When we told friends we were traveling to Iran, they all thought we were crazy. “What about the political situation? Aren’t you afraid of terrorists?” they’d say. Well, after spending 24 days there and visiting numerous Persian archeological sites, mosques, mausoleums, and bazaars, and meeting and talking with many Iranians, we concluded that Iran is a very safe and alluring place to explore.
The most famous of the archeological sites we saw was Persepolis. The construction of this UNESCO World Heritage site began in 518 BC by Darius I and was completed by his son and grandson many years later. It is extremely well-preserved and a must-see while in Iran.
My favorite part of the trip was the mosques and mausoleums. I have visited mosques in other countries, but none compare to the beauty of the mosques in Iran. The intricate interiors are absolutely dazzling, surpassed only by the magnificence of the exterior facades. I couldn’t get enough of them. Seeing them lit up at night was a photographer’s dream.
The most surprising part of the trip was the people. We’ve never met such friendly and hospitable people in any foreign country. Most Iranians have never met an American, or even seen one other than in movies. When they found out we were from the United States, we were treated like celebrities. Many times we were invited into people’s homes for tea or dinner. We were asked numerous times to be part of a family photo. It was an experience we did not expect. Even today, three months after our return, we still correspond with some of our new Iranian friends.
-Photos and text by 6-time WT adventurer Paul Kaplan, Iran