(Persia Digest) - Drew Binsky writes in drewbinsky.com I just completed a 14 day trip around Persia with G Adventures, and much to my surprise, Iran is not (at all) what I thought it’d be like! Contrary to popular belief, Iran is extremely safe, with the most friendly people I’ve ever met who went out of their way to make sure I was safe and having a good time. I have no incentive to lie to you about this — it is just the 100% truth.
When we (Americans) think about Iran, we tend to only think of negative things such as terrorism. But what about the 80 million innocent locals who live across this fascinating country? And all the history the land contains? This is Iran at its core – hospitality and history – and I’m excited to give you a glimpse of what I just experienced.
This trip was the second that I have taken with G Adventures (the first was to Tajikistan & Uzbekistan last year) — and all I can say is positive things about my experience with G. The schedule on our Iran trip was a perfect mixture of sightseeing and free time, while we moved around to Iran’s most historical cities. Looking back, I honestly can’t think of a better way to spend 14 days in Persia (for a detailed look at our day-to-day itinerary, click this link). Our group had 12 members, representing 9 different countries from Mexico to New Zealand to to the U.S. to Germany, and our guide, Amin, was a really cool dude who knows everything about Persia and Persian history. Amin has turned into one of my good friends!
Soon after I arrived in Iran, I learned that the wifi situation is extremely slow, and therefore, I would be unable to upload daily videos like I usually do. While I was originally frustrated, it ended up being a good thing – I was able to stress less and fully enjoy my time in Iran.
In this blog post, I’m going to share with you my top 5 favorite things about Iran. If you want to see all 14 videos that I made in Iran, please do so on my Facebook and/or YouTube pages.
5 Favorite Things About Iran
1. The People
No matter how many Instagram posts and videos I make about the friendliness of the people, it still won’t do justice by how over the top they truly are! If you take away anything from this blog post, please let it be that Persians are the most hospitable, kind and humble people that I’ve met in all my travels to 139 countries.
I interacted with as many locals as I could, and not once on any occasion was I disrespected or even looked at funny. I even told people that I was both American and Jewish, and it made them even more interested to get to know me. I was invited (dozens of times) into peoples’ houses for a cup of tea and even offered a bed to sleep in. One time in Isfahan, I walked into a hardware store in the evening and the owner wouldn’t let me leave because he wanted to talk to me all night and he kept feeding me tea! I made many good friends while in Iran, and I can’t wait to go back and visit them all someday soon.
2. The Historical Sites
Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations. Human activity in this country dates back 40,000 years — and evidence of these ancient humans can be found in select places in Iran. My favorite historical sites were Persepolis and the Rayan citadel. Persepolis was the former capital of the great Persian empire, which was ordered by Darius the Great is 515 BC. The site today, which is partly in ruins and patly in tact, is organized by about a dozen columns with extremely detailed inscriptions on the stone. The Rayan citadel is another built-up city from the same time frame, but it’s more compact and set alongside a beautiful mountain range. It was abandoned soon after it was built, but the buildings are still remarkable to witness. Both Persepolis and the Rayan Citadel are 2 of 22 UNESCO sites in Iran!
3. The Persian Gardens
When one thinks of Persia, he/she probably doesn’t think of gardens (after all, Iran is made up of 2/3rds desert!) But somehow, thousands of years ago, the people of ancient Persia were able to figure out how to get water to create the most beautifully organized gardens. The gardens of Iran are so spectacular that UNESCO recognized them as a world heritage site, as 9 of them are are scattered all around the country. We visited 3 gardens, and my favorite was the one in Kerman. I loved the central water canals, giant fountain, and towering wind tower overlooking the greenest trees and purple flowers!
4. The Society
Being in Iran is like entering a time warp back to the 1970s or 80s (not that I was alive in those decades, but from what I know, this is how the world looked like). The models of cars on the road today don’t resemble anything modern (except for maybe a few neighborhoods in Tehran), there are NO international brands or chains anywhere to be seen except for Coca-Cola (no McDonald’s, Starbucks, Uber, Marriott, etc), and the wifi speeds will remind you of AOL dial up in the 1990s (yes, I do remember that!).
But that all being said, it is somewhat of a refresher to be immersed in such a society, which is opposite to most countries that are overrun by tourists (like where I am right now in Bangkok). There are no scams in Iran. Life is as real and genuine as it gets.
5. The Food
Ah, last but not least — the food! Who doesn’t travel for food? Iranian cuisine will not leave you disappointed. The cuisine is based on a combination of rice, meat, vegetables and nuts. Common herbs include saffron, cinnamon and parsley, and fruits include plum, pomegranate, apricots and raisins. Most of the meat takes form of a ‘kebab’ which is minced beef/lamb/chicken served on a plate alongside fresh vegetables like tomato, cucumber, olives, onion and lettuce. If you like nuts, then you are in for a treat because most dishes have them and Iran is actually the world’s largest producer of pistachio nuts! And Lastly, the watermelon juice is so fresh and you should give it a try.
Drew Binsky is a graduate from The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Drew Binsky has visited 120+ Countries since 2012.He first caught the travel bug while studying abroad in Prague, then taught English in Korea, and now he's on a mission to visit every country on earth.,
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