Mary Kelly from Sydney is a regular traveller with Byroads. In October 2018 she travelled to Iran and writes about the wonderful time she had in this ancient land and in particular, with its incredibly friendly and enquiring people. Read on below ……………….
Iran had been on my radar for some years and like many, I had been uncertain of the international political situation and had kept a close eye on the media reports. Finally I made a decision last year to just go and see for myself and visited in October for 2 weeks. I’m so glad I did!
Iran is an incredible travel destination. It is so safe, the people are so welcoming and friendly going about their daily lives, and there is an incredible abundance of art, history and culture to experience.
We began our trip in Tehran, Iran’s chaotic and noisy capital. The traffic has to be seen to be believed! I quickly learnt to navigate crossing the road by keeping close to the locals weaving their way through the lines of honking vehicles.
Believing that a country’s culture can best be discovered through its food I joined in a Persian cooking class. A quick taxi trip to the cooler mountainous north of Tehran took me to the meeting place at Tajrish Bazaar, a bustling working market offering a vast array of fresh produce. We walked around, tasting and purchasing some special ingredients and set off to the kitchen to while away the afternoon preparing, cooking and eating a 5 course Persian lunch. Fun, delicious and a great way to experience Iran’s culinary culture.
Over the next few days we visited the dazzling Golestan and Saad Abad network of Palaces, the wonderful Jewellery Museum, Carpet Museum, the modern, architectural Tabiat Nature Bridge surrounded by lush greenery offering great views of the city, and the iconic Azadi Tower.
Next, we flew to Shiraz, a relaxed, peaceful and romantic city known for its gardens, nightingales and poets. Shirazi’s are very friendly and I had several memorable encounters of meeting and chatting with random families eager to take my photo and offer me their shy smiles. We were fortunate to visit the home of a young couple and shared a typical home-cooked meal with them, sitting on the floor picnic-style, and exchanging stories and opinions. Iranians are very interested in the outside world, intrigued by the way foreigners view their country and typically accepting and gracious, though questioning of the ingrained perception painted by the international media. It was uplifting to acknowledge that the current poor attitude of some nations towards Iran would hopefully be a passing phase and that people would likely view Iran very differently if they were to visit and experience the country first-hand.
We took a day trip to the impressive and well preserved ancient site of Persepolis and Necropolis once the centre of the Persian Empire and built 25 centuries ago.
Our next stop, was Yadz, the ancient desert city, unlike any other place. Visiting the old part of the city with its crumbling mud brick buildings, arcades and alleyways, catching sight of the evocative wind towers, or badgirs, to allow cool air down to the dwellings below, was intriguing. We enjoyed another special and simple meal in a household at a small village, Taft, and learnt of the Zoroastrian way of life while sitting in the cool of the surrounding pomegranate orchard.
Esfahan, known as the Jewel in the Crown and depicted in the past as Half the World, was our final stop – the best til last! I spent 3 glorious days wandering through and around the Naqsh e Jahan Square and the surrounding mosques, bazaars and gardens. Shopping in Esfahan is a dream with so many distinctively Persian arts and handicrafts on offer, from hand-printed textiles, hand painted decorative metalware, miniature paintings, and of course carpets and spices, confectionery and more.
A must is to visit the grand Abbasi Hotel set in sumptuous rose and quince tree gardens for afternoon tea or the standard evening meal option of bean, chickpea and vegetable soup and saffron, pistachio and rosewater ice-cream – so good I went 2 nights in a row! You won’t be disappointed by the food in Iran, it is invariably fresh, interesting, varied and delicious.
I met many Iranians, eager to stop and chat, to take selfies (I feature on many Insta accounts) and convey to me how welcome I was to visit their country and to be sure when I returned home to encourage others to visit to see for themselves how normal life is. While the tourist infrastructure is underdeveloped and the economy slow due to the US sanctions I saw many large groups of travellers from China, Europe and the US.
Iran is certainly open for business with those welcoming arms wide open. My advice – just go!!
The next Byroads ‘Iran Unveiled’ 15 Days tour starts in Tehran on the 30th of September 2019. To secure your place on the tour Book Now and see for yourself this amazing destination. For full details Click Here.