We finally got up around the correct time, if only because we woke up around 2 and didn't get back to sleep until around 4:30. Breakfast was the complete opposite of the day before, as hardly anyone was in the restaurant. We left right around 9, after Amin gave us info on an ice cream place in Florence that he said is to die for. The arrow below is aimed at the place, just down an alley south of the Duomo. Perhaps in a few months we'll be lucky enough to visit.

Our first stop of the day was the old Jewish quarter, a small area northeast of hotel. It was very nondescript, and we would have walked right past both of the synagogues had Amin not pointed them out. We walked around for 5-10 minutes only, as it was not anything extraordinary. Perhaps if we were Jewish it would have been more meaningful. By contrast, on the way there, we saw a sign for Jame mosque. We recognized it from a Tripadvisor list of top Isfahan sites we'd seen yesterday, so we asked Amin about it. He said it wasn't part of the itinerary, but would be happy to take us there. We also mentioned the Isfahan Music Museum as well; he hadn't heard of it but said he would look into it.

Regarding the Jame Mosque, it took a bit for Amin to figure out what we were talking about. It turns out that it is pronounced Jah-may, not Jame like Jame Gumm. The mosque is from the 11th century, so is almost 1000 years old. Compared to mosques we'd seen already, this one was very basic (relatively speaking), made of unpainted bricks. But, even for how little color there was, the brick design was different from post to post. There are two giant domed chambers. The first one we went into had an enormous, very tall, round dome on a square building.

It was amazing that they could get the weight distribution correct where it wouldn't collapse. Amin mentioned that the Persians were first to put dome on square building. In the center courtyard, there were four facing areas, each seemingly the same height. People were laying out carpets for prayer outside. Inside, we saw one of the mihrabs, and its facade was intricately carved out of gypsum. The engineers used grape juice so that it wouldn't harden immediately after being exposed to water, so they had an hour or two to shape it before it fully solidified. Moreover, there was an embossed area on side of stairs looked the same as the facade of the mihrab. There was a room nearby that was quite dark with the lights off, but we can't remember exactly what the purpose of that room is/was.

Whilst walking around, we saw the guy from the Netherlands that we'd seen at Ali Ibn Hamzeh shrine in Shiraz, and also seen at Pasargadae. While chatting about travel plans today, we realized we'd see him again at airport on way to Istanbul tonight. We went in another area that was full of beams and skylights, near the north dome. Some of the skylights were creating very cool sun beams; we tried to get some Antelope Canyon type shots by throwing dust into the beam, but the floor was too clean and there wasn't much dust to throw. Once in the room with the north dome, there was a large sun beam, and Amin got our picture. Crystal had a glow to her; she was basically invisible. On the way out, Amin showed us a carved wall that had been found between two other walls (just in the last century), so it was especially well preserved. After we left, we couldn't believe this wasn't on the itinerary, as it was amazing, particularly in comparison to the Jewish quarter, which wasn't all that interesting.

Back in the car, we passed by a third synagogue heading to the next stop, Chehel Sotoun Palace. It is known as "40 columns," but that is a bit of a misnomer. There are actually only 20 columns, but there is a reflecting pool that makes the 20 columbs look like 40. On the inside there was nice glass work, and several good paintings. They depict specific historical scenes such as the infamous Battle of Chaldiran against the Ottoman Sultan Selim I, the reception of an Uzbek King in 1646, when the palace had just been completed; the welcome extended to the Mughal Emperor, Humayun who took refuge in Iran in 1544; and the battle of Taher-Abad in 1510 where the Safavid Shah Ismail I vanquished and killed the Uzbek King. A more recent painting depicts Nader Shah's victory against the Indian Army at Karnal in 1739.

After checking out the paintings, we had tea and soda at a nearby cafe to chat. Amin mentioned that there are always retired people there talking story. We talked story a bit as well, discussing Mount Damavand (the highest mountain in Iran), Mauna Loa, and Moscow and St Petersburg. From there we went to lunch at Shahrzad Restaurant. Crystal got a Biryani, and Justin got lamb chops. We and Amin discussed travel, and how MIR is a really good travel company. Amin mentioned that in some instances he can deviate without even having to call MIR, so long as he thinks the customer will enjoy the trip better. Thank goodness this is true, because our favorite stop in Shiraz was Ali Ibn Hamzeh, and our favorite stop in Isfahan was Jame Mosque, neither one of which were on the planned itinerary.

After lunch, we headed over to Hasht Behesht Palace. It means "8 paradises" or "8 rooms," and the story was that there were 8 rooms for the 8 wives of the king, but in truth the king at that time did not have 8 wives. The rooms were all at a 45 degree angle from the center, with hallways and arches on the North, South, East and West. Above the center was an incredibly intricate ceiling. Amin asked if we were more interested in the Music Museum or the Bazaar, and we said the music museum. We figured we'd been to Naqsh-e Jahan Square twice already, and we could walk back easily in afternoon or evening if we wanted to go again. Plus, the reviews of the music museum were stellar.

We drove back to the south part of the city (south of the river), and the museum was right next to Vank Cathedral. Crystal had actually seen it when we drove past it the day before. The museuem was obviously new, as all the surfaces looked clean and straight, there was LED lighting, and wi-fi routers in a couple places. We had an english-speaking guide who showed us around and explained the various instruments. There were lots of tars, which looked like a precursor to a guitar. There was also a setar (not to be confused with sitar) - 3 versus 30 strings. Her explanations were all very good, but it was like drinking from a fire hose, as we didn't know much about anything, and every explanation sort of blended together. At the end, three of the people gave us a demonstration. Our guide was playing percussion, another lady was playing the tar, and a guy was singing and playing the Qeychak. It was really an amazing performance, and it was for just the two of us and Amin. We are not sure how long it went - maybe 20 minutes?

After they finished playing music, we spoke for a bit. The guy did most of the talking, and explained that they had a music group that traveled around and played classical Persian music. He mentioned that they'd like to come back to America, that they play California because of Iranians in and around Los Angeles. They asked how we were enjoying Iran, and when they found out we were leaving in a few hours, they played an encore. After we exited, Amin indicated he liked place, thought they could handle larger groups with just 1-2 tweaks, and it would be successful for everyone. We got back to the hotel around 3:30, and then organized and packed for our flight. We headed over to Naqsh-e Jahan Square a little before 5, and went into the bazaar area on north side. While there are "square facing" entries to all the stores, the stores also have second entrances facing away from the square, into these dark covered alleys that also have stores not facing the square at all. We walked around some of these alleys, doing some shopping, and thankfully quickly found what we were looking for.

Next we decided to wander around the square for just a bit, then headed towards the river. We didn't have any sort of map, and although we'd been here two days, this wasn't exactly like walking around San Diego. Justin asked Crystal "Do you trust me?" Whether she actually did or not, she followed. Justin led the way based on sense of direction and memory of what streets we'd been on in the car. About halfway there, we realized it would have been easier if we'd saved a Google Maps offline map of Isfahan when we had wi-fi in the hotel. We decided to do this for other places on the trip going forward. We just kept walking south, and did hit the river, right near the 33 column bridge actually. We just hung out by the bridge, along with dozens of other folks, as it was quite popular. Again, we thought it would be really nice if there was any water in the river. On the flipside, Justin took the opportunity to walk out to the middle of river. On the north side of the river, at the start of the bridge, there appeared to be some sort of a play or something similar being performed.

From the bridge, we walked north up street our hotel was on. There were tons of people out, seemingly the whole town. There were restaurants and shops everywhere. Along the way we walked right past where we had lunch. We eventually got back to hotel right at 7. We finished packing, checked the internet, copied photos, etc. Then Crystal read and took a nap, and Justin headed out for dinner. He walked north on the street with the hotel, and stopped in at the first restaurant he passed, just a fast food schwarma joint. He watched a football match with others waiting for food. The food was eh, but it was less than $3. He finished eating right as the football match ended. As he got up, one of the locals remarked that neither of the teams playing were any good. He walked back to the hotel, where Crystal was still napping. Justin wanted to nap, but there was not enough time, so he caught up on the travel log instead.

We left the hotel just before 10. It was an easy drive northeast of town. We said goodbye to Ehsan at the parking lot, and went into the terminal with Amin. There was a slow moving line for check-in and bags. While standing in line, we each separately started thinking of the movie Argo, which was stupid for two reasons. One, we weren't being looked for. Two, even in the "real" Argo there wasn't anything tense at the airport, as that was put in for drama. We had no issues with the bags, as ours were 22kg total for two bags, the weight limit for a single bag.

At security (which was separate for men and women), Crystal had no issues, whereas Justin had a guy in front of him with all sorts of weird contraptions in his bag, and had to show the agents how they worked. After seeing all of that, they didn't give Justin any grief about his electronics. Waiting for the gate, we just listened to podcasts, waiting for them to start boarding. We saw the Dutch guy again, and discussed his time in Iran. He spent 3 weeks in Iran, and went about ten different places. When we asked him what his favorites were, he said Shiraz and Isfahan - apparently we chose wisely. We started boarding at 12:40, and took a bus from the gate to the plane. On the bus, we got the same stupid Argo feeling again. We had window and aisle seats on the plane, and were surprised when someone sat down between us, but it was no issue, as we crashed almost immediately. But not before Crystal took off her headscarf, as soon as she saw one other person did it.

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