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Iran: Friendliness, Culture, Modernity - So Far Away From The Clichés!

 Jamkaran Mosque, Qom

 

Iran is one of the cradles of our civilizations: the Persian Empire shaped the early history of mankind. It is famous for its craftsmanship, its architecture, tile work, its unparalleled Persian carpets and literature to name a few areas. No wonder that nowadays the level of education is so high.

 

Qavam House, Bagh-e Eram or Heaven Garden, Shiraz

 

Like so often when we talk about our traveling the question “Isn’t it dangerous to travel there?” pops up. Iran was no exception, on the contrary! Iran has a reputation of supporting terrorism, the land of fanatic ayatollahs where women are forced under the chador, not to mention the endless media coverage about Iran’s nuclear program. We did not believe a minute that it would be dangerous, just the opposite. And it proved to be one of the safest countries we have traveled.

 

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During our two weeks travel through Iran in April 2014 we discovered an amazing country, far away from the clichÉs.  What we found were fabulous cultural treasures, probably the friendliest people we have ever met, a highly modern society, and… a country very easy and safe to travel, even though it is still really Off The Beaten Track.

 

What were the highlights of the trip?

 

 In Shiraz

  • The people - Iranians simply redefine friendliness and hospitality!

 

The Shah Mosque – Maydan-e Imam in EsfahanThe Shah Mosque – Maydan-e Imam in Esfahan

  • Esfahan - with its stunning Islamic architecture, many of those jewels frame the square Maydan-e-Imam; the string of so very green parks and Julfa, the Armenian Quarter that invites for strolls, day and night
  • Qom, Iran’s (second) Vatican  - Both Fatima’s Holy Shrine and Jamkaran Mosque are spectacular. And no, this city is not THAT conservative…

 

Tomb of Cyrus The Great, Pasargadae

The Apadana, Persepolis

Naqsh-e Rostam – The four Achaemenid Tombs

  •  Persepolis and the tombs of the Achaemenidean Kings Cyrius, Darius & Xerxes

 

Robat-e Zayn al-Din Caravanserai – Silk Road, Yazd

  • The diversity of highlights in and around Yazd, a place where you should plan enough time
  • Visiting traditional houses in Kashan
  • The Bazaar of Shiraz

 

In Esfahan

  • Amazing opportunities for photographers: Iranians are eager to pose for photos, even with complete strangers; astonishing architecture; illuminated buildings in the evening

 

What Will We Especially Remember?

 

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  • Getting our picture taken with groups of students (mostly girls) at every place we visited. We had never been so high in demand!
  • Being approached by complete (very friendly) strangers on the street, on buses, trains who would greet us, ask about our home country and sometimes involve us in lengthy conversations providing a great insight into the every day life of Iranians

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  •  In public Iranian women wear a chador or a “Manteau” (a short, light frock that can be very colorful). In northern Teheran and in Esfahan women sometimes looked stunning by the way they dressed!
  • Cab drivers who turned into friendly guides, in Esfahan and in Qom. We also had those who overcharged us, big city boys in Teheran, but that was an absolute exception.
  • If shoes are an important part of a woman’s outfit in the western world, it is the headscarf and the purse in Iran. Surprisingly though many elegantly dressed women wear sport shoes.
  • Iran is no party destination (you cannot legally purchase alcohol and clubs do not exist) like Southeast Asia, where young people travel in throngs. In Iran they are the very exception, even among the few (who) tourists travel independently. The majority of the tour groups are made up of retirees.

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Is it difficult to organize a trip there?

 

All in all, this trip was fairly easy to organize, especially considering how few people travel to Iran individually. The vast majority of tourists travel with an organized tour. Organizing a Visa was straightforward. Iran is very easy and safe to travel. The main question that arose before departure was what kind of clothes Heidi should take. Actually, as it turned out we spent way too many thoughts on this subject. Funnily, all the female tourists we talked to had worried about that as well. Quite easy actually: baggy pants, a shirt that covers your hips and bum, sleeves should reach to the elbow, very little cleavage, very short scarf - otherwise most of it is wrapped around your neck and drives you crazy, especially in the heat. You are set, not matter where, in rural areas or in urban areas!

 

Golestān Palace, Teheran

 

All in all, we strongly recommend overcoming prejudices against this beautiful country and going there soon, before tourism has picked up dramatically and things have changed in depth.

 

 

With 34 meters the highest Wind tower, Dolatabad-Garden, Yazd

 

Attachments

Images (16)
  • Tomb of Cyrus The Great, Pasargadae
  • Jamkaran Mosque, Qom
  • Qavam House, Bagh-e Eram or Heaven Garden, Shiraz
  • In Shiraz
  • The Apadana, Persepolis
  • Naqsh-e Rostam – The four Achaemenid Tombs
  • The Shah Mosque – Maydan-e Imam in Esfahan
  • Iran
  • With 34 meters the highest Wind tower, Dolatabad-Garden, Yazd
  • Robat-e Zayn al-Din Caravanserai – Silk Road, Yazd
  • Iran
  • The Shah Mosque – Maydan-e Imam in Esfahan
  • Golestān Palace, Teheran
  • Iran
  • In Esfahan
  • Iran16

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Comments (3)

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That's a fascinating look at a country rarely visited by people in North America.  I especially enjoyed your lovely photos, which share so vividly the experience with all of us.

 

I have two specific questions:

 

1)  What is the tourist infrastructure in Iran like?  Easy to find hotels or hostels?  Restaurants?  Public transit?

 

2)  I've always enjoyed those Iranian people I know, but I'm not sure if the bulk of our readers (Mostly from the USA and Canada) would receive the same welcome from the governing officials the Europeans do.  I'm sure the people would be curious and hospitable, but I think the government might view them as spies rather than tourists.  I'm curious what your impressions on that are.

 

Thanks!

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

Hello Dr. Fumblefinger,

Thank you for your Feedback!

To answer your questions:

1) The infrastructure is good to very good, and it is extremely easy to travel within Iran: there are lots of buses and excellent trains, there is a wide range of hotels, from simple guesthouses to world-class 5 stars hotels, restaurants going from street food stalls to fine dining, ... I have read that with the very fast development of tourism, the high-end category of hotels is the one that might get overbooked in the peak season. But that is not based on personal experience...

2) American citizens (USA passport holders) cannot travel in Iran independently but must be part of an organized tour. Citizens from all other countries can visit Iran independently, and the "red tape" is quite easy to handle (for more details, check our "Travel Guide to Iran: http://grandescapades.net/travel-guide-to-iran/).

Now Iran has a strong will to develop tourism and authorities do their best to welcome foreign visitors. We have met Americans during our trip, and they all reported feeling very welcome. I think most Iranians do differentiate between politics and people, especially the people they feel privileged to welcome in their country.

So except for the necessity to be in an organized tour, USA citizens will most likely be extremely welcome in Iran.

 

Cheers, Gilles

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