by Deborah Regen
Q & A with Mr. René M. Du Terroil, North America Representative, and Ms. Lida Sayahi, Digital Marketing Manager, Irandoostan Tours Co. Pjs, Tehran, Iran. A leading tour company offering cultural, historical, health, religious, and adventure tours since 1990.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME OF THE YEAR TO VISIT IRAN?
Iran is actually a four-season destination with suitable leisure activities for every time of the year. It just depends on where you want to go and what you would like to do. The busiest months traditionally are April and May and then again beginning in late September through November.
WHAT CLOTHES ARE APPROPRIATE TO WEAR?
Basic items for both men and women should include a light jacket or sweater as outside temperatures can suddenly drop, and inside air-conditioning can be strong and chilly. Everyone should pack sunblock creams and bring a hat for sun protection even in the winter months. Other than at the beaches or inside your hotel room, you should not wear flip-flops. Sneakers or sandals are fine. Women should dress comfortably but modestly, covering arms and legs, and they should bring a long scarf to cover their heads. Men should wear pants and avoid wearing shorts in public.
WHY DO VISITORS FROM USA, CANADA, AND THE UK NEED EXTRA TIME TO APPLY FOR A VISA?
Citizens of Canada, the UK and USA are welcome to visit Iran on organized tours. You can visit as part of a traditional tour group or make private FIT trip arrangements directly with the tour company. Americans and Canadians should begin the visa process at least two months before their scheduled date of departure. The visa process requires advance time because there are steps involved with different diplomatic agencies. Contact us for details if you have more questions.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR COUNTRY’S BIGGEST SURPRISES?
Most visitors are quite surprised by the immense size and diversity of Iran. There are 19 UNESCO World Heritage sites to see- as well as stunning modern architecture. We have mountains, plains, biological reserves, waterfalls, two sea coasts, even three offshore islands! We do get snow in the Alborz Mountains, so people who like to ski will head to the resorts come winter. Our heritage is Persian; the official language is Persian (Farsi). But ever since the days of the Achaemenid Empire thousands of year ago, this has been a multi-cultural society which includes minorities who bring other languages and traditions into the mix. Visitors will be surprised at how friendly our citizens are; they will greet you warmly and show genuine appreciation for your time spent here.
PLEASE MENTION COMMON ACTIVITIES.
Pleasant temperatures in the spring and fall bring people outdoors. Many of our guests choose mountain hikes or to ride bikes on trails, or they may enjoy investigating canyons and caves. They may watch birds or wildlife in the biosphere reserves. We can take them on tours of religious sites, ancient ruins, or head to the Caspian Sea where they can stroll by the shore and taste some of the best of our Persian cuisine. There are beautiful gardens in famous cities like Shiraz and Kashan, and the Shazdeh Garden near Mahan; these are a treat for the eye and soul and should not be missed.
WHICH PERSIAN DISHES WOULD YOU SUGGEST?
Persian cuisine is extremely varied based on the region, and it is complex both in terms of preparation and presentation. Fundamental to all Persian cooking is the use of fresh and local ingredients. While we are known for meat-based dishes, like kebabs, the majority of the food is vegetable and dairy-based. Almost every meal is accompanied by an aromatic selection of fresh herbs known as “sabzi” – these compliment the meal. Among the more typical regional dishes are Mirza Ghasemi, Fesenjan, Beryani, and Soboor.
We should also mention our black tea which is 100% organically grown in our northern regions and served 24 hours a day. It is generally prepared and served in a very specific manner. Tea is brewed to a strong and dark color in a teapot which is then kept hot on top of a samovar or water boiler. When the tea is served, the strong brew is first poured into a cup or into a glass and then diluted with boiling water. Many people like to dunk a saffron-flavored sugar stick into their cup which slowly dissolves in the hot tea, or instead they may hold a lump of sugar between their teeth while they sip.
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT THE ECO CAMP OPTION YOU MENTION ON YOUR WEBSITE.
The Matin Abad Desert Camp & Organic Farm is the first eco camp in Iran that follows the universal CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and SRB (Socially Responsible Business) codes. The camp was founded in 2008, and it is located nearly 60 km south of Kashan in Central Iran. Guests have the choice to stay in the Carvanseraei rooms, traditional Iranian nomad tents, or in village-style huts called Koomeh. There are a plenty of activities to enjoy such as bicycling, sand boarding, even camel riding! At night you can watch the amazing display of stars with your eyes or with the additional help of telescopes and astronomers who are on site. In 2014 the UN Development Programme honored the Matin Abad Eco-Camp by naming it among the best 18 facilities that practice sustainable tourism in developing countries.
IS GOLESTAN THE BEST PLACE TