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Old 06-02-2014, 11:07 PM
 
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I just returned from my 17-day tour of Iran and I have to say, it's the most fascinating country I've ever been to. The history and culture, the art, mysticism, and poetry, the friendly people - it has it all. Instead of going into a lot of detail, which you can find on travel blogs, I'll just list some major points from my trip:

1) Americans have to have a registered guide, and going on a tour is the easiest way to get around. However, we were a bit surprised how much freedom we had to wander around bazaars and cities on our own, though we were asked not to take taxis and go too far away from our hotels.

2) Iran is SAFE. I repeat, it is SAFE to travel there. In fact, I felt safer there than in most US cities, and many of the older people (one was 87 and 4 were in their 70s) who had traveled to dozens of countries said they felt safer in Iran than almost any other place they had traveled, particularly Europe. The only place we were advised to be cautious was Kerman after dark, as it's on the main drug route out of Afghanistan and there are more drug addicts in that area who might try purse snatching from motorbikes.

3) I could have gotten away with tighter pants and shorter tops. Although women there are required to observe hejab (modest dress), many Iranian women in the more liberal cities wear leggings, and the scarves sit pretty far back on their heads. I bought a lightweight navy blue lab coat which was perfect, as it had some large pockets for my belongings, it was long, and it wasn't too hot. Same days I wore long tunic tops I had, but I had left three tops at home that I thought would be too short, which actually weren't. Head scarves are mandatory everywhere; Tehran is more liberal dress-wise than most other cities, but we saw Italian tourists "under-dressed" everywhere and no one paid them any attention.

4) MANY Iranians are not very devout Muslims. They call themselves "modern Muslims," and if your guide takes you into certain shops, the owners will lock the door while your group is visiting and women are invited to take off their head scarves and overcoats. They actually reminded me very much of Protestants who only go to church on Easter and Christmas. Although Shiites are only called to prayer 3 times a day as opposed to five for Sunnis, almost everyone we saw out on the streets kept right about their business when the calls to prayer sounded. Iran also has a very high per capita consumption of alcohol. As a tourist, you shouldn't go looking for it, but the locals have no trouble buying it, and I'm sure there's some problem with alcoholism. And sadly, there is a fair amount of opium addiction, aided in part by the steady supply coming through the country from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

5) Iranians LOVE Americans. I don't just mean they like us, I mean some of them actually accost you on the street and become your new best friend. When they hear you speaking English, they'll ask where you're from, and if you say America, next thing you know they're asking you how you like their country, telling you how much they love Americans, how they wish our governments got along better, and they'll ask to pose with you while a friend or family member takes a photo. The attention is almost minor-celebrity like; in fact, after two weeks we were actually getting a little tired of it because it took a lot of time to converse with them, but since they were so interested in us, we always obliged them. Iranians are famous for enjoying picnics, and more than once a family invited us to share their food when we encountered them at some of the famous sights, and some elderly Iranian ladies gave a flower from their bouquet to an elderly woman in our group. A young woman thought another elderly woman in our group looked like her grandmother, and held her hands repeatedly and seemed overjoyed to see her. I had worked to learn some Farsi before I went, but the communication between people who didn't speak each others language was loud and clear.

6) As a society, Iranians are highly educated, very cultured, and very peaceful and family-oriented. Women make up most of the college student population; some are members of Parliament and there are women in law. However, they don't have all the legal rights we do, the most egregious being that their testimony in court only counts half as much as a man's. But this is a very unpopular stance among younger people, who make up the majority of the population. But within the family, they hold a very egalitarian position. Our guide, who was not only very knowledgeable, but very funny, said in Iranian homes the man has the last words, and those words are, "Yes ma'am."

7) One of my biggest surprises was how openly vocal many Iranians are about how they dislike their system of government. They don't like the Islamic leaders having as much veto power over the elected President and Parliament as they do, and wish there was a separation of religion and government. We repeatedly heard the former President Ahmadinejad referred to as a nutcase and worse. The current President, Rouhani, seems quite moderate and appears to be well-liked.

8) The Iranian Constitution guarantees the right to practice whatever religion you choose, with the exception of Baha'i, which is a Muslim offshoot that has some elements that are antithetical to the mainstream sects. There aren't many people practicing minority religions, but there are Jews (with a dozen synagogues in Tehran alone), Christians, and especially Zoroastrians, since that religion arose in the central part of the country near Yazd, where the flame in the current fire temple has been burning since about 400 B.C. Contrary to popular misconception, Jews are not persecuted in Iran, and a 2007 attempt by Israel to lure Iranian Jews out of the country with a $60,000 monetary incentive was a dismal failure. Iranians won't ask you what religion you are, and they don't care.

9) The UNESCO World Heritage sites and UNESCO-recognized craftsmen make visiting Iran a cultural and historical delight. But in addition, the beautiful parks in the cities and even small towns make much of the country visually appealing. And the northwestern part of the country, near the Caspian Sea, is actually quite lush and verdant, with tea plantations, rice paddies, and many fruit and vegetable farms that grow produce other than the dates, figs, olives, walnuts, and pomegranates so common in other parts of the country.

