Few places have been maligned with such appalling ignorance as Iran.
Painted as a land of cruel, women-hating fanatics, such cliches were invented only by the mass media to support wars abroad. The truth is that the people of Iran are some of the kindest, most hospitable and educated people you’re likely to find anywhere. They just have the misfortune to be saddled with clerical despots every bit as fundamentalist as the American far right.
Iran is a wide, expansive country that links Asia to Europe. In some ways it’s a bridge or middle ground between the spheres of East and West though with the current Islamic regime it leans more towards the former.
Iran is a fairly modern country with an educated population and a developed infrastructure. Though it might look a little spartan at times with the conservative atmosphere imposed from on high, 30 years ago the streets buzzed with bars and discos.
Iran’s nature is dramatic with mountains providing a natural frontier with Turkey and Iraq to the west; Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the East. Then around the Caspian Sea there are some thick, deciduous forests with wild animals like bears, wolves and lynx.
A large part of the country is dominated by the sheer emptiness of the deserts which sprawl across the middle of Iran and a 24 hour bus journey through the flat, dusty plains is enough to make anyone feel small.
Teheran is the capital and is heavily congested and polluted. It’s a very modern city behind closed doors with wild parties where they listen to tapes of Madonna and maybe even wear a mini-skirts.
Isfahan is one of the world’s most beautiful cities if only by virtue of its incredible mosques and bridges.
Shiraz is home to the shrine of the Sufi poet Hafiz and you can go make a pilgrimage to his grave to read the poetry on his tomb.
To the West, closer to the Iraq border is the Kurdish province and here you’ll find people a little more animated and less conservative.
Yazd is a popular stop on the way to Pakistan. Here you can find the famous wind towers that sucked down cool air into the houses.
Things get wilder towards the borders in the East and plenty of gun running and drug smuggling goes on here. You won’t see any unless you go looking for it though.
Iran is a beautiful country that is in the chains of a police state. This won’t affect you too much though and travel here is a way to step over the images implanted in the collective mind about one of the oldest civilisations in the world.