Inspiring Places

The First Time Katharine Pooley Saw Iran

The interior designer on seeing mosques, markets and hunting for turquoise in Iran

A client fell in love with the stunning turquoise native to Iran, so in February 2017 I went in search of these beautiful blue-green stones. 

I was greeted by a country full of bright, vibrant colours. Isfahan is packed with Persian architectural wonders and Unesco World Heritage sites. One of my favourites is the huge 17th century Shah Mosque: its turquoise dome and minarets are covered in intricate mosaic tile work and artfully scrolling calligraphy.

The markets are amazing too – down-to-earth and organic. Saffron and Persian carpets are still the favourite items to return with, but there are other treasures: hessian sacks filled with vibrant spices from cumin to cardamom, vanilla pods, peppercorns and pink Himalayan salt. The pottery and ceramics are unlike anywhere else: you want to buy pieces, take them home and have a dinner party immediately.

Iranians are so friendly and welcoming, and they feed you a lot of food – 13-15 courses is normal. Food is an art form over there: beautiful, colourful and incredibly tasty. They also have sweet tooths. Yazd is famous for its pastries – almond baklava, cardamom cakes full of pistachios, and ghotab, a deep-fried doughnut full of almonds. And they have dates with everything – Iran is the world’s biggest exporter of the sweet fruit. I used to hate dates; now I’m addicted.

Katharine Pooley is an interior designer.

First Time, Katharine Pooley
Cathay Travell Book


Discovery online brings together all the inspirational travel writing from our two inflight magazines, Discovery and Silkroad. Be sure to look out for the print editions when you next fly with Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon.
Discovery Book Silkroad Book