Iran: Wonders of Persia, 2011
We love to hear about our travelers’ experiences and were delighted to receive a thought-provoking journal from Doug Norberg, who traveled on our March 2011, Iran: Wonders of Persia expedition. Having an overwhelmingly positive experience, Doug returned with a deeper understanding and appreciation of this enigmatic country. Following is a brief excerpt:
Each of our fellow travelers had come to Iran despite great misgivings of family and friends. One person did not make the trip, prevented by serious family opposition to the adventure. Some heard from members of Congress and from other well-placed people who offered dire warnings. Nancy and I enjoyed the encouragement of our family. We are glad that we did not create anxiety for them. If we did, they did not let on. I guess they are used to us doing something a little crazy once in awhile. Whatever the risks, we were all rewarded.
Approximately 2.3 million people visit Iran each year, which is about the number of visitors Yellowstone National Park receives. The visitors include the Iranian diaspora, business people, and tourists. Travelers from the EU and the US are in the minority. The estimate of US visitors is between 2,000 and 7,000 and we encountered no other American tourists and only two European groups during our travels.
Our trip of 11 days, not counting travel to and from, gave us a good look at four major cities—Tehran, Yazd, Shiraz (without the wine of the same name), and Esfahan. On our visits to the cities, and at Persepolis, we encountered many Iranian people with the majority being energized young people living in the cities, going to college, or touring the historical sites. Iranians reacted with great curiosity wherever we went. On every occasion when we could engage in some conversation, the Iranians asked where we were from and expressed sincere affection for we Americans. “We love America” was heard often. Never did we hear harsh words, though sometimes we heard expressions of disgust with the current regime in Iran.
Although much has been made of Iran as a hotbed of Islamic Extremism, we saw no evidence nor was any mention made. It was pointed out that there are no Iranians in Guantanamo (this claim cannot be confirmed easily) and that Iran was one of the first to condemn the atrocity of 9/11. Despite the government’s positions and opposition to the US and the West, the people we met—hospitality staff, shopkeepers, people on the street, students, and tourists—were beyond friendly. The young people we encountered were curious, forthcoming, talkative, and genuinely friendly. There were so many contrasts and contradictions along our journey, but none stand out so memorably as the affectionate attitude of the people we met.