Notes From The Field: Iran

July 2017

Judy Harris was invited to join A&K's private travel desk 20 years ago and has worked for A&K ever since. A keen traveller, Judy has a background with major airlines, and retail travel consulting.

She has travelled to much of the world, and her favourite A&K experience is The Royal Scotsman for its elegance, tradition and service, plus the magical Scottish scenery which is her heritage. Judy’s other A&K highlights during her time with the company include Libya, Myanmar, Bhutan, The Arctic, Antarctica, Sri Lanka, Iran and family holidays in the Masai Mara.

Having recently returned from a trip to Iran, we asked Judy about her journey.

This was your first trip to Iran, what were you expecting? 

I was open minded about Iran as a first time visitor but I expected the ‘Journey Through Persia’ itinerary to have an emphasis on ancient civilizations and desert landscapes. I was certainly not disappointed, and yet it was so much more.

What was your first impression? 

Iran and her people greeted me with a welcoming smile.

What was the feel on the street, how apparent are Iran’s politics in day-to-day life?

I was in Iran during the lead up to their elections in which the incumbent president, who was also the more progressive candidate, was re-elected. The festive atmosphere the night before the elections in the streets was quite electric but at no time did I feel unsafe.

What wowed you about Iran? 

I was wowed by the magnificent mosques with their intricate mosaics, tiling and mirror work.

What made you laugh? 

Our wonderful guide Rasoul who had a great sense of humour.

Was there something about the trip that you were not expecting? 

We visited a sports arena in Yazd to view an ancient desert sport. We were the only females in an intimate, citadel-shaped arena watching a performance which is 3000 years old.

Looking back, what is your over-riding impression of Iran? 

Iran feels like a country that is keen to move on from its violent history, and the legacy of war, but not wishing to westernise. I feel the women will lead the way to opening the doors.

What were some of the highlights of the trip?

- A visit to Golestan Palace in Tehran, with its famous Brilliant Hall (Talar e Brelian), which was the first time I had seen Persian mirror work.

- An unexpected visit to the US Embassy in Tehran which has been retained as a museum since it held 52 hostages for 444 days in 1979 and 1980 (the film Argo is based on this true story).

- A visit to the Towers of Silence near Yazd built by the Zoroastrians as their crematorium.

- Interaction with Iranian women.

- A visit to a Madrasa (Iranian religious school).

- Our tour guide Rasoul, I particularly liked how he explained what we were about to view then gave us personal time for photographs and some exploring on our own.

- Visiting the Museum of ancient instruments inclusive of a concert in Isfahan

What advice would you give to a prospective traveller?

For women, review the clothing requirement carefully so you are appropriately dressed but also respectful and comfortable.

Did you buy something special to bring home?

I bought decorated boxes for my grandchildren and a book of poetry by respected poet Hafez, known as the “tongue of god”. His work is especially revered by young Iranians.