The country that brought us The Arabian Nights easily has more than 1001 tales to excite the traveller, and by the end of a trip to this country you might be able to add a few of your own.

This is the country of Cyrus the Great, poets, conquerors, Ayatollahs and religious police. If you obtain a visa you will be amply rewarded for your patience as the citizens of Iran are extremely open, friendly, hospitable, educated and curious, unlike their paranoid government. Despite the negative political attention Iran receives from the West, the country has much more depth and history to offer its visitors. It has produced some of the most splendid poets in the world such as Hāfez (aka Hāfiz), not to mention the grape variety known as Shiraz to vinologists.

The next time you drink a bottle of red Shiraz, think of Iran and the sweet folks that gave it to the rest of the world. Let the flavour and smell of your wine bring you to the endless bazaars, full of shouting merchants selling herbs and spices, to hidden tea-houses where secret whispers fill the air mingling with the sweet fragrance of dozens of shishas.

The real Iran is old and proud, descendants of Persia, of a string of Empires dating back 5000 years. Iranians are well educated. Both men and women, in fact, there are more women in the universities than men. You will be engaged in conversation by anybody and everybody.

When imagining Iran, let your mind drift into the land of swirling blue mosques, winding alleys, wind-towers, ancient ziggurats, graceful arched bridges, carpets, snow-capped mountains, simmering deserts, saints and sinners, poets and kings, shrines and mausoleums, palaces, ruins and more. Perhaps, in the distance, you will hear a call to cast off any pre-conceptions and discover the real Iran.

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