Iran with Spiekermann

By Michael A. Rea
This item appears on page 29 of the November 2016 issue.
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The tour of Iran that I took Oct. 30-Nov. 15, 2015, with Spiekermann Travel Service (Eastpointe, MI; 800/645-3233, http://mideasttrvl.com) was led by Professor Norman Jones, who teaches history and religious studies at Utah State University. 

The members of our small group of 16 were from all over the US and very compatible, and we also had a knowledgeable Iranian-Canadian guide. With round-trip airfare from Washington Dulles to Tehran on Turkish Airlines, I paid a total of $6,495 for the tour, including a single supplement.

The tour began in Iran’s populous capital, Tehran. Traveling by comfortable motorcoach, we continued to Hamada¯n, once the summer capital of the Achaemenid Empire. We saw ancient Ganjnameh inscriptions that had been placed by Darius and his son, Xerxes.

In Kermanshah we saw bas-reliefs, and from Ahvaz we enjoyed a full day’s excursion to Chogha Zanbil, a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring a ziggurat built around 1250 BC by the Elamite king Untash-Napirisha, and to Susa, one of those cities (seemingly abundant in the Middle East) that lay claim to being the oldest in the world.

Our next stop was Shiraz, a city of monuments, warriors, kings, poets and philosophers as well as beautiful gardens. It also was our base for a day-long exploration of the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis, a magical place with echoes of ancient grandeur and destruction. Like your first viewing of Machu Picchu, nothing really prepares you for your first glimpse of Persepolis.

Yazd, another World Heritage Site, is a reminder of Persia’s ancient religion, Zoroastrianism. In Iran, Christians (mainly Armenian Orthodox), Jews and Zoroastrians live peacefully alongside Muslims.

Then we were off to an absolute jewel of a city, Isfahan, home to the 16th-century Safavid Empire. Among its myriad attractions is the royal square, one of the world’s largest public spaces. 

We returned to Tehran before departing for home.

This description doesn’t begin to do justice to the many wonderful sights we experienced on this tour nor to the delicious Persian cuisine. (Eggplant, anyone?) However, as splendid as the many palaces, mosques, ancient monuments, natural features and cuisine were, the real attraction, at least for me, was Iran’s people. Warmly received by the citizens of Iran, we were surprised at how eager they were to greet us. 

Invariably, in both public and private venues, locals assumed we were Europeans and would smile and say, “Welcome to Iran.” When they learned we were Americans, however, they would break into even larger grins. Many expressed that they felt America is a great nation and Americans are a great people.

I formed the opinion during this trip that most Iranian citizens’ attitudes toward Westerners, particularly Americans, do not exactly match their government’s official rhetoric. Tours such as this one offered by Spiekermann Travel Service help to break down barriers between nations.

MICHAEL A. REA

Winchester, VA

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

The tour of Iran that I took Oct. 30-Nov. 15, 2015, with Spiekermann Travel Service (Eastpointe, MI; 800/645-3233, http://mideasttrvl.com) was led by Professor Norman Jones, who teaches history and religious studies at Utah State University. 

The members of our small group of 16 were from all over the US and very compatible, and we also had a knowledgeable Iranian-Canadian guide. With round-trip airfare from Washington Dulles to Tehran on Turkish Airlines, I paid a total of $6,495 for the tour, including a single supplement.

The tour began in Iran’s populous capital, Tehran. Traveling by comfortable motorcoach, we continued to Hamada¯n, once the summer capital of the Achaemenid Empire. We saw ancient Ganjnameh inscriptions that had been placed by Darius and his son, Xerxes.

In Kermanshah we saw bas-reliefs, and from Ahvaz we enjoyed a full day’s excursion to Chogha Zanbil, a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring a ziggurat built around 1250 BC by the Elamite king Untash-Napirisha, and to Susa, one of those cities (seemingly abundant in the Middle East) that lay claim to being the oldest in the world.

Our next stop was Shiraz, a city of monuments, warriors, kings, poets and philosophers as well as beautiful gardens. It also was our base for a day-long exploration of the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis, a magical place with echoes of ancient grandeur and destruction. Like your first viewing of Machu Picchu, nothing really prepares you for your first glimpse of Persepolis.

Yazd, another World Heritage Site, is a reminder of Persia’s ancient religion, Zoroastrianism. In Iran, Christians (mainly Armenian Orthodox), Jews and Zoroastrians live peacefully alongside Muslims.

Then we were off to an absolute jewel of a city, Isfahan, home to the 16th-century Safavid Empire. Among its myriad attractions is the royal square, one of the world’s largest public spaces. 

We returned to Tehran before departing for home.

This description doesn’t begin to do justice to the many wonderful sights we experienced on this tour nor to the delicious Persian cuisine. (Eggplant, anyone?) However, as splendid as the many palaces, mosques, ancient monuments, natural features and cuisine were, the real attraction, at least for me, was Iran’s people. Warmly received by the citizens of Iran, we were surprised at how eager they were to greet us. 

Invariably, in both public and private venues, locals assumed we were Europeans and would smile and say, “Welcome to Iran.” When they learned we were Americans, however, they would break into even larger grins. Many expressed that they felt America is a great nation and Americans are a great people.

I formed the opinion during this trip that most Iranian citizens’ attitudes toward Westerners, particularly Americans, do not exactly match their government’s official rhetoric. Tours such as this one offered by Spiekermann Travel Service help to break down barriers between nations.

MICHAEL A. REA

Winchester, VA