Some good reasons to travel to Iran include everything from the heavenly food and hospitable people to the rich history and enchanting architecture. Iran has always been great value for foreigners with euros, however, of added value now is the opportunity to give back to people currently suffering from economic sanctions.
As advocates of responsible travel on an endless quest to be better travellers, we like to give back as much as we take away from places we visit and that can simply mean going to places where the people need tourist dollars and spending money locally, on local guides, at small local businesses, buying locally made crafts and so on. Iran, which is suffering from tougher American sanctions, is one country I have my eye on right now and a trip to Iran is long overdue.
I can’t tell you how many times I scheduled trips to Iran and nutted out itineraries as I lazed by the swimming pool on weekends during our seven and a half years living just across the Persian Gulf in Abu Dhabi and then Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Only to have to postpone them time and time again due to conflicts in the region, such as the Iraq War and the Palestinian Intifada.
Although as Australians we weren’t in danger of anything other than being mistaken for Americans. During that period there was a great deal of resentment in the Middle East against the USA due to its meddling in regional politics and occupation of Iraq, so it just made sense to travel elsewhere during periods of tension. Our Canadian friends plastered Canadian flags on their backpacks and sewed maple leaves onto their jackets. We explored Europe, saving our Middle East travels for the lulls between the storms.
At the time I was teaching film and media studies to young Emirati women, I adored Iranian cinema, and I had met some Iranian directors at film festivals, including the late great Abbas Kiarostami, who kindly visited our Abu Dhabi campus to talk to my students, including a very inspired young Iranian woman. In a darkened space, watching films such as Close-Up, A Taste of Cherry, The Wind Will Carry Us, or The White Balloon, which Kiarostami wrote for Jafar Panahi, another extraordinary Iranian filmmaker (watch The Circle), Iran captured my imagination and has never let go.
While it was Iranian cinema that first pulled me toward Iran, these days I have to confess that being based in Southeast Asia researching the region’s culinary history, Iranian food is also an allure now. We had a lot of Iranian restaurants in Dubai, but I don’t think I understood the food and its place as I do now. The Persians were in Southeast Asia many centuries ago and their stamp is on so many aspects of this region’s cuisines. We have the Persians to thank for pomegranates for instance.
That’s a couple of good reasons to travel to Iran right there – food and film. Here are some more…
Some Good Reasons to Travel to Iran – From the Sublime Cuisine to the Rich History
An Irresistible Iran Tour of UNESCO Ruins, Palaces, Gardens, Bazaars
I’m always scanning the Luxury Escapes sites for great deals on tours and hotel packages I can share with you and they have a very tempting offer that motivated today’s reveries on Iran right now that’s ending very soon: a 15-day Jewels of Ancient Persia Tour to Iran for $4,399 per person twin-share (valued at $6,499), including return international flights with Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways, Oman Air, and Thai Airways, arrival and departure airport transfers, a domestic flight between Tehran and Shiraz, 13 nights hotel accommodation, daily breakfasts, private air-conditioned transportation throughout the journey, daily bottled water, local English-speaking guides, and entrance fees to all sights, including UNESCO World Heritage-listed ancient ruins, sumptuous palaces, sublime gardens, and colourful bazaars in Tehran, Shiraz, Yazd, Persepolis, Isfahan, Kermanshah and Hamedan. If you’re not familiar with Luxury Escapes, they specialise in offering Champagne packages on a Prosecco budget. You can use Qantas points to book, too.
The Hospitable Iranian People Need You to Visit
Good reasons to travel to Iran begin with the chance to experience the goodness of the Iranian people while giving something back. Iranian hospitality is legendary. Travellers returning from Iran talk about the kindness of strangers, their good manners, their genuine interest in conversation and forming friendships, and the non-stop invitations to tea or dinner. Since US President Donald Trump restored tough sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from the nuclear agreement last year, life has been tougher than ever for Iranians, so your money will be welcomed. As is generally the case with economic sanctions, they hurt the people, especially the poor and middle class, more than they hurt the government. The savings of everyday people have been diminished due to the drop in value of the currency, prices have increased, and the standard of living has dramatically fallen. Which are all good reasons to travel to Iran this year. When you get there, spend your money at small businesses, buy some beautiful carpets and crafts, and buy your new Iranian friends a good meal.
Iranian Cuisine Is There for the Savouring
Iranian cuisine is heavenly. What’s not to love about a cuisine that features such culinary wonders as rose water and rose syrup (used to flavour and give aroma to savoury dishes and sweet desserts), pomegranates (native to Iran and used as a souring agent in cooking and drank freshly squeezed and sweetened), pistachios (sprinkled on rice, ground to make a soup, and crushed with almonds to make baghlava, Persian baklava), and, one of my favourite herbs, dill (combined with everything from eggs to rice)? Iranian cuisine – which includes Persian cuisine, as well as cuisines of ethnic groups other than Persians, such as Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Turks, and Arabs – shares much with other Middle Eastern cuisines, such as a love of barbecue and slow-cooking, particularly lamb and poultry, kebabs, flatbreads, white cheese, yoghurt, and sweets. Yet Iranian cuisine remains distinctive, due to its history and location slap-bang on the old Silk Road, straddling Central Asia and the Middle East. There’s a good primer on Iranian dishes on Food Republic by Louisa Shafia, author of The New Persian Kitchen. Worth reading for their stories as much as cooking from: Bottom of the Pot: Persian Recipes and Stories by Naz Deravian; Pomegranates and Roses: My Persian Family Recipes by Ariana Bundy and Lisa Linder; The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan; and Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East and Beyond by Sabrina Ghayour. One of the highlights of the Luxury Escapes Iran tour is getting the chance to eat in a local home.
Iran’s Long Rich History Never Gets Old
Like Turkey, Iran, which was known as Persia until 1935, just gets better with age and its long history and its rich culture are just a couple of good reasons to travel to Iran. The country is home to one of the oldest continuous civilisations with urban settlements dating way back to 7000 BC. The Luxury Escapes tour takes in so many of the sights, including many UNESCO World Heritage sites, that have long been on my itinerary, including Tehran’s historic citadel, the magnificent Golestan Palace, with its marble throne and royal gardens, and the sprawling Sa’dabad complex with its many palaces, mansions, museums, gardens, and forest; the splendid Shah Cheragh mosque and tombs of Shiraz (considered ‘the city of poets, literature, wine, and flowers’), with its intricately detailed facade, slender minarets and interior filled with thousands of reflective mirrors; Yazd’s breathtaking Dowlat Abad Garden with its tree-lined avenues and impressive wind tower; remnants of the Achaemenid Empire at the 6th century BC ruins UNESCO World Heritage-listed ruins of Persepolis, the nearby burial site of the ancient kings at Naqsh-e Rustam; the tomb of emperor Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Empire, at Pasargadae; and Isfahan’s Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, one of Iran’s architectural masterpieces, built from 1603-19, during the Safavid Empire.
You’ll find some more good reasons to travel to Iran in the full tour itinerary on the Luxury Escapes site (link above).
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