I’m back after a couple of months in countries that ban access to wordpress, decided to catch up!
In Central Asia, I’m meeting amazing travellers. Most of them travel over extended periods of time, through several countries. If you ask them about their favourite country in their route, the answer would almost always be: “Iran”. What makes this country so special? Without a doubt, the friendliness of its people. As one traveller puts it: ‘You are never alone in Iran’. And it’s true, people are always striking a conversation with you, inviting you to their houses or trying to help with anything. For some (Americans especially), just the name Iran sounds fearful, but if you travel to Iran, you must forget all your preconceptions and just enjoy how amazing this country is.
After arriving at Tehran I headed for Isfahan, one of the most impressive cities in the country. According to a Persian proverb “‘Esfahān nesf-e jahān ast” (Isfahan is half of the world). This half of the world can be appreciated in the surroundings of Naqsh-e Jahan Square: one of the biggest public squares in the world, with covered bazaars, impressive mosques, palaces, tea houses and an excellent spots for people-watching.
I was really impressed by Masjed Imam. This was my first time to visit a mosque with this elegant Islamic style, in anticipation to what I would see in Uzbekistan. Awesome!
After that, I headed south to see the other must-see city in the country: Shiraz. Just as Isfahan, Shiraz is a testament to the grandeur of the ancient Persian civilisation.
In the surroundings of Shiraz is Naqsh-e Rustam, an archeological site that contains four royal tombs from the Sassanid period, excavated on rock.
Just a few kilometers from Naqsh-e Rustam, lies the ancient city of Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the great Achaemenid Empire. At the height of its power it included territories from the Indus Valley to Greece or Egypt in the West. The bas-reliefs in Persepolis still show representatives from all nationalities throughout the empire came to Persepolis with gifts for the Persian ruler.
On the way back to Tehran, I stopped for a couple of days in Yadz. This is a city built almost entirely of adobe, so that it gives the impression of merging with the desert. Yadz is also a centre of Zoroastrianism, with major sites nearby. Actually, Zoroastrians today still make up a significant percentage (5-10%) of the population. I didn’t know much about this ancient religion before travelling to Iran, but in Yadz I had the chance to meet a Zoroastrian who informed me about their basic beliefs. Founded by Prophet Zoroaster, one of the most visible characteristics is fire, because they pray in fire temples. The practise of Zoroastrianism is allowed in modern Iran under the regime led by the Ayatollahs, but only in a discreet way and for members of the community. As other people can’t convert to Zoroastrianism (and of course Zoroastrians are welcome to convert to Islam), the community is dwindling slowly.
After a couple of days in Yadz, I went back to Tehran. In this vast city, you can appreciate modern Iranian life. Young Iranians are surprisingly modern and forward-looking. They dress in the most modern (fake) fashion and circumvent the very stringent laws they’re subject to. And so Iran is a land of contrasts: women may comply with wearing a hijab while the make up their faces to proudly highlight their beauty, people may wave anti-American propaganda and yet love the American people and invite them for tea, the most conservative Islamism alongside the most modern western mindset.
Forget all your preconceptions and propaganda and get your own opinion of Iran seeing this country with your own eyes!!