In short, if you have any interest in going, DO SO. I had read before I went that visitors from one tour company have consistently remarked that of any country they'd visited, Iran was the most positively surprising, and even knowing that people felt that way before I left, I was still surprised at how vastly my trip exceeded my expectations.
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Old 06-02-2014, 11:16 PM
 
Location: Miami/NYC
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i applied for an iranian visa on my non US passport and looking for a tour company. Is it possible to visit the walls of the old US Embassy?
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Old 06-02-2014, 11:33 PM
 
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Originally Posted by ace587 View Post
i applied for an iranian visa on my non US passport and looking for a tour company. Is it possible to visit the walls of the old US Embassy?
You can drive or walk by it, but it's got a wall and fence around it, so all you can see is from off the grounds. Same with the British Embassy.
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Old 06-03-2014, 06:43 AM
 
Location: Eretz Yisrael
21,381 posts, read 24,197,383 times
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Quote:
...and a 2007 attempt by Israel to lure Iranian Jews out of the country with a $60,000 monetary incentive was a dismal failure...
It's really great that you got to travel to Iran and a give a description of your trip. But was it really necessary to throw in a anti-Israel political remark into it?
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Old 06-03-2014, 07:01 AM
 
Location: Miami/NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ukiyo-e View Post
You can drive or walk by it, but it's got a wall and fence around it, so all you can see is from off the grounds. Same with the British Embassy.
which tour company did you use?
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Old 06-03-2014, 07:30 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
42,663 posts, read 74,444,884 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ace587 View Post
i applied for an iranian visa on my non US passport and looking for a tour company. Is it possible to visit the walls of the old US Embassy?
Quote:
Originally Posted by ace587 View Post
which tour company did you use?
If you do not have a US passport, no tour company is needed. Buy a ticket to Teheran, and get off the plane, and take the shuttle into town and check into a hotel, the same as you would do in any other country.

Prior tour arrangements are required only if you have a USA passport.

It is actually possible for independent travelers to go to (almost) every country without hiring a tour company to drive them around and show them things. If you arrive there and you have a few special things you would like to do or see, it is easy to walk into any storefront travel agency, and they will see to it that you are connected with a tour to that particular attraction. Unless you hire a car, it is true in any country that certain places cannot be reached on your own, like some remote archaeological sites or national parks. But the rest of the country can easily be seen, at your leisure and your own pace, on your own, emphasizing things that are of interest to you alone. A tour company can never get you a dinner invitation in the home of a local family that you casually meet, or a leisurely day in the countryside exploring the local bird-life or wildflowers. Or go to a university and chat in the coffee shop with eager students who are majoring in your profession.

Last edited by jtur88; 06-03-2014 at 07:51 AM..
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Old 06-03-2014, 07:44 AM
 
Location: Eretz Yisrael
21,381 posts, read 24,197,383 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ukiyo-e View Post
I just returned from my 17-day tour of Iran and I have to say, it's the most fascinating country I've ever been to. The history and culture, the art, mysticism, and poetry, the friendly people - it has it all. Instead of going into a lot of detail, which you can find on travel blogs, I'll just list some major points from my trip:

1) Americans have to have a registered guide, and going on a tour is the easiest way to get around. However, we were a bit surprised how much freedom we had to wander around bazaars and cities on our own, though we were asked not to take taxis and go too far away from our hotels.

....
I'm a business traveller in the region. I've bolded certain remarks. Do you not understand why both are required?
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Old 06-03-2014, 08:33 AM
 
3,438 posts, read 4,748,984 times
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Originally Posted by Pruzhany View Post
It's really great that you got to travel to Iran and a give a description of your trip. But was it really necessary to throw in a anti-Israel political remark into it?

Good point !

I have no idea what that had to do with the trip !
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Old 06-03-2014, 09:52 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
42,663 posts, read 74,444,884 times
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Originally Posted by Teddy52 View Post
Good point !

I have no idea what that had to do with the trip !
The guy took the trouble to compose a deep and comprehensive 62-line report of a trip to one of the most politically sensitive regions on earth, and your only comment was that he noticed such things? Tell me that you could make a trip to North Korea or Cuba, and write a long report of it, without mentioning your observation of anything that can be politically nitpicked.

The OP cited an anecdotal illustration of a fact that reinforces his very relevant next sentence: "Iranians won't ask you what religion you are, and they don't care." If you refuse to believe that, and reject for purposes of political correctness his inclusion of it in his account, that is a shortcoming you should address within yourself, not the OP.

Last edited by jtur88; 06-03-2014 at 10:02 AM..
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Old 06-03-2014, 10:01 AM
 
2,575 posts, read 4,703,281 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pruzhany View Post
It's really great that you got to travel to Iran and a give a description of your trip. But was it really necessary to throw in a anti-Israel political remark into it?
I was stating a fact, not a "political remark." The reason I mentioned it is that there's a common misconception by Americans that Iranians hate Jews, and that it's unsafe for Jewish people to travel there. I merely wanted to dispel that notion by pointing out that there's acceptance of Jews in Iran, that Jews are safe and happy living there, and that a Jewish person need not worry about visiting.

It was a travel-motivated statement, not a political or religious one. Not meant to offend or defend any country - or person reading my account.

Last edited by ukiyo-e; 06-03-2014 at 10:10 AM..
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