Tell someone you are visiting Iran and you will be confronted with an array of responses depending on what they have read in the news or images they have seen on TV over the last 60 or so years. But what I can say with 100 per cent certainty is that if you open yourself up to all possibilities, you will be pleasantly surprised and even in awe of this magical place that was once part of the biggest and most rich empires in the world.
Much like its neighbours, kabab will become your staple diet while in Iran, ranging from succulent saffron chicken, lamb and beef to the perhaps less common camel found in the enchanting mud-brick desert town of Yazd. But much like the destination itself, the food will keep on surprising you as you delve deeper into the layers of this fascinating country. From the earthy tastes of their lamb stew (dizi), to the crispy shell of the buttery rice dish Tahdig, Iranian dishes offer non-stop surprises. For me, the best food you’ll eat is when you’re a guest of a local as they take great pride and care when preparing their traditional dishes. When I visited Iran, my favourite moments included dining at home with an Iranian family, eating alfresco with Nomads under a pistachio tree and joining an Iranian celebrity chef for a tasting session in his extremely kitsch kitchen in Tehran… I experienced tastes and hospitality like I’d never experienced before.
As Lonely Planet states, if you like people, then you’ll like Iran. And I have to agree. With their warmth and curiosity, they will welcome you into their country, and even their homes, like a long lost friend. With many who have grown up with Iran portrayed as a dangerous place for tourists, they go out of their way to ensure you go home to spread the word that the world couldn’t be more wrong. With a history of territory wars, Iran is a nation made up of numerous ethnic groups whose art, architecture, customs and attitudes have been influenced over thousands of years by Greek, Turkic, Mongol and Arab occupiers. This makes for a fascinating culture which you can experience first-hand just by spending time with its people.