Iran changed the way I formed my opinions of a country; as in to what extent I allowed media to influence my view of places that I haven’t been to and people whom I have never met. It also taught me that with certain destinations that you really want to go to, sometimes you’ll just have to go at it alone, even if nobody else is interested in joining you.
Despite having travelled extensively now for nearly twenty years, I hadn’t been to or even considered the Middle East as a travel destination. So, as my desire to visit Turkey was reaching tipping point, the enthusiasm for visiting Iran wasn’t too far behind. I had zero friends in the region and knew very little about the history, so these factors that may put people off from travelling, somehow became the reason for me going there, making new friends and learning more about one of the great civilisations in history.
After sixteen days in the country, I knew that I had only barely scratched the surface and been on what could be best described as an “introductory” route in Iran; one that would be seen by most tourists, starting in Tehran and concluding 1000km away in Shiraz. I was sitting in my hotel room on the final night in the country, thinking about my first day in the Tehran, having had my baggage go missing and feeling anxious about arriving there. Sixteen days later, I can say that all of the worrying was unnecessary and that Iran, despite what we all see in the news, is the most welcoming place that I have ever visited in my travels.
Despite feeling relieved to be leaving, a part of me felt that I still had more to explore in Iran. With so many restrictions on how people can conduct themselves in public, I felt that I didn’t get to witness much of the daily life and taste the real Persian cuisine that is served behind closed doors. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the food in the restaurants; there’s only so many kebabs that one can eat.
While I enjoyed visiting the beautiful mosques in the country, a part of me also craved seeing the various mountain ranges and star filled nights that Iran is known for; something that I didn’t get a chance to experience through lack of time, preparation and knowledge. I’ve already started planning and networking and I hope to make those two desires more of a focus for my next visit to Iran.