Iran’s unpopular quest for nuclear power has dominated information headlines for many years. This has left little room for reporting on less-discussed subjects concerning the nation. One in all these is tourism.

At a time of a pandemic, Iran continues to face grueling worldwide sanctions and home divisions. However it’s an uncontested incontrovertible fact that the nation has a protracted revered civilization, and attending to know the nation with all its intricacies and complexities is a difficult process. Universities world wide supply Iranian research programs so college students can study Iran and its historical past.  In recent times, rising demand to discover Iran has led to extra vacationers visiting the nation, which isn’t a well-liked vacationer vacation spot.


Iran By way of the Eyes of a Traveler (Photograph Essay)

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In the present day, a lot of what the worldwide public is aware of about Iran comes by way of the prism of the media. Most of this reporting is adverse and focuses on political crises. Many individuals might not know that Persians — lengthy earlier than the arrival of Islam — practiced the world’s first monotheistic faith. It’s even unknown to many who Iran is dwelling to 24 UNESCO World Heritage Websites and that there’s actually a cultural, historic or pure attraction in each nook of the nation worthy of visiting.  

Kamila Napora is a Polish journey author and traveler whose adventurism has taken her to greater than 70 nations worldwide. She is enthusiastic about attending to know different cultures, assembly individuals from totally different backgrounds and studying about new locations. In 2015, Napora traveled to Iran alone. She documented her experiences of touring within the nation intimately on her weblog and offered suggestions for individuals who are tinkering with the thought of visiting Iran.

On this version of The Interview, Pkhype.com talks to Napora about her expertise in Iran, her observations of Iranian society and her views on the portrayal of the nation within the media.

The transcript has been edited for readability. This interview passed off earlier than the outbreak of COVID-19.

Kourosh Ziabari: The place did the thought of touring to Iran come from? Given the worldwide isolation that Iran suffers from, it’s not a very talked-about vacation spot for a lot of globetrotters and, at finest, it acquired some eight million vacationers in 2018, which continues to be a low quantity in comparison with regional nations like Turkey and the UAE. What do you know about Iran earlier than going there, and what motivated you to decide on the nation as certainly one of your stops?

Kamila Napora: I keep in mind studying about Iran and seeing footage from there as a child, and people photographs had been so stunning that they stayed with me this entire time and ultimately made me need to go to Iran actually badly. Within the meantime, a few of my buddies have traveled there and shared some stunning tales not solely concerning the wonderful locations however particularly hospitable individuals. These tales offered me on Iran and, shortly after, I booked my flights. Sadly, because of work, I needed to cancel my preliminary journey, however my want to go to Iran was so robust I ended up touring there a couple of months later.

However certainly, earlier than my journey in 2015, there was not a lot about Iran within the media or on-line, and many of the information tales had been about politics. It was not simple to seek out many good journey assets about visiting Iran. I really feel it has improved quite a bit since then. 

Ziabari: What had been the primary reactions if you first instructed your loved ones and buddies that you simply had been planning to go to Iran? Have been they shocked or scared that you simply had made such a call?

Napora: I’ve been touring to less-known locations for some time, so individuals round me weren’t actually shocked I selected Iran as my subsequent vacation spot. I bought loads of constructive reactions, though there have been some considerations that got here principally from the lack of understanding about touring within the nation.

Again in World Battle II instances, Iran had helped Polish refugees quite a bit and a few individuals nonetheless keep in mind it right here [in Poland]. I feel that helped a bit too in the best way individuals understand Iran in Poland. Earlier than my journey, the scenario within the Center East and the refugee disaster in Europe wasn’t so critical but, so I didn’t [receive] any considerations primarily based on that — in contrast to my journey to Lebanon a yr later. I feel I went to Iran on the proper time, when there have been nonetheless not so many tensions. I’m afraid proper now, the response of my household and buddies can be completely totally different, however this could come solely from the unfamiliarity of the area and the unhealthy press Iran will get.

Ziabari: There’s a robust stereotype that Iran is an unsafe place, particularly for an unbiased, solo feminine traveler. Is the cliché near actuality? How was your private feeling whereas touring throughout the nation?

Napora: To be trustworthy, Iran was probably the most tough nations to journey round as a solo feminine traveler. This idea wasn’t very well-known again then; within the 10 days I spent in Iran, I didn’t meet another girl touring alone. I needed to do loads of explaining that I used to be touring by myself and that’s nice, I selected it to be that method.

However Iran was the one nation the place I needed to take care of males attempting to the touch me, getting too shut and asking for intercourse. This all occurred normally in the midst of the day, in the midst of fashionable cities. On one hand, [being in a city meant] I didn’t really feel too afraid as there have been individuals round however, on the opposite, it made me really feel uncomfortable and, ultimately, I simply averted going outdoors after darkish.

