We wanted to see Iran for ourselves - and we are glad we
By Janetta Davies
April 25, 2000
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
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.