Anyway, the bus unexpectedly dropped us in the Northern Bus Terminal (we thought it would be the Southern one). For the first time in the trip it felt quite cold, so we went for a cup of warm tea and wait for the Sun to raise and the Chinese embassy to open, as at that time everything was dead in the city.
As we had almost a full free day in Tehran and we didn't want to spend much time in the city, we decided to go to Qom to spend the rest of the day. We jumped in a bus and in 2 hours we were in Qom.
Qom is the second holiest city in Iran after Mashhad and the highlight there is the Holy Shrine Complex where Fatmah, one of Imam Reza's sister, is buried. After Shiraz and Qom, when we get to Mashhad we will have visited almost all the Reza family!
In Qom the bus dropped us, as usual, far away from the center, so we took a taxi straight to the Shrine. Walking through the bazar on the way to the holy place, you feel you are in a really religious place. Besides all the usual stuff, you can find plenty of religious stuff on sale: rosaries, praying stones, praying carpets... even a "perfect muslim kit" including all the basic elements to pray.
Like in Shiraz, once inside the complex, a guy from the Foreign Pilgrims Office approached us and started giving explanations about the site, but this time, unlike in Shiraz, the guy just wanted to make sure we didn't enter the shrine. So the thing was thanking him for his services, telling him we are leaving and then we were free to walk around out from his sight.
We entered courtyards, mosques and different buildings inside the complex, until we reached the main building, the Holy Shrine, which we entered to see the biggest tomb ever and full of people surrounding it, crying and throwing money into it. Sorry, guy from the Foreign Pilgrims Office, we made it to the Shrine and we are not Muslims, you failed!
After the shrine, we just waited to be dark and to admire the whole complex fully lit. Even if this complex is far bigger and far more important than the one in Shiraz, I still prefer the Shirazi, maybe because of its blue-tiled dome, because of the pool or because it was the first big complex we saw, but the experience of seeing people crying as if one of their relatives instead of the Imam's sister was buried there was shocking. Don't you think it would be better if they spent their time doing some more profitable activity?
Next morning we woke up really early to be the first ones at the Uzbekistan embassy, as we knew there is a list and you are entering according to it. We got there one hour before they opened. Nobody was there so we were sure we were the first ones. But surprise: even if the place was empty there were already 11 names on the list! These bastards just write the names the previous day and then they show up when the embassy opens. Of course, after waking up at 6 in the morning and having still to go to the Turkmen embassy, we were not going to play the good soul tourists and let the 11 people go ahead, so when the embassy opened we entered there the first ones. Of course, the guy who was first on the list complained and even tried to push me back. Not giving a shit about him, we were the first ones and in 20 minutes we got a beautiful Uzbek visa on the passport! Second goal accomplished!
Next stage: Going to the Turkmenistan embassy to apply for a transit visa. In 10 minutes we were there, as they are not far from each other. We had all the documents prepared but again, when we got there, surprise: The embassy was closed until the following week due to some holiday and for all visa applications we should go to Mashhad. Whaaaaat?????? How is it possible? Of all the damn embassies we have visited so far, not even a single one was working normally. All the times problems: it was closed, the consul was not there, you don't have the right documents... crazy.
But there's always a bit of luck This time the consul was there, and even if the embassy was closed he accepted to give us the visa application form and this way we didn't have to rush to Mashhad and continue with our travelling plan. We handed him all the documents together with a copy of the Uzbek visa but, of course, he found a problem. This time the copy must be in color. Get a taxi, spend one hour looking for a place with color photocopies, go back to the embassy and finally hand in all the documents and get the consul tell you in one week you'll have your visa in Mashhad. Exhausting, but we made it! Third and last goal accomplished!
So the next morning we jumped on a bus to Kashan for the second time, but really happy not having to come back again to Tehran, and this time with our passport back and a couple of visas stamped on it.
We got to Kashan, called Ibrahim and head straight to the desert together with a friend of his. The tour started with a visit to Kashan's Holy Shrine, quite nice but nothing special. Afterwards we took an unpaved road leading to the desert. Basically dust and stones and from time to time some nice sights of camels wandering around. The Iranian desert is actually nothing special if you have been to other bigger deserts, but still we stopped by a couple of sand dunes, by a salt lake and then to a caravanserai to stay overnight. Not bad, especially considering we only payed 30€ for the whole tour.
Back in Kashan this time we had to wait to take an overnight train (yes, train, the first one we were going to take in the entire trip) to Kerman, where the goal was to visit the mudbrick town of Bam, badly destroyed by an earthquake 11 years ago. We just went to book our train ticket and then to Eshan House (where we had stayed the forst time in Kashan), had some tea and cookies and went to the train station. Note that the girl at Eshan House didn't accept any payment for the tea and cookies! Again, we love Iranian people!
As a summary, these days spent in Tehran, Qom and Kashan were quite profitable. We got our passport with all the visas in it, we applied for the Turkmen one, we went to the desert and we even had time to pay a visit to Qom. Great!