Impression from a trip to Persia

A few years ago I traveled to Iran with my boyfriend. When I told family and friends where we were going, many asked if we were crazy, to go to such a dangerous country. I guess it’s the media who give the impression that Iran is dangerous.

Well, a few years after we went, there was some politial turmoil, and for this reason I recommend to check the latest advice from your Country Foreign Affair Ministry for updates on how the political situation is, because it might change. But normally Iran is not dangerous at all. When we went, in 2015, it was one of the safest places I’ve traveled to, and it’s so charming it’s a shame it’s not more popular.

Here are the 5 things that I liked most about Iran.

Things to love about Iran: the urban architecture

There are some places in Iran like no others I’ve seen before.

Like Kashan, not far from Tehran, with its amazing traditional houses, many of which are open to public or have been converted to guesthouses or boutique hotels. They all have large courtyards surrounded by rooms, roofs everyone walks on, fountains and mosaics.

There’s an hammam in Kashan, a Turkish bath, maybe the most beautiful in the whole country, with peculiar little domes on the roof, made with majolica and tiles. The inside of the hammam is also beautiful, definitely worth a visit.

Another town that I particularly liked was Yazd. Its old town is made of clay and straw. Amazing. You could walk for days in its tiny alleys, framed by high walls that hide what is behind them, so it’s always a surprise when a door is open and you can see behind the wall a courtyard, a shop or a beautiful house.

Things to love about Iran: the mosques

Mosques could probably be included in the beautiful architecture of Iran, but they deserve a spot on their own because they are special.

First of all, most of them are open to no-muslims and to women, which is not allowed everywhere.

They are intricately decorated, imposing and fascinating. Every town has one or more important mosques. Maybe the best are in Isfahan, at Imam Square, one of the largest and most beautiful squares I’ve ever seen.

Things to love about Iran: the bazaar

The bazaar are huge shopping centers all developed at street level (or on two levels maximum), that follow one or more streets, usually covered by roofs or drapes, where locals go shopping and where you can find the most curious things.

Colorful spices, beautifully sewn carpets, dried fruit of all types, wedding dresses and tea houses.

Furthermore, they are like labyrinths, with streets crossing and leading you to a mosque or an hammam, where you can meet men coming out after their daily bath or doing their ablution before their prayers.

They are definitely one of the first places to visit when in a new town.

Things to love about Iran: the food

I guess not everyone is open to foreign food like I am. I love to taste different dishes, the strangest the best, and Iran is amazing in the kitchen.

The bread, that we were given at every meal, breakfast included, is amazing. Usually freshly baked, the most popular is a long, flat, soft bread.

We tried many dishes we don’t even know what they were. But one in particular we enjoyed and we try to replicate at home from time to time: the dizi. It’s a ram soup cooked with chickpeas and more stuff, and we had it every time we could. Eggplants were also particularly good in Iran, with tomato and I don’t know what else, they were a delicious vegan main dish.

We also ate a lot of fresh onion and cucumber, that we loved.

Most times we were offered tea when arriving at a new gueshouse. Nice tradition. Served with a lot of sugar and dates.

Best things about Iran: the hospitality

I kept this as last because it was what impressed us most: local people’s hospitality.

We are not used to something like this. Foreigners are truly welcome guests anywhere in Iran. We were invited to people’s houses many times.

We will always remember when we were in Shiraz, taking a picture of a door that I liked, and the owner of the house that was going back home in that moment invited us in. He offered us bread and cheese, everything he had at home, we sat on the floor and really enjoyed the food and the company, even though nor him or his son could speak English.

I miss that.

Iran is definitely a place to visit, it has a lot to offer, it is easy to travel to and around, you can get a visa at the airport if staying less than 15 days, so nothing is stopping you (unless you are a US or Israel citizen, or from a few other countries) and I encourage you to visit, you won’t regret it.