Thank you so much for booking your ticket to come to Iran and Oman with me. Truly, I'm just thrilled you are. I can't wait to take you on this trip to a country which frankly up until now has never been high on my list of must-sees. Let me explain.....
Alexander the Great said that his enemies the Persians were 'men who for centuries have been living soft and luxurious lives'.
'The Persians are the most civilised of the peoples of the East, and what the French are to Europe, they are to the Orient…' That's what seventeenth century traveller and jeweller Jean Chardin wrote in one of his many journals. He travelled to Persia in the 1660's and was so well received that the shah made him his jewellery buyer. He was obviously making a comparison between the rich culture and lavish lifestyle of Louis XIV at Versailles and the splendour of the Safavid court. The mind boggles.
The very word Persia sounds luxurious, with its long soft zhhhhhhh doesn't it? It evokes images of green gardens with flowing water, opulent carpets, aristocratic cats, swathes of Persian fairy floss.
We have more in common with Iran than you might think. The west abandoned the unwieldy Roman numeral system in favour of arabic numbers we now use, based on the decimal system. Farsi is a sister language to English, both sharing Indo-European origins. Lots of our words are similar. The words algebra and algorithm both come from farsi. The word paradise too. It seems more foreign to us in the west because they use a version of Arabic script.
While Europe was in the grips of the darkness and lack of scholarship of the Middle Ages, in Persia the arts and sciences, particularly mathematics and astronomy, were flourishing. By the time of the Renaissance in Europe, the Persians had already carefully documented their advances. Western scholars then translated these books into Latin, plagiarising heavily.
I hadn't considered Iran as a destination before this year. In January when we were in India, we had dinner at the home of an Indian family. One of the men of the house, a well-travelled resident of Kolkata, remarked that he thought Iran was one of the most beautiful countries in the world, no more dangerous than anywhere else, with friendly people and wonderful food.
This all makes me want to see this country at the centre of the birth of civilisation.
Although in the last week, Russia has operated from a military airport in Iran. Normally I probably wouldn't notice this headline. Now I'm aware that the alliance between Russia, Turkey and Iran is strengthening.
Are Iranian women as stylish as I’ve heard? Is it really the most beautiful country on earth? How did the revolution of 1979 and the subsequent Islamic governments affect the people who had become quite westernised under the rule of the shah? More importantly, will I be able to keep my hijab from slipping off my head?
Let’s walk back together through the centuries to see the exquisite architecture, meet the modern Iranian people, observe how life is lived in an Islamic country first-hand.
In September we fly into Tehran, capital of modern day Iran, part of the ancient kingdom of Persia. Over two weeks, we'll visit Persian gardens, mosques and tombs, towers, gates and palaces around the country. I'm looking forward to meeting the friendly and charming Iranian people.
This is a photography tour, escorted by a world-famous National Geographic photographer and a young Iranian woman photographer who now lives in Australia and won the prestigious Australian National Photography Portraiture Prize last year.
The hotels in Iran on this tour will be fairly basic but I know that what we see and photograph, the food we eat and the people we meet will more than make up for it. Then another week by ourselves in Oman, a small sultanate on the southern coast of the Arabian peninsula with stunning scenery. For this part we'll have a private guide, and I've booked the hotels - I think you'll like them.
As I did for the last part of our trip to France, I'm going to travel first then post on our return. That way the lack of reliable high-speed wifi won't matter. I'll do a couple of posts before we leave on 2nd September, and then I'll start your normal daily links in late September when we're back.
To read our itinerary, click on the image below.
I'll post again before we leave to tell you about packing - it's going to be hot!
Until then travelling friends,