We in the West have heard a lot about the culture of Iran over the years. We've heard about extravagant kings and radical clerics. We've had the images of Persian carpets and exotic trade goods from all over the Orient, but perhaps the most glaring omission in our understanding turns out to be one of the pillars of Iranian culture. It was also our most common experience as we traveled though the heart of the country—Persian hospitality. It was inescapable.
Examples ranged from the near constant sound of passers-by offering a smiling and heartfelt "Welcome to Iran," to our inability to pay for nearly anything. Young and old, male and female, Iranians would interrupt their daily routine to come ask us where we were from. This would happen outside a magazine kiosk, under the snow-shrouded mountains of bustling, modern Tehran the same as in one of the labyrinth-like turns of Esfahan's bazaar, or while basking in the brilliant blue-glazed glare of an ancient mosque's courtyard. Everywhere Iranians would notice our group, cross the street, get up from their work, and engage us. The conversations could stem from a desire to practice English, or a curiosity about our view of the world, or a plea that we try the world's finest pistachios. The only common thread being that we left in better condition than before we started. Persian hospitality wouldn't have it any other way. What little they had was offered to us. Sweet tea? Fresh flat bread? Try an orange? Then, invariably, the question would be posed "...and what do you think of Iran?" to which the inescapable answer would be, "It's the friendliest place we've been."
To experience Persian hospitality for yourself, learn more about our upcoming expeditions to Iran: