Five thousand years of culture
Cultural influences flowed into ancient Persia from the Far East, Arabia, Russia and Europe. Whilst from afar, modern Iran is dominated by the singular might of Islam, the culture here is every bit as rich and varied as its history suggests. The people here are Persian, not Arab, and embracing culture in all its forms is part of the Persian character.
One thing which is repeated again and again by those who have returned from Iran, is how friendly and open minded Iranian people are. Well educated, curious about the West, keen to show the best of their country – and demonstrate that they are not the same as their government. Any trip to Iran should allow you to meet and chat with local people, use Iranian guides, and really discover what life is like – away from the newspaper headlines.
Bazaars are wonderful cultural immersions. Every Iranian city has one – a space where past meets present, and spices and silks are sold alongside Persian rugs and pomegranates. Tehran’s Grand Bazaar has 10km of corridors, Esfahan’s is part of the huge Imam Khomeini Square complex, and Tabriz’s – described as the most beautiful – even contains mosques. Amid all the eye-level enticements, don’t forget to look up; the intricately adorned ceilings are the bazaars’ loveliest features. If you take tea with a stallholder, sip it hot with a sugarlump between your teeth. Or if you’re feeling brave, try the doogh – a salted, carbonated, yogurt drink, seasoned with mint. Um… cheers?