Iran Tour: the not so ugly four-letter word

Mahmoud and I
Mahmoud and I at the Jameh Mosque of Isfahan

We arrived in Shiraz in the early hours and there’s nothing like be greeted with a smile and have a car waiting at 4am.

The tour was going to take us through the center of Iran – starting in Shiraz and ending in  Tehran.  We decided to go overland the whole way for a few reasons:

  1. There’s no better way to see the most of a country then by taking the road.  We were hoping to use public transport but our itinerary didn’t give us many opportunities to do so.
  2.  Iranian planes not only lack the necessary spare parts due to the US embargo but they have more than their share of flight incidents.  It’s enough to keep me grounded.
  3. It was nice to have the ability to say that we wanted to stay longer or leave earlier.  The flexibility made it easier to make it seem more like our usual trips where we just travel vicariously – or at least feel a little less on a schedule.

Take the time to research and find a good guide

We were either lucky to get a great guide. Mahmoud was not only  a nice guy with a great sense of humor but a guide who loved history and his country.  We start at a reasonable hour of 10am, take a lunch around mid day, start-up again in the afternoon and finish the day with dinner.  He showed us Iran as we made our way through its historical sites.  He guided us through his home town of Shiraz and later to Persepolis, the remains of Bishapur and museums of Tehran – to name a few.  He never got annoyed by our questions and rushed us through places he has been to thousands of times.

Do your homework before going

There’s only so much you can pack into a guide-book like Lonely Planet.  A tour guide more than likely will contradict some of its facts.  It is a well-known fact that history is usually recorded by the victors.  Iran once known as Persia has a long recorded history and it’s people have had amazing military and cultural triumphs as well as suffered near catastrophic defeats.  Modern Iran is still obsessed with its past and wonder why they are no longer the superpower they were thousands of years ago.  The only thing he did do is make me feel guilty that I hadn’t done pre-trip studying of Persian history and culture before setting out on the trip.  The boundaries of Persia changed like the tides as they conquered and fell victim to foreign sieges.    Iran doesn’t disappoint especially when it comes to ancient history.

Khaneh Tabatabaei-ha or "The Tabatabaeis' House" in Kashan
A Friend at the The Tabatabaeis’ House

Be ready to meet people

We found that we could not go anywhere without being asked how we liked Iran, why we were visiting, and where do we come from.  It’s hard not to feel welcome in Iran despite what our leaders say and do to each other.  It’s easy making connections with  people on the street even though we had our fixer with us most of the time – we did manage to lose him a few times and managed not to make the headlines.

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