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# Iran Photo Essay

Terrorism, oppression, conservatism, and dangerous. Those are the typical thoughts that would arise when one is thinking of Iran. Political agenda aside, those are largely untrue, at least from a traveler’s point of view.

With several direct flights daily by Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, getting to Iran has never been cheaper. Excitement could be seen in one of many Thai travelers that traveled Iran for this reason alone. Granted, with US$100, for a direct flight from Bangkok to Tehran, any brave soul will immediately seize the maybe once in a lifetime chance. Visa issue, is largely non-existent, as long one is not holing American or English passport. For any other countries, getting to Iran is seamless. The only things needed are some crips USD or EUR bills. And a lot of them. Not that Iran is an expensive country to travel to, but that’s because Iran is under an economic sanction right imposed by Western Power, led by the United States. What that could possibly mean for your average travelers? No international credit card like Visa and MasterCard would be accepted. And also no ATM will work with foreign bank. People said that the best way of traveling is to have no plan and let the wind carries you. While it is very much true for the at least somewhat beaten path of a country, one absolutely need at least rough plan when traveling Iran. Firstly, because of the money above, one needs to have enough cash for the whole duration of his travel in Iran. Iran is a beautiful country. So many high rising mountain range could be seen in this Persian region. Take Alborz mountains, north border of Tehran, for example. Towering so mightily, it’s humbling and jaw dropping at the same time. One Iranian once told, that behind Alborz, lies a green paradise, which is Caspian Iran, which lies between Caspian Sea’s shore and north slope of Alborz. Looking at just southern Iranian deserts, one wouldn’t believe that! But if that is so, why didn’t Persian Empire choose one of its capitals in Caspian Iran area? Surely, that region is so rich that it would be a logical choice of capital city? While Caspian Iran is rich of natural resources, it doesn’t mean that it is suitable for the location to place the highest seat of power. Many empires share the shore of Caspian Sea, and it would be a somewhat suicide move to place the head of the empire there. Alborz will provide a natural protection that won’t be easily breached. Modern Tehran, is a metropolitan city with population surpassing 14 million people. Try to go to the Tehran Grand Bazaar in Friday and one will notice. This is what bewildering about Iran for foreign travelers. Why on earth people are there in the open on a weekday? Don’t they have office to work at? Don’t they have to work? As it turned out, Friday is the Iranian weekend! People in Iran work from Saturday to Thursday! Tehran is the central of the economy of Iran, albeit Iran is not doing very well in that regards. One Iranian said that year over year, Iran is one of those countries that has double digit inflation rate! Money in Iran is big. With IRR35,000 for every US$, Iranian instinctively and unofficially denominate their own money. What should be called as Iranian Rial now called Toman. With the last zero of Rial slashed out, Toman is indeed handy.

At least, there are three main tourist cities in Iran: Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz. Each of those cities is a present or historical capital of the nation.

Traveling between those cities is cheap if exhausting. Bus is the main transportation mode for Iranian. Bus ride is cheap, safe, and heavenly comfortable. Buses in Iran boast one of the largest seat and leg room! The only exhausting part is the fact that Iran is a huge country. Naturally between cities, the travel would be very long.

Take for example night bus from Tehran to Shiraz. It departed from Tehran South Bus Station at 9PM, and arrived at Shiraz Bus Station at 10AM! Granted, the distance between them is almost 1000km.

Speaking about Shiraz wouldn’t be complete without the Persepolis. It’s one of the archeological gems that would arouse one imagination about the life of the BC era.

Persepolis is the home for many great Persian Emperor. Take Xerxes, Cyrus, and Darius for example. They took Persian Empire to its high, famously invaded Athens and Sparta.

Sadly, it met its end in the hand of Alexander the Great. He burned down the Persepolis in the Macedonian Empire’s conquest through Persia. For almost two millenia, Persepolis was waiting to be unearthed.

Up north some 500km of Shiraz, there lies the city of Isfahan, the Persian capital in the 16th and 17th century.

Every travelers who said that Isfahan is their favorite city in Iran would be understood. Isfahan felt different than any other Iranian cities. With tree lined boulevard, and amazing square in the city center, topped with some of the most beautiful bridges, it’s a very nice city.

With all of those tree in Isfahan’s main boulevard, the Iranian desert heat is effectively mitigated. The air in Isfahan seems to be cool and pleasant.

The Nash-e Jahan in Isfahan also one of marvel of the city. Afternoon to evening, Iranian people gather there to enjoy their life. Even considering the state of Iranian law that shackling the country according the western medias, one could see people taking selfie here.

Indeed, there is a certain Persian proverb: “Isfahan is half of the world”.

One of the most important things about any culture is the cuisine. Iranian cuisine, consists largely of meat and rice, is a heaven for meat lover.

Take Chelo Kebab Koobideh, it’s an Iranian speciality. Minced lamb meat with spices grilled together with tomato, and served with extra large portion of combination of long grained white and saffron rice, topped with melted butter. Another Iranian said that this is the reason why Iranian are fat, jokingly of course.

Some traditional Arabic cuisine of course present in Iran. Take Falafel for example. With around US\$0.8, a very large Falafel sandwich is up to cure the hunger in the Iranian afternoon.

Lastly, bit by bit of Iran mystics for world travelers is uncovered. What presents behind the western medias’ mask of the country is a very rewarding experience of travel.

Although the tourism facilities in Iran is still not on par with well traveled countries, things are steadily improving. This is a chicken and egg problem. But with the surge of foreign tourists to Iran, one should be very optimistic.