyev Center which was designed by the famous architect, Zaha Hadid. The building was very modern with a curving structure and very spacious. I think it's very impressive but not very functional. Originally, Zaha Hadid was supposed to design 2020 Tokyo Olympic main stadium. But, because her buildings are expensive to make, she was replaced.