Thursday, May 20, 2004

Iran, a peaceful land, embraces visitors

:: Xinhuanet - English ::: "BEIJING, May 21 (Xinhuanet) -- 'Why Iran at this time?' asked a border officer at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport. Somewhat taken aback, we guessed he must be wondering why we would risk our lives to visit a dangerous place near Iraq, where there is bombing and killing almost every day.

Baz, a kindergarten pupil, is perhaps the youngest friend we made in Iran. She and her little friends were visiting the mausoleum of Hafiz, a great Iranian poet. [Wang Hao]
But Iran is not Iraq. As soon as we got to Teheran, we found we began a process of repeatedly negating our preconceived notions.
Wherever we went in Teheran, Esfahan and Shiraz, we found ourselves among very friendly people. They smiled at you when passing in the streets. Boys clustered around us, asking us to take another photo. Girls, all wearing black or dark-blue scarves and gowns, gazed at us with their big, beautiful and curious eyes. Our friends had told us Iran is, in fact, a safe and peaceful country, and we did certainly get that feeling. "

Are Americans safe in Iran?

The Second Persian Carpet Festival - Kish

Are Americans safe in Iran?
I recently returned from a holiday in Iran and I never felt safer. I had no worries. The Iranian people were extremely nice and if anything were even nicer to me when they discovered that I was American. The streets are well kept. Generally I felt safer than I do in Washington DC and certainly safer than I did recently in Memphis Tennessee.

What about Jwewish Americans?
Recently Jewish friends of mine toured Iran. They traveled far more extensively then I did and they were treated royally everywhere they went.

Are there problem areas?
There are some isolated areas that are problems. The area along the Irag border should not be visited casually. There is a war in Iraq and that is asking for trouble. The other area is Balouchistan where there is a bandit problem.

What about the public demonstrations?
In Iran there are periodic well-orchestrated demonstrations. These allow the public to blow off steam and are not far removed from pep rallies before college football games. Just as it might be ill advised to attend a Notre Dame pep rally in the opposition’s colors it is best for foreign visitors not to stand in the middle of a protest.

What about the State Department Warnings?
They look worse then they really are. Use common sense. If there is a protest do not go. Be respectful of the people and their country. The Iranian people are an amazingly warm, generous and kind people. Travel to Iran is safer then going to France and certainly safer then taking a walk in South Memphis.