Could there be a hotter topic right now than the nuclear talks between the US and Iran?! What a time in history to visit this fascinating, yet hugely misunderstood country. But we were there, we heard the people in the streets, the honking of the horns and the firecrackers being set off as the news unfolded of the framework deal moving forward in a positive direction.
There is a BIG fat misconception floating around out there in this vast world of ours, perpetuated by the mass media, which is that the Iranian people hate America. It could not be further from the truth. We just spent 3 weeks in Iran and I was treated like a rock star. I lost count of how many people approached me and asked where I was from, or if they could not speak English they would ask Abi – or another member of our group – where is she from and can I say hello to her.
King of Smiles
I had been told by other travelers that this would happen, but I could not have imagined just how often it actually did happen. People wanted to take their picture with me. They wanted to just say hello, or ask me to deliver the message to America, that Iranians love America. One little girl had never seen an American and her mother said she was so happy to take her picture with me. A beautiful young teenage girl interviewed me for her English communication class. And a lovely couple visiting Persepolis asked if I would take a picture with their baby boy, whose name was Parham, which translates to king of smiles.
Travel to Iran
It’s not like I didn’t know the Iranian people are kind, generous and hospitable beyond words; after all, I’ve been married to an Iranian man for the better part of my life. But it still took me 20 years to make the decision to travel to Iran. Good things are worth waiting for and I knew I had to wait until the time was right. It had been 10 years since Abi’s last visit with his family and since we were headed across the pond anyway, we made the decision to take a side trip to Iran. I decided I was ready.
I can truthfully tell you it was an incredible experience on so many levels. It was not always easy, sometimes it was downright challenging but not for the reasons you might think. I never felt anything but safe. And that’s the absolute truth. I was always surrounded by family, but even with that, I never once had a sense of fear for my well-being. One of the biggest challenges for me was the language barrier. I do not speak Farsi and most of our family members do not speak English, although several members of the younger generation – our son’s cousins – do speak English at various degrees of fluency and they were my translators.
While in Iran we took a 5-day road trip from Tehran to Isfahan and Shiraz, and on the way back we stayed overnight in Kashan before returning to Tehran. It was a whirlwind trip and my head is still spinning, but oh my, what we saw! Do you know there are 17 UNESCO world heritage sites in Iran? We saw 5 of them!
Censorship in Iran
So why didn’t I publish the blog while in Iran? Simple. Because Iran’s internet is censored, intermittent and painfully slow. Yes, there are ways to get around the censorship, but for practical and familial reasons we decided it would be best to just step away from the blog and social media while traveling in Iran.
And truth be told I’m thankful we made that decision because a couple of blog posts would be an injustice to the experience. I have to give it some serious processing time before I put fingers to keyboard. And even then I’m not sure what format it will take. Maybe I’ll walk across Spain and give it some thought.
Quite the Adventure
So we’re back in Europe and currently making our way to the border of France and Spain, via Frankfurt, Paris and Bayonne. To bring you up to date, since leaving home on March 1, we were sick in Prague, we walked the path of Bavarian history and we just spent 3 weeks in Iran, the cradle of civilization. It’s been quite the adventure!
We start walking the Camino this coming Sunday, April 12, but somehow my backpack gained about 10 pounds while sitting in a closet for the past 3 weeks! What the hell?! But anyway, I’m thinking some of you might have questions about traveling in Iran. I would love to hear your questions and comments, and I will do my best to answer them.
For now though, Buen Camino!