Whereas I hated all these conditions, I feel I do know the place they had been coming from. Identical to individuals outdoors of Iran have some stereotypes about Persian individuals — who are sometimes confused with Arabs — native individuals may need their very own stereotypes about Western ladies touring alone.

I might say that 95% of my time in Iran was unimaginable, however that uneasy 5% made me suppose twice earlier than recommending Iran as a vacation spot for inexperienced feminine solo vacationers.

Ziabari: In a weblog submit about your journey to Iran, you wrote that many individuals confuse Iran and Iraq, believing that it’s a war-torn nation and below the rule of ISIS. The place do you suppose this confusion and misunderstanding originates from?

Napora: The lack of information concerning the world. However, on the similar time, I don’t anticipate individuals to learn about each single territory on the earth and what’s taking place there. I anticipate perhaps 5% of the individuals to be actually within the present affairs and geography. So, even when these feedback about Iran and Iraq made me roll my eyes about that, I rapidly remembered that if I’m within the area, it doesn’t imply everybody must be.

I additionally come from a rustic that individuals, particularly from outdoors of Europe, confuse with different locations or have a very false picture of. Through the years, I simply discovered to not take these opinions too personally. And I feel within the case of Iran, it wasn’t the sensible picture of the nation, simply the lack of information concerning the Center East and what was taking place there. In any case, these two names [Iran and Iraq] are comparable.

Ziabari: There may be usually worrying information about Iran within the media, which is usually the results of the nation’s dismal overseas relations and regional insurance policies. Nonetheless, those that go to Iran assert that the truth of Iranian individuals and the tradition of Iran are completely indifferent from its politics. Did you additionally come to this understanding after concluding your journey?

Napora: Positively! In each nation, we must always separate politics and folks, as politicians don’t all the time symbolize their nation absolutely. It’s very correct in Iran, too. Nearly all of individuals I met in Iran had been heat, hospitable, welcoming and curious, and there was not a single second once I felt they don’t seem to be nice with vacationers visiting their nation. Fairly the other, really.

Ziabari: You wrote in certainly one of your journey blogs about Iran that you simply had numerous encounters with individuals on the streets, eating places and public locations who approached you to supply assist or ask the place you got here from and what you considered Iran. Why do you suppose this expertise occurred so regularly? Did it ever make you’re feeling uncomfortable?

Napora: No, I used to be very completely happy to speak to native individuals as that’s what makes touring so particular too. Since there are nonetheless not too many unbiased vacationers visiting Iran, those that enterprise there are by some means an attraction. I feel locals had been simply curious [about] how I like their nation and needed to make me really feel welcome there. All these pleasant encounters had been one of many the explanation why I loved my journey to Iran a lot.

Ziabari: As you famous, Iranian persons are recognized for his or her hospitality and friendliness. Inform us extra about your experiences with Iranian individuals and the remedy you acquired in numerous cities. Have you ever had comparable experiences in different nations?

Napora: I had an analogous expertise in different nations too, like New Zealand or Georgia, however Iran is among the many high locations I’ve met probably the most hospitable individuals. Aside from the few uncomfortable conditions I encountered as a solo feminine traveler, everybody was pleasant and welcoming. I used to be invited to individuals’s homes for dinner, I used to be invited to hitch them in eating places, and locals purchased me Iranian dishes so I may strive them out. It was one of many experiences I’ll always remember.

Ziabari: What’s probably the most engaging factor about Iran that you simply noticed and skilled throughout your journey? 

Napora: Even when I skilled comparable hospitality elsewhere, I feel the unimaginable hospitality of Iranian individuals is likely one of the finest issues concerning the nation and it may make each traveler really feel particular. I felt all these pleasant encounters had been real. Additionally, Persian tradition and historical past are very fascinating to study and ought to be extra promoted.

Ziabari: Iran is the 17th largest nation on the earth by way of territory. It has a inhabitants of greater than 80 million individuals, the vast majority of whom are youths. It boasts 24 UNESCO World Heritage Websites and a historical past courting again some 7,000 years. Why doesn’t Iran obtain many worldwide guests? What ought to the nation do with a view to turn out to be a well-liked vacationer vacation spot?

Napora: Sadly, the unhealthy press Iran receives impacts its tourism. The visa process isn’t additionally the simplest and may make some individuals doubt if it’s price going by way of the trouble. With so many fascinating locations on the earth, Iran doesn’t get sufficient consideration as it’s not very current within the media, together with journey media, and folks merely don’t know the way stunning and value a go to the nation is.

There’s a lack of correct promotion of tourism in Iran, and all we study is from different vacationers who’ve visited the nation. Opening up for vacationers and making touring to Iran simpler ought to be a precedence. Quite a bit has modified for the higher within the years since my go to, however there are nonetheless many issues that may be carried out to draw vacationers.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Pkhype.com’s editorial coverage.