|Travel in a time of coronavirus
I started this blog as a celebration of travel and our crazy, fabulous planet, but with Covid-19 closing borders for months, if not years, any new adventures are on hold for the foreseeable future. So, in the meantime, I’ll be delving into my diaries and dusting off my old 35mm slides to bring you some stories and photos from the past 25 years. I hope you enjoy this virtual journey!
Former US President George W Bush called it part of “the Axis of Evil”. But I call it one of the most fascinating and welcoming places I’ve been.
Getting a visa to visit Iran can be difficult — and if you’re American, totally impossible — but once you’re in, you’ll find 80 million people who are eager for contact with the outside world and want to be your friend.
For the adventurous traveller Iran offers extraordinary sights, one of the world’s oldest civilisations, high mountains, sublime Islamic architecture, lively cities, tasty food and low prices (It was crazily cheap when I visited in 2004).
It’s also a country of contradictions.
It has a well-educated, cultured population proud of their rich history and genuinely curious about the few foreigners they meet. It’s the kind of place where you’ll find teenagers hanging out at poets’ tombs reciting verse to each other, where people will quiz about your views on international politics, and where you’ll be constantly invited to tea houses, English lessons and people’s homes.
At the same time you’ll be confronted by the country’s bellicose politics and its economic troubles, brought about — or at least worsened — by western sanctions. You’ll also regularly stumble over angry protests complete with burning Uncle Sam effigies and chants of “Death to America”. It’s a little unnerving at first but I never encountered any hostility directed at me personally.
In fact, every day I’d meet so many people who wanted to talk or invite me places I’d occasionally have to lock myself into my hotel room just to rest. I hope I can return in the not-too-distant future.