By chance I travelled to Iran a couple of years ago, and since then I have visited this beautiful country several times and have grown extremely fond of this country and the people who live there! Regrettably I find that people cannot understand my enthusiasm for this country.
Is it the countryside, the cities, the food or the beautiful places of ancient history that appeal to me most? For me, first of all, it’s the Iranians themselves who make this country one of the most fascinating places to visit. Never before have I met people who make you feel so welcome, who are so hospitable and kind to all foreigners, without any ulterior motive. Their politeness or “ta’arof” is one of a kind, they welcome you without reserve and that is an experience you will seldom encounter elsewhere in the world. While visiting Iran you will be approached by Iranians just welcoming you to their country and interested to find out what you think of their country. Some very interesting conversations can follow! The Iranians are well-educated and well-informed and as I have noticed very pro-West/USA!
Of course the other aspects of this country are also important.
Iran is an immensely large country, a country of contrasts, contrasts which are not apparent to the outside world: we mostly are presented by the media with a picture of mullahs and women in black chador, of a dry arid country inhabited by religious fanatics, beating their backs during Ashura. This picture is so far away from reality! Iran has a complex society which ranges from ultra-modern liberal youths to the very strict religious , from shopping-malls in the large cities to bazars that seem to exist in the Middle Ages, where you can wander around for hours taking in the colours and aroma’s; from arid deserts to snow capped mountains where the rich go to ski in winter. The remnants from the old civilizations are well-cared for and impressive. Entry fees to the sites are cheap and the same price for everyone, foreigners as well, this contrary to many other countries! A bonus is that there are so few tourists, that there are no queues.
Hotels range from average to excellent. Food is delicious, a cuisine on its own and extremely tasty. Roads and railways are good, busconnections between cities are excellent and all travel is extremely cheap when compared to for instance Europe.
For women the dresscode can be off-putting, however, it is not necessary to dress in ugly shapeless coats. Most Iranian ladies give a lot of attention to their clothing and make-up and especially in the cities, the rusari or headscarf is worn in such a way that quite a lot of hair is visible. Also the manteau or overcoat is tightfitting (especially with the young girls) and pretty. Only in Mashhad and Qom you should take care to dress more traditionally, i.e. black and not revealing. As a tourist you will be treated with even more leniency. The headscarf you get used to within a day, without fail!