TOP OF THE EMERGING COUNTRIES TO VISIT RIGHT NOW
Iran is one of my top emerging destinations right now. I visited in 2014 and traversed the country, by road. This meant there was little missed, from the bustling metropolis cities of Shiraz, Esfahan and Tehran to the tiny towns and rural mud villages. The wealth of terrain in this nation is staggering: ice-encrusted mountains, dramatic valleys, lush hills, infinite lakes, beautiful beaches and coastlines and cultural cities.
PERSONAL INTERACTIONS WITH PEOPLE
One aspect everyone talks about with Iran is the people and hospitality. Personal examples of interactions:
1. Wandering the streets of Shiraz, a daughter and father out for an evening stroll, approached me. The young woman spoke English quite well. She wanted to practice her English with native speakers and struck up conversation. Within 5 minutes, she’d invited me to her home to meet her parents and have dinner. She wasn’t joking! I was moved.
2. In Dezful city, the ancient capital of Khuzestan province dating back to 300BC, I had a walk along the river banks, spotting the ruins of the old water mills. Families and couples were picnicking along the green and sunny banks of the river, with typical Iranian dishes and the Nargile water pipe (Sheesha) close at hand. As I wandered past each family, smiled and said hello, most of them extended a warm hello in return and warmly invited me to sit and join them for tea. It is a culture of ingrained hospitality and etiquette, and I appreciated the sentiment.
3. During my solo jaunts of Tehran, the capital city, one of the largest in the world, I wandered on my own to the biggest bazaar, local parks and Persian tea houses. The streets weren’t always marked as i’d expected and the language barrier posing some niggling issues, I would pause now and then to consult my map and phone for directions. Stood on a corner street at the heart of a crowded and chaotic city, slightly lost, it was only a matter of moments before several passers-by stopped to ask if I needed help. Despite being unable to communicate with our differences in language, we figured out what each was saying and I was soon on my way. The men are very respectful towards women and will do their utmost to help in a genuine manner. I felt safer there than I often do in home city of London!
4. On my way to a particular tea house in Tehran, alone, I took a taxi parked outside my hotel. It dropped me to the tea house. As I went in, ordered and paid, I realised that I had left my mobile phone in the back seat. Panicked and stressed, I nervously asked the tea house to call my hotel. They obliged very kindly. The lady told me not to worry at all. Panic-stricken, I explained the detail on the phone and the fact that I was alone in Tehran and needed my phone, to which she responded, ‘This is Iran, please do not worry, you will get back your phone back for sure.’ 10 minutes later, the taxi man dropped off my phone. It is a fact that theft and robbery is rare in Iran. Even in a city as huge as Tehran, with an estimated 12.6 million residents (!!), it is unlikely that anyone would purposely steal anything. How incredible!
Through my travels cross-country, I managed to take some photographs of some of the people with whom I interacted, either with conversation or simply smiles and nods. When I look at these images, I feel the warmth of the country. They’re everyday images of everyday people across the beautiful country. What do they say to you?