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Why you should put Iran on your bucket list?

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You may heard a lot that Iran is unsafe, insecure, people are dying there, they are fundamentalists, they are really dangerous. Lots of travelers came to Iran carrying all these negative ideas, but at the end of their journey they change their mind and don’t want leave here. Here are some points you should take into consideration while traveling to Iran:

 

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The Nasir al Mulk mosque in Shiraz, also known as the Pink Mosque.

It may seems unsafe in the first sight, but the people on the streets are quick to greet you warmly and ask for a selfie together or invite you for tea.

It is not to say that the strict Islamic regulations are a myth – women have to wear a hijab (headscarf) and cover their figure in public. At some holy sites, you might even be asked to don the ­traditional long black veil called chador (which literally means “tent” in Persian).

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But on the streets of Tehran and some of the big cities, it is common to see Iranian women strutting around in trendy tight-fitting garb with dyed tresses peeking out of their colourful headscarves as they rebelliously find fashionable interpretations of the state’s strict dress code.

And while public displays of affection between men and women are a no-no, almost no place is segregated. One of the few “places” where men and women are kept apart is the public transport, where women have a separate entrance and compartment on city buses and the Tehran Metro.

One of the oldest civilisations ­in the world, Iran is home to 21 Unesco World Heritage sites with a rich legacy of art, culture and architecture dating back some three millennia.

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Golestan Palace, or the ‘Palace of flowers’, is one of the oldest historical monuments in Tehran.

My whirlwind exploration of this mesmerising heritage started at the Golestan Palace in Tehran. The muted façade of the 400-year-old royal complex is underwhelming, but as soon as you walk in, its grandiose opulence will hit you. Talar-i-Ayaneh (Hall of Mirrors), for one, is unforgettable with its blinding shattered-mirror mosaic walls and ceiling. One would think living with your reflections is unnerving, but apparently the mirrors served a practical purpose – they kept the assassins away.

The newer Niavaran Palace gives a different insight into Iran’s past – it exhibits the excesses of the last Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, as if to justify the 1979 Islamic Revolution that sent him and his family into exile. Maybe it was the winter cold, but an eerie chill swept down my spine as I walked through the rooms showcasing the royal family’s abandoned possessions.

This mesh of the extravagant and the austere; the traditional and the modern; and the Islamic and the pre-Islamic of Iran is evident even as you move out of Tehran.

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The intricate ceiling design in the music room of the Ali Qapu Palace, at the Imam Square of Esfahan.

 

It cannot be more obvious than at the Imam Square in Esfahan, once Iran’s capital under the Safavid Dynasty. Surrounded by intricately designed palaces and mosques, the public square used to host polo matches for the ancient kings’ entertainment. Today, the Imam Square is a popular hangout for the ordinary Esfahan folks who love to picnic and read poetry on the grassy turf.

But the wintry air was biting when we were there, so we quickly popped into the labyrinthine Bazar-e Bozorg nearby to hunt for souvenirs and browse in the workshops where the traders make their wares, from traditional copper pots and glass trinkets, to miniature paintings and printed tablecloths.

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Strolling along the Si-o-seh pol Bridge, the most striking bridge in Esfahan, is a must.

While I had vowed to resist the temptation of lugging home one of the famed Persian carpets, I could not resist the calls of the carpet sellers. So, I let myself be dragged into one carpet shop and surrendered to their “1,001 tales of flying carpets” over hot tea … Leaving without buying was awkward but the experience was definitely worth it.

If the haggling is not for you, there are many chaikhaneh (teahouses) around where you can sip your spiced tea and suck on nabat (traditional rock sugar). Find, if you can in the market maze, the kooky Azadegan Teahouse. The metal pots, lanterns and other knick-knacks hanging from its ceiling give Azadegan’s tea and snacks an extra oomph.

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Kick back at the Azadegan Teahouse with its kooky ceiling decor after souvenir hunting at the labyrinthine Bazar-e Bozorg in Esfahan.

After soothing tea, nothing is more invigorating than walking across the wondrous Si-o-seh pol bridge to the leafy Armenian Christian quarter Jolfa, where the Esfahan Music Museum makes an interesting stop with its extensive collection of traditional instruments. We even got serenaded with traditional Persian love songs after our guided tour!

As the Safavids were credited for the spread of Shia Islam, Esfahan is an ideal place to soak in the distinctive blue-tile mosaic design of Iran’s Islamic architecture.

I did wonder if blue tiles are – as magnificent as they are – all there is to Persian mosques. I found the answer in Shiraz, another former capital city. Its Nasir al Mulk mosque is known as the pink mosque because its pink and red tiles radiate a dazzling rosy hue around the main prayer room when sunlight shines through its stained glass windows.

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What’s left of Persepolis, the ancient imperial ceremonial capital of Persia, which was burnt down by Alexander the Not Great.

But despite its attractions, and Shiraz has many, most travel to the southern city to get to Persepolis, the ancient capital of the Achaemenid Empire.

It is said that the Greek conqueror Alexander (the “not Great”, from Iranians’ perspective) had torched most of Persepolis in a drunken fit, but the ruins are still breathtaking.

The tomb of Cyrus the Great at nearby Pasargadae completed my “lesson” on this ancient Persian civilisation. Cyrus is dubbed the “Father of Human Rights” and, to the current theocratic government’s chagrin, many Iranians now hold annual protests at his tomb.

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The Zoroastrian Towers of Silence in Yazd where the dead were once left to be eaten by vultures before burial.

I find Iran’s preservation of their pre-Islamic heritage absolutely riveting, and my intrigue only grew when I got to the desert town of Yazd, considered by many to be the “Zoroastrian HQ”.

Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions, is said to be founded in Iran. One of its distinct facets is its “decontamination ceremony” for the dead – their bodies are left in a simple tower known as dakhmeh or tower of silence for vultures to pick clean to the bones.

The dakhmeh at the hilly edge of Yazd will transport you back to those gory times, especially if you go there after visiting the surreal Fire Temple, where the flame allegedly has been burning for over 1,500 years.

Yazd’s old town, a pit stop during the old Silk Road days, is also captivating with its badgirs (windtowers) on sun-dried mud-brick houses set around narrow, winding lanes.

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The bathhouses in Kashan are best explored via the rooftop, like this one at Hammam-e Sultan Amir Ahmad.

All the guidebooks say the skyline is best seen from the rooftop, something I unfortunately didn’t get to do as I had to rush to Kashan, another old town with traditional houses, gardens and hammam (bath houses) that should be explored from the rooftops. As I looked out across the quaint skyline, it struck me – I had barely scratched the surface of what this diverse country has to offer.

We wholeheartedly welcome you Here.

My memories of traveling to Iran as an American

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American tourist Iran embraces visitor with warm welcome many speak English love talking and posing photos with Americans

 

I’m Philadelphia Inquirer, and I’ve had a trip to Iran.I studied for many years about Iran’s rich history and I was eager to see its wonders.But when I told my friends that I was planning to travel to Iran, ..They told me, You are crazy! Because they believed that Iran was not safe and its people were hostile to Americans.But that was not true. I traveled to Iran and the friendly welcome of the people reflected the beauty of Persian culture.I started my 11-day trip to Iran from the ancient city of Persepolis, where 3,000-year-old palaces and gateways built by Xerxes and Darius the Great still stand.Although the city was looted and partially destroyed by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C., many of the original structures remain in a somewhat diminished but rehabilitated form. Persepolis, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lay dormant for centuries until the 1930s, when restoration efforts began. Although it is the chief tourist attraction in Iran, it is only one of many joys I experienced.

I traveled to 10 Iranian cities in total.A trip that started from Shiraz in the south and ended up in Tehran.The weather in most places in April was fairly good and made touring enjoyable.There were some inconveniences along the way: no ATMs, no credit-card charges, and no use of U.S. dollars. However, I adapt.

My favorite cities were Yazd and Isfahan.The city of Yazd, near the central desert of Iran, is one of the oldest cities in the world.Quaint narrow streets included 2,000-year-old houses, making it fascinating to wander and explore, especially for someone who spent his childhood in Swampoodle.

Isfahan as one of the most important tourist cities in Iran is very beautiful.Nice bridges over the ZayandehRood (River) , beautiful mosques, great palaces and magnificent mosques in Isfahan attention by all tourists.

The trip’s highlights were the bazaars, the mosques, and the people. Every town has at least one bazaar where it seems one could walk forever under cover with shops on either side selling almost everything. Bazaars are the Iranian version of American shopping malls – without endless parking lots wasting space.
Resplendent in their beautiful architecture and breathtaking interiors, the mosques mesmerized me. I visited as many as I could. My favorite was Cheragh in Shiraz, with its gold-topped minarets and mirrored tiles on interior walls.

As for the people, many speak English and love talking with and posing for photos with Americans. I posed with as many as I could. Three encounters heightened my impressions of the many people I met:

One evening, when I wandered around, I followed a local synagogue in Isfahan, A man in English asked if he could help me?When I told him my destination, he took me across the street to a plain building that housed the synagogue, rang the bell, and explained in Farsi over the intercom that I was eager to see the interior.

One night in Tehran, my camera battery was running low, and I didn’t have my charger.An English-speaking man in a camera shop said he had no chargers for my camera, but he offered to charge my battery on his shop’s machine. We chatted for 20 minutes while the battery charged at no cost to me.

When I returned from Iran, my driver took me to Tehran airport, he also helped me to carry my luggage inside.

My Iran trip was one of my most enjoyable adventures in all of my travels.