Ilanora Sharp review 8 Nov 2008
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Difficult to say because all of it was excellent! The Imam Mosque in Esfahan, the Tombs at Naqsh e Rostam, the men's gym in Yazd, the nomad stay, the lunch with a family and the surprise where a few of us were able to interact with an English class in Kashan. The latter was stunning as by that time we had some really interesting meetings with locals, particularly the women. What I took away with me was the scale and depth of the warmth of the people towards us Westerners and a far better knowledge of the nature of Iranian culture. One young woman in the class spoke of the Persian history of a 1000 years before Islam which continues with Islam to inform their sense of identity to this day. Visiting the Cemetery of the Martyrs was hugely poignant too.
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Do your homework before you leave! Get a sense of each city, place before arriving. As a woman, buy at least two or three scarves as you will feel like changing into something different in the evening! Silk is best in the heat. One of our group, on arrival, went straight to downtown Tehran and bought two of the fitted 'dresses' which looked good over the whole two weeks. Trail shoes are a must and some travellers wore more open sandals too. Only in Qom did we cover all of our hair. Long johns are vital at the nomads as it got really cold in the tent at night. Bring ear plugs to ward off the effects of snorers! Pack light and bring an extra soft bag for Bazaar purchases.
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
From conversations with locals we learned that most working people have two jobs so our group lunch and homestay will be beneficial in that way. Our presence at the English class was also a positive as was the nomad stay. The nomad stay was also interesting as clearly water was a problem but we brought a stash of bottled water in plastic containers so I fretted a little about that but could not see an alternative. I took a Steripen with me and carried my own drinking water at all times - perhaps this could be stressed more? We took all our rubbish out from there. Hiring local guides, using local transport with local drivers, being a smaller group (12) all helps.
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Excellent. From ancient sites to discussing world politics in a teahouse, from staying with nomads and speaking of that to urban folk and being met with incomprehension, from being courteously not allowed to pay for the Tehran Times to being jostled by a small group of women in the Khomeini shrine who skilfully lifted my little day purse with 'pennies' in it, - it was all stunning and I will return to the peace of the rose perfumed gardens and revel once more in the art of crossing the roads in Tehran.