An Iranian Travelogue:
After having currently returned from a research tour of Iran and with the purpose of campaigning a theme tour namely the Glories of Persia to destination Iran till next year, this travelogue, helps to visualize the destination with the help of photographs and thoughts from the trip, to give an insight into what prospective guests can expect
The opportunity to compare and contrast Western historical, religious and cultural understanding with a fresh perspective , is what makes this aptly named ‘Glories of Persia’ tour so special. Let me ride you on a virtual tour of the places visited from the north to South of Iran , namely Tehran, Kelardasht, Ramsar (Caspian Sea & Pahalavi Palace), Kashan (via Rudbar), Kuhrang (Chelgerd), Yasuj, Sepidan (Margoon waterfall) ,Kish, Yazd, Shiraz & Eshfahan.
When I visited Iran, I anticipated the boulevards, palaces and mosques. Having acquired a bit of content of Persian history as I had grown up in Zorastrian tradition passed down from ancient times, I was all the more keen on reliving the memory. Considered Iranian civilization being ancient, now I was reinforced to think that this journey should be as memorable to the reader as it was memorable to me writing this experience.
I was interested to compare and contrast, and to seek out fresh parallels, developments and innovation. What better place than Iran, traditional home of wine & poetry….., surely the two always go together. The floral and geometric colorful motifs are stunning and an appetizer for what lies ahead in this visually exciting and thrilling new destination.
Everywhere I have been in Iran I have been welcomed with genuine smiles and sumptuous traditional Persian hospitality, and I am assured continually that the country is the safest throughout the whole region. My gracious hosts arranged for me warmest hospitality of the highest order.
The most unforgettable experience was when I was asked to represent my country like an ambassador to the Vice President of Islamic Republic of Iran and the President of Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization H.E. Massoud Solyanifar at a press conference and give feedback of the most memorable experiences of Iran.
In a way Iran reminded me of my own country, but neither the ancient grandeur or architectural marvels can ever be compared as I am not born with that kind of talent nor do I have this kind of guiding expertise, to which I was exposed to.
Food is a major part of their culture, with exemplary service and attractive presentation. Purely Middle Eastern food, so the cuisine is Paradise (a Persian word, of course) for me. These are accompanied by hot flat naans and different varieties of rice called chelo, the best being polo, flavoured with small, red berries never forgetting so many healthy and imaginative salads and exotic desserts which complete the experience.
As we started the tour, the guide cum historian narrated the history of ancient Iran going back to the 3000 century BC . Our explorations began in Tehran, Iran’s modern-day capital set against the towering backdrop of the Alborz Mountains.The city’s National Museum houses archaeological artefacts from many of the places, including treasures from Persepolis, whilst Golestan Palace showcases the lavish architecture and decoration of the Qajar Era.
As time passed, enthusiasm grew to know about social life. It is because of the Iranian concept of the home and garden (and not the city or town it is in) as the defining center of life, that Iranians find living in a society with such stringent rules of public behavior , somewhat tolerable
The cultural heart of Persia for more than 2,000 years, few cities weave such enchantment on the traveller as Shiraz. This city of poets and palaces was my base for excursions to ancient sites including the magnificent ruins of Persepolis founded by Darvis I in 518BC. I was greatly impressed by the age of poets like Khayam , Hafeez & Rumi in the midst of Islamic philosophy. Looked like they were hiding in plain sight behind the much maligned Iran of our newspaper headlines. The Faravahar hieroglyph sketch could be easily found every shopping place This ancient pictogram was the symbol of the guardian angel – A remnant of a primeval daemon designed to protect the Persians. Many a clock’s circumference was seen , decorated with the flowers of life and in the middle there was a scripture written in form that read Good Deeds, Good Thoughts & Good Words.”
I stopped at Pasargadae, following in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, to pay my respects at the tomb of titanic figures ..Cyrus II, Dariyus & Xerxes ..the greatest fonts of world culture before continuing to Yazd, one of the last remaining Zoroastrian centers in Iran. Amidst this desert city, a labyrinth of narrow alleys and mud brick buildings, I visited from inside , the evocative Towers of Silence, and the Fire Temple where Zoroastrian priests tend their sacred flame.
Four hundred years ago, Isfahan was larger than London and more cosmopolitan than Paris. It thrived under the Seljuq Turks during the 11th-12th century, but its true golden age came under the Persian Safavid dynasty, when Shah Abbas I made it into one of the most beautiful cities of the 17th century. His monumental square in the centre of the city is bordered on all sides by magnificent edifices linked by two-storeyed arcades. Here the intricately decorated Royal Mosque, a masterpiece of Islamic architecture in Iran, will vie for our attention with the incomparable Lotfollah Mosque and the grand Portico of Qaysariyyeh. The Naghsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan is one of the largest city squares in the world It has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Within the city itself, Italian archaeologists digging below the Friday Mosque just before the 1979 Islamic Revolution found Sassanian-style columns, hinting that the site originally might have been a Zoroastrian fire temple.
We returned to Tehran via the alluring oasis town of Kashan, and visited the Fin Garden. Considered by many to be the defining example of a Persian garden, this lush haven was designed to represent an earthly paradise.
In order to revive interest, I suggest now tours may be offered throughout the country and to the broadly open minded cosmopolitan cities of the world. Our Baugs and Zorastrian Institutes & Associations worldwide would do well to be exposed to a non-religious tourism to this destination not forgetting places with noteworthy Zorastrian population like state of Gujarat & cities of Delhi and Hyderabad besides Mumbai. However sadly the only limit is one’s imagination.
In my opinion ,the techniques of tour operation vary from person to person, as does the final result. Some present an orientation, while others focus on maximum place coverage in a limited time. It has been said that the artistry of places that touches the five basic senses: hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch are the closest to reality. This was truly one of them !
When visiting Iran, there are other aspects to be considered and special issues to be understood with sensitivity. Western influence is to the minimum as it is not a permitted infrastructure. To be conservative and modest in dress is of utmost importance. Intoxication and alcoholism is prohibited which can account for the low crime rate & livability of the nation These are the mainstays , and of course well understood prior to all group departures.
As I departed the shores of their Pahlavi culture , it showed that Persians lend themselves well to modern way of life, but almost anyplace visited is portrayed artistically with hospitality & friendliness as an added bonus. Leaving half the world behind and feeling like the Prince of Persia , I could now understand and appreciate more. Persia is 7000 years old & will fight to survive
(The author is none other than Director of SPENTA TRAVEL & TOURS PVT LTD .. Hoshang Jalejar who has been focusing on his vision of making a new destination IRAN untouched by the brands civilization of the 21st centuary)