Qom & Kashan: The Road to Isfahan
Covering 300km of desert between Tehran and Isfahan is no mean feat. Sweltering desert and sketchy roads make for an uninteresting and uncomfortable day. If you're just going to drive from a to b. Instead, take the time to see two of Iran's beautiful cities, Qom and Kashan.
I've covered a silly number of the world's most religious sites and cities. From the wailing wall, to Varanasi, to the Vatican, I've expedited my fair share of religious zeal. Qom rivals all of these. Required to wear a chador (a large 'tent' worn over your clothes for women), as well as two headscarves to ensure all hair was covered, we trapsed into Qom sweating and already feeling the heavy weight of local piety.
The birthplace of the imam Khomeini, the city is still full of his supporters. Come her to see the beautiful Fatima È Massummeh Shrine. Though open to all, you must be accompanied by a Muslim to enter to site. It's easy to hire a guide at the entrance who will take you inside. 3 of the daughters of Shīa imām Muhammad al-Taqī are buried here, making it a significant site in Shī'ism.
See the shrine, hear from the imāms about their opinions on Islam, and the political climate in the Middle East. Come with an open mind. If you aren't open to religious experiences and to learning about other religions don't go to Qom. You probably won't enjoy a lot of Iran if you aren't open to learning about religious expression in the Middle East, no matter how beautiful the architecture may be.
Significantly less intense, the beautiful city of Kashan is a calm oasis in the central desert of Iran. Green gardens bloom and fountains flow in the paradaisos gardens, and the Aqa Bozorq mosque is a testament to the wonderful symmetry of Persian architecture. Stroll through the beautiful buildings and enjoy a brief relief from the scorching sands of central Iran.
There are a number of traditional houses to visit in the area, a local bazaar, and the relics of the original city, which stand 7000 years after their creation.