I’ve just returned from a couple of weeks touring Iran, a country I knew little about and one that I visited with more than a little trepidation.
What a surprise! Contrary to popular western media portrayals of a country filled with angry militants brandishing AK47’s in the air while dancing on a burning US flag, in fact the people are the most welcoming, friendly and hospitable people I have come across for a long time.
I lost count of the number of times we were welcomed and thanked for visiting the country. We were constantly invited to join people for meals and repeatedly told to tell our friends to visit as well and experience the real Iran.
The country is one of contrasts. Where women have to cover their head with the hijab, but have turned it into a glamorous fashion accessory coupled with makeup worthy of a Hollywood red carpet. Where much of the countryside is desert but the cities are veritable Gardens of Eden filled with flowers and fruit trees. Where politicians have historically spouted anti-western rhetoric yet the populace drink Coke and Pepsi and wear Abercrombie & Fitch. Where FB is banned but everyone wants to “friend you”.
The fact that both the Boss, a stunning beauty of South Indian descent, and me, a ruggedly handsome Caucasian 😉 from the Antipodes, were often mistaken for Iranians speaks volumes about the ethnic diversity of the country.
It’s truly a fascinating country and has a long and varied history stretching back thousands of years.
Everywhere you look you see beauty, whether it is the strikingly attractive Iranian people, the stunning and incredibly varied countryside, or the cities themselves. Tehran with it’s backdrop of snowclad mountains, Esfahan with it’s beautifully lit bridges and avenues of Mulberry trees, Shiraz with it’s streets lined with orange trees, Mashhad with miles and miles of rose gardens lining it’s roads.
Art seems to run in the Iranian people’s veins, evident by the public sculptures and artwork you see everywhere, whether it be on the roadside or within public parks. Colorful lights decorate most parks and gardens at nights and people spend time in the cooler hours picnicking in the parks, singing Iranian folk songs, while sipping tea and smoking from the qalyan or hookah.
Despite family members concerns for my safety I felt safer here than in many a European city at night.
A country I would love to revisit and if you haven’t been already, one to put on your bucket list.
Watch this space as I will be posting more about my travels in this fabulous country over the coming weeks