THE EYES HAVE IT – An American tourist in Iran

A year ago, I wrote about taking the road less traveled and joining my adventure traveling son on a trip to Iraq. This year the destination was next door in Iran. For my son, it is his 154th country and for me a chance for some father-son time off the beaten track.

Similar to Iraq, the US State Department issues this warning, “Do not travel to Iran due to the risk of kidnapping and the arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens. Exercise increased caution due to wrongful detentions.” 

Also like for last year’s trip, friends and family thought I was crazy and would possibly die. At the time of this writing, in my home, I am very much alive and well. 

We flew to Istanbul, as we did last year, for some more sightseeing and time for my son to work remotely using reliable internet access. First in Iran was Shiraz. Then to Persepolis, the palace home to Kings Darius and Xerxes in around 500 BC. Xerxes is the Persian villain in the movie 300. The palace was burned to the ground by Alexander the Great in 330 BC. Talk about history!

Next was to Yazd, the city of wind catchers. Then on to Isfahan, home to the Naqsh-e Jahan Square, the second largest in the world, surrounded by mosques and palaces. Finally, to Tehran, a bustling city of 9 million, the second largest city in the Middle East behind Cairo. Anyone that complains about traffic in Denver should spend a day in Tehran to see what traffic is really like.

The food was delicious – kebabs, saffron rice, and a variety of stews and soups. Shopping included a Persian rug, turquoise and other Iranian jewelry, saffron, and delicious baklava. Just as in Iran, I needed and got a local haircut, also a fun and interesting experience. Videos and photos of our trip are on my son’s and my Instagram accounts, authentic_traveling and bjoons_adventures, respectively.

Lastly was a visit to the former US embassy in Tehran, seized and abandoned during the 1979 revolution, now a museum with a variety of colorful anti-American murals adorning the walls of the embassy grounds.

We felt completely safe the entire time. We had a guide for the trip, a requirement for American visitors. Politics and governments aside, the Iranian people love Americans and were both surprised and appreciative of our visit.

The women’s protests are long over and while most women still wear a hijab of some sort, many do not and dress as westerners. The morality or religious police have been shut down after last September’s protests. But there is no doubt who is in charge, with ubiquitous posters around town of the two Supreme Leaders, Ayatollahs Khomeini, and Khamenei. We walked past the madras where Khomeini was educated. 

All in all, it was a great trip, experiencing the culture, history, food, and most of all the welcoming Iranian people. Safety was never an issue and I felt far safer in Iran than I would in downtown Denver. 

If you are looking for a real adventure trip off the beaten path, skip the beach and venture to Iran. Carpe diem!