... it doesn't make it true!
In all the articles, books and blogs we read about Iran before the trip, the most common theme was how nice the people are, how happy they are to see foreign visitors, and how willing they are to help.
In this case, it is true!
Everywhere we've been in Iran – Tehran, Esfahan, Yazd, Shiraz – we've met the nicest people (excpt the taxi driver who tried to rip us off in Shiraz). People spontaneously offered to help when they heard us speaking English: in shops, train stations, at historic monuments. Some were quite fluent in English, while others had a basic grasp of the language. In all situations, though, their English was better than our Farsi! There were also many people who spoke Azerbaijani – a Turkic language – so George could manage to discuss things with them. So all in all, communication was manageable.
But we have to reserve a special mention for our new Iranian friends. We had the good fortune to meet Masoud in Paris while we were planning our trip. He gave us lots of advice about places to go, things to see. He was also very helpful in my quest to get a visa, and he put us in touch with his friend, Asmaneh, who is a travel agent in Tehran. She organised my visa and our internal travel within Iran.
Masoud's friends Behrooz and Samaneh offered to put us up for our first night in Tehran, thus sparing us the hassle of finding a hotel. In fact, they insisted we stay with them for the three nights we spent in the city before heading south for our tour.
They in turn introduced us to their friends, Saman and Asma. All four were charming, generous hosts. They fed and watered us -- even when they, themselves, were observing the Ramadan fast -- and chauffered us around Tehran. They organised visits to museums and galleries, and showed us a side of the daily life of Iranians that we would not otherwise have seen.
Maybe some day we'll be able to return the compliment to our Iranian friends in Paris, Istanbul or Dublin.
We're leaving Iran today, heading for Turkey. But we're taking fond memories and new friendships with us.
Gökçe & Páraic.