(Traveled on February 17, 2016)
After the four short course tour members returned back to Kuala Lumpur, there was still a lot to come for the remaining six of us. On the fifth day of the tour – the first day of the long course – we went to Shiraz, one of the most historic cities in Iran. While not initially planned, we ended up flying Caspian Airlines both ways – there on a 737-300 and back on an MD-82.
Equipment Change from an MD-80 to a 737-300
After two days of relatively late mornings, our 6:00AM departure to Shiraz meant we were back in the “hardcore” mode.
When we got to the terminal, we headed straight to the check-in counter to get our boarding passes. Interestingly, the scheduled departure time has been changed to 6:05AM, but no big deal.
During the seat selection, we realized based on the assigned seat that the originally scheduled MD-80 was replaced by a 737. Well, not a big issue, since on our way back we were going to fly on Kish Air’s MD anyways!
With the boarding passes in our hands we headed through security to gate four where our flight was boarding.
Knowing it was a 737, we were hoping to fly on the 737-400 in hybrid Caspian-Malaysia Airlines livery. The bus, however, took us to a 737-300 with Ukrainian registration – UR-COK.
Once again, the crew was extremely friendly. After complementing the uniform of one of the flight attendants, I got a “yes” without hesitation when asked if I could take a picture.
Slowly, everyone got on board and the doors were closed.
That’s when the “first round of service” started. The crew went through the aisle handing out candies to passengers.
At 6:17AM we started taxiing towards runway 29L, and less five minutes later we took off into the Iranian skies once again.
During the one hour flight, a simple breakfast was handed out followed by tea. There really is no Iranian domestic flight without a fairly proper meal service!
The rest of the flight was uneventful, and exactly one hour after taking off – at 7:21AM, we lowered our gear in preparation for landing.
In no time, we touched down at Shiraz airport and reached our remote stand at 7:27AM.
Before disembarking, we had a chance to visit the cockpit. Interestingly, this Ukrainian registered aircraft flying in Iran was operated by a Russian (ex-Transaero) crew!
The Pink Mosque and Persepolis
We met our guide Sara in the arrivals hall, jumped into our van and headed straight to the first sight of the day – the Nasir al-Molk Mosque also known as the “Pink Mosque” due to the coloring of its tiles.
After spending a good part of the morning enjoying the mosque and the colorful reflections it offers, we continued on to Persepolis where we arrived after about an hour on the road.
Once we were finished with Persepolis, we got on the road back towards Shiraz, and made a quick stop for lunch.
The final stop before heading back to Shiraz was Naqsh-e Rustam also referred to as the necropolis. It is the place where tombs of Archaemenid kings are located.
More Shiraz Sights
Our first stop after arriving back in Shiraz was the historic Eram Garden.
From Eram Garden, we headed to the Tomb of Hafez – a famous Iranian poet.
At the end of the day, we spent a couple of hours in the bazaar, roaming around the countless stores selling anything from cookies to carpets and old radios.
Having spend enough time in the bazaar, we were ready to head back to the airport. However, the guide suggested we visit one more place – Shah Cheragh. From the outside, it’s a beautiful mosque.
Stepping inside the mosque, I was shocked. I was expecting regular mosaics. However, the mosque walls are covered with small mirrors creating an unbelievable environment.
After having a look at the mosque, we headed back to the airport.
Buy & Fly: Flying Back to Tehran the Unintended Way
While still at the bazaar I received a call from my Iranian friend informing me about the delay of our Kish Air flight to 11:59PM. In spite of knowing that, we went to the airport fairly early as we were tired.
At the airport, we tried to investigate about the delay. The exact same thing happened to me last year when I took the exact same flight. …and the delay ended up being much longer than originally “advertised.”
One of the group members decided to wait for the original flight, but the rest of us decided to look at other options to return to Tehran as we had yet another early morning the next day and taking our original flight could mean anywhere between 2 and 0 hours of sleep.
Both Zagros and Caspian had flights with enough empty seats. Since the Zagros flight was operated by an Airbus A320 and the Caspian flight by an MD-83, the choice was easy.
One of the Caspian staff issued our tickets after we paid him in cash, and he took us to the check-in desk.
After checking-in, we headed to the small airside area where we waited for some time before getting in the line and boarding the bus around 10:00PM.
The bus took us to EP-CPV – one of Caspian’s MD-83s.
With everyone settled in their seats, we taxied for take-off.
Right after taking off at 10:20PM, we were offered some great views of the city of Shiraz lit up at night.
Just as on the way to Shiraz, the flight took roughly one hour. Shortly after take-off, the meal service was started.
After the meal service was over, once again we enjoyed interacting with the friendly crew – getting our log books filled out, taking pictures together and so on.
Every flight in Iran is so much fun – whether on an A320, a 727, or a 737!
A little after 11PM, the seatbelt sign was switched on, and we began our descend towards Mehrabad airport.
Being sat on the right, I was able to have a great view of the lights of countless buildings of Teheran shining in the dark.
We landed on runway 29L, and after taxiing a bit, we reached our spot around half past eleven.
Before getting off the plane, we took a quick look at the cockpit.
Afterwards, it was back to the hotel as fast as possible – every minute counts when you can’t sleep longer than 5 hours!