I’ve Spent a Week in Iran (April 2023)
About twelve years ago, I watched the movie Baraka, which featured the Shah Cheragh mosque, and since then, I have been longing to visit Iran. Although I had heard many great things about the country, nothing could prepare me for the cultural shock I experienced.
The first thing I noticed was the people. Iranians are the most hospitable nation I have ever met. It is difficult to pass by a group of people without being greeted and welcomed. More often than not, they become curious and start asking questions about your country of origin, your travels, and most importantly, how you like it in Iran. Sometimes they will even share their food with you and invite you to their homes. When you enter a bathroom, they will let you go ahead of them in the queue. If they are feeling more courageous, they may even ask to take a selfie with you. Iranians will never cheat you out of money, steal from you, pickpocket your belongings, or harm you in any way. Walking through the streets of Iran, whether on big boulevards or small, crooked suburban streets, feels incredibly safe.
For the first two days of my visit, this was the norm. I posed for more selfies in one day than I had in my entire life prior. For a brief moment, I felt like a celebrity, because that was how people responded to my presence. It felt great, and for a while, it actually fooled me.
Not that their kindness was fake or insincere, but it was a facade for something much deeper and uncanny.
I first became aware of this on my first day in Yazd. I was taking photos of the main square when a group of young people offered me a chair among them. We talked for a bit, and then one of them brought me ice cream, and we continued our conversation. One of them asked me about my other travels, and as I began to talk, I could sense that, behind their smiling faces, they were barely holding back tears.