Iran visit ‘marvelous’

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Our 16-day trip to Iran in September-October ’04 was absolutely marvelous in all respects, and our concerns about what it might be like, based on “information” published in the States, were totally baseless.

We recommend visiting Iran. Its various cultural heritages, its various religions, its fine museums and the chance to learn more about Shia Islam make it as stimulating a place to visit as any we have been in, and this we say as lifetime travelers. Being among Moslems again reminded us of how much is shared among them with the Jews and Christians, including the importance of Abraham and Moses and many prophets.

A substantial number of mosques in Iran are open to everyone, and we visited several of antiquity and beauty. In Shiraz we visited one of several synagogues, and the people there spoke of Baghdad, Iraq, as being the original source of the Jewish community in Shiraz. In Shiraz we also visited a very beautiful Armenian church.

Since visiting Bombay, India, we have found the Zoroastrian religion very interesting, and visiting a temple in Shiraz was a unique experience. We remain impressed at how much Judaism, Christianity and Islam inherited from the Zoroastrians, a substantial number of whom still follow their religion in Iran.

We found Iran to be a busy, active, friendly place. To us it appears to be at or approaching First World status economically, in terms of the goods available, the active purchasing by the public, the type and age of vehicles, etc.

Seeing women going shopping together and having lunch together, as well as meeting women in hotel management positions and in the management of the tour company we used, disabused us of our concern that women were in a very repressed state, as they are in several Arab countries (which Iran is not).

The highway system is excellent. Hotel accommodations are fine. Museums and historic sites are tremendously rewarding. The Airbus flight on Iran Air from Tehran to Shiraz was first-rate. In short, travel within Iran is pleasant and easier than in other countries we have visited, such as Tunisia and Morocco.

Tours are available from a number of sources, including Far Horizons (San Anselmo, CA; 800/552-4575 or www.farhorizon.com) and Cambridge and Oxford universities, and we ran across several tour groups. For ourselves, we wanted more time in Tehran than the tours allow so as to see the many museums there. (We liked Tehran and did not find it a place to spend only a day or so; five days was fine.)

We used a company based in Tehran, Pasargad Tours (146 Africa Ave., Tehran 19156, Iran; phone [+98 21] 2058833-44-55 or visit www.pasargad-tours.com). Our contact person was Ms. Parvaneh Sattari. We worked out a custom itinerary with them for the two of us and they provided car, driver and guide. The cost per person, not including international air, was $2,874.

Our trip included Tehran, Shiraz, Yazd, Isfahan and a brief visit to Kashan. Persepolis, near Shiraz, is a wonderfully interesting site. Pasargad, the burial place of Cyrus the Great, which we visited while driving from Shiraz to Yazd, is in the early stages of excavation but was much more interesting than the guidebooks had suggested.

We used three guidebooks: Lonely Planet’s “Iran” (2004. ISBN 1740594258 — 408 pp., $24.99), “Iran: the Bradt Travel Guide” by Patricia L. Baker (2001, Globe Pequot Press. ISBN 1841620254 — 280 pp., $18.95) and “Iran — Persia: Ancient & Modern” by Helen Loveday (2005, Odyssey Publications, Ltd. ISBN 9622177514 — 300 pp., $24.95). Together they provided much useful information.

Our guide, Saeid Haji Hadi, was not only an amiable and efficient traveling companion and a pleasure to be with but a marvelous teacher and explainer of historic and present-day Iran.

JOAN & GRIFF GARLAND
Boca Raton, FL

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

Our 16-day trip to Iran in September-October ’04 was absolutely marvelous in all respects, and our concerns about what it might be like, based on “information” published in the States, were totally baseless.

We recommend visiting Iran. Its various cultural heritages, its various religions, its fine museums and the chance to learn more about Shia Islam make it as stimulating a place to visit as any we have been in, and this we say as lifetime travelers. Being among Moslems again reminded us of how much is shared among them with the Jews and Christians, including the importance of Abraham and Moses and many prophets.

A substantial number of mosques in Iran are open to everyone, and we visited several of antiquity and beauty. In Shiraz we visited one of several synagogues, and the people there spoke of Baghdad, Iraq, as being the original source of the Jewish community in Shiraz. In Shiraz we also visited a very beautiful Armenian church.

Since visiting Bombay, India, we have found the Zoroastrian religion very interesting, and visiting a temple in Shiraz was a unique experience. We remain impressed at how much Judaism, Christianity and Islam inherited from the Zoroastrians, a substantial number of whom still follow their religion in Iran.

We found Iran to be a busy, active, friendly place. To us it appears to be at or approaching First World status economically, in terms of the goods available, the active purchasing by the public, the type and age of vehicles, etc.

Seeing women going shopping together and having lunch together, as well as meeting women in hotel management positions and in the management of the tour company we used, disabused us of our concern that women were in a very repressed state, as they are in several Arab countries (which Iran is not).

The highway system is excellent. Hotel accommodations are fine. Museums and historic sites are tremendously rewarding. The Airbus flight on Iran Air from Tehran to Shiraz was first-rate. In short, travel within Iran is pleasant and easier than in other countries we have visited, such as Tunisia and Morocco.

Tours are available from a number of sources, including Far Horizons (San Anselmo, CA; 800/552-4575 or www.farhorizon.com) and Cambridge and Oxford universities, and we ran across several tour groups. For ourselves, we wanted more time in Tehran than the tours allow so as to see the many museums there. (We liked Tehran and did not find it a place to spend only a day or so; five days was fine.)

We used a company based in Tehran, Pasargad Tours (146 Africa Ave., Tehran 19156, Iran; phone [+98 21] 2058833-44-55 or visit www.pasargad-tours.com). Our contact person was Ms. Parvaneh Sattari. We worked out a custom itinerary with them for the two of us and they provided car, driver and guide. The cost per person, not including international air, was $2,874.

Our trip included Tehran, Shiraz, Yazd, Isfahan and a brief visit to Kashan. Persepolis, near Shiraz, is a wonderfully interesting site. Pasargad, the burial place of Cyrus the Great, which we visited while driving from Shiraz to Yazd, is in the early stages of excavation but was much more interesting than the guidebooks had suggested.

We used three guidebooks: Lonely Planet’s “Iran” (2004. ISBN 1740594258 — 408 pp., $24.99), “Iran: the Bradt Travel Guide” by Patricia L. Baker (2001, Globe Pequot Press. ISBN 1841620254 — 280 pp., $18.95) and “Iran — Persia: Ancient & Modern” by Helen Loveday (2005, Odyssey Publications, Ltd. ISBN 9622177514 — 300 pp., $24.95). Together they provided much useful information.

Our guide, Saeid Haji Hadi, was not only an amiable and efficient traveling companion and a pleasure to be with but a marvelous teacher and explainer of historic and present-day Iran.

JOAN & GRIFF GARLAND
Boca Raton, FL