Iran is likely one of the most controversial destinations that we have offered in many years. The common refrain from non-travellers was “why go there?” The answers are many and, in my mind, very justified.
Roslyn and I, together with our first group of adventurers have just returned from this fascinating destination. Without any doubt, Iran, modern Persia, is one of the best kept travel secrets available today. All the “fake news” emanating from south of the border and from other Arab states is all about politics – it has nothing to do with this historic land or its charming people.
In my humble view, Iran today is one of the safest destinations in the world as well as being one of the most rewarding. If you read any of our Facebook posts, you may already have some understanding of this.
Our journey took us to all the most important and interesting sites in the country.
Tehran – a modern city of huge numbers that suffers like most urban centres but which contains a host of fascinating museums that introduce us to the long and spectacular history of Persia. Predating Egypt, Greece and Rome, Persia was a world power that had more primary influences on the western world than any of us can imagine. Cities were organized, lands were cultivated, armies dominated and philosophers taught at a time when the “west” was barely getting organized. Today we can discover remains from this illustrious past in all corners of the country.
Near Kerman is the citadel of Arg-e-Rayen, an ancient city that appears to be lost in a very remote part of the country, set in one of the driest deserts in the world. This ancient mud city was on one of the world’s most important trading routes, a southern portion of the old Silk Road. From here, caravans travelled the length of Iran and across Turkey to fabled Istanbul and on to Europe. For the past decade, this site has seen a major restoration and today we can see exactly how this once flourishing city functioned and survived.
Nearby, in the oasis of Mayen, is the Garden of Shahzadeh (or Prince Garden) still flourishing as it did when first constructed in 1850s. This UNESCO listed site was the proto-type for the classic Persian garden, a plan that has been copied in many parts of the world. What is so wonderful about these gardens is the atmosphere that they create, an oasis in an otherwise barren land. Stretching for hundreds of kilometres in all directions is desert, a parched land in which nothing seems to grow. Thanks to the reality of a wonderful strong spring, which produces a fast-flowing stream of fresh lovely water, the gardens are organized around a central set of flowing pools with fountains that refresh the air and the soul of all who visit. For those who may never have experienced an oasis, it is a wonderful experience.
One of Iran’s most famous cities, Shiraz, is also one of its most beautiful. Set in a valley surrounded by low mountains, this city of roses and gardens, poets and architecture dates back some 2500 years. Our time here was far too limited but we have added an extra night next year, making for a far more pleasant stay. One definite highlight this year (which we hope to repeat next year) was an opportunity to have dinner with an Iranian family in their home. The host and his daughter spoke excellent English and we were able to discuss many things during the short time we had together. It was definitely a highlight of the journey.
One might not expect that food would be a highlight in a journey like this. Our experiences were just the opposite. Each day we were treated to different regional specialities while dining at a variety of local restaurants. Another highlight saw us visiting a family of Qashqai nomads in their temporary winter home, during which we shared a meal and learned about their wandering lifestyle.
Persepolis, the greatest city in the world over 2500 years ago, remains as a perfect illustration of the glory of ancient Persia. While the city was destroyed by Alexander the Greek (we called him the Great), the remains of the temples, the bas reliefs and the pictorial history in its ruins, left us amazed and bewildered.
I could go on and on about all the highlights of this extraordinary journey but want to mention one of the most important features of this land – the brief friendships that happened almost every day as we travelled. In virtually every centre that we visited, we were greeted by young and old alike. “Welcome to Iran” and “we are so glad that you came to visit us” were common refrains. When we were able to communicate further, the conversation usually reflected our shared interests and a desire to learn more about each other. By the way, their attitude to their government is similar to the “respect” that we show for Trump and his policies. Very few Canadians have experienced modern Iran but Europeans are already arriving in large numbers, to discover its amazing sites. Iranians know and respect Canada and many would love the opportunity to visit or to immigrate here.
Iran is a fascinating and ever so rich nation. I invite you to join us!
October 19 - November 5 | Escorted by Janet Williams
Book by May 31, 2019 and save $200 per person.
“What we saw and experienced exceeded our expectations. Hotels and food exceeded expectations. Great guide and bus driver. The welcoming people of Iran were the bonus. We have told everyone, it was a great trip and we would not have missed it for anything. Great education, great experience. Our guide was exceptional; the bus driver was a great aid to her also.” W Yurko – Iran October 2017