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Thank you
We wanted to see Iran for ourselves - and we are glad we did

By Janetta Davies
April 25, 2000
The Iranian

I am writing this article mostly to say thank you to all the many individual Iranians who made our recent visit to Iran so interesting.

Everywhere we went as we toured round your country we were met with a warm welcome. Before we had left for Iran some of our English friends warned us against traveling to such a "dangerous place". Sadly, many English people still have the view of Iran as a country of fanatics and hostage takers, but this is changing. We wanted to see for ourselves - and we are glad we did.

English tourists can broadly be divided into two types: there are the sort of people who just want a holiday and a rest and for whom lying on a beach doing nothing is the top priority . But then there arethose who wish to explore and to experience a country in every possible way by talking to local people and seeing as much as they can, even in a short space of time.

Each member of the group we traveled with had been to several different countries previously, but Iran was the place none of us had visited before. As we told our Iranian guide, who seemed puzzled by our reluctance just to sit around in tea houses; we had come to learn, and not just for a holiday. We were agreeably surprised by the hospitality of the people we met.

Typically, we might be sitting in a park having our lunchtime picnic when we would notice a group of young ladies hovering nearby. There would appear to be some sort of discussion going on, perhaps about who could speak the best English, and then eventually one person from the group would come over to us and ask the question "Where are you from?" and then the others would come over as well and we would be asked a string of questions such as "Are you married?", "How many children have you got?", and then more searching questions like "Do English people believe in God?" (Well, of course many of us do!)

We are not used to being asked personal questions - an English person would wait until he or she knows you well - but the questions would be asked with such welcoming smiles and what seemed to be a genuine desire for information and it was impossible for any of us to take offence.

The ladies in our party never got used to wearing head coverings, and I am sorry to say that as soon as we got into the plane home, all the head scarves came off! But we did appreciate the absence of alcohol. It was very noticeable that there were no drunken people in the streets late at night, and as a woman, I felt safer in the streets of Shiraz and Isfahan than I have in parts of southern Italy.

All of us tried to keep away from political subjects. It can be easy when visiting someone else's country to rush into facile judgements, but we were all acutely conscious that we were only visitors, that there was bound to be a degree of mistrust and that it was up to us to show our respect for the customs of the country we were visiting.

None of us can imagine what difficulties Iranians have been through. But I should like all those many people who took the trouble to speak to us and to make us welcome to know that we really wish Iran and its people well and hope that there may be more understanding and trust between our two peoples in the future.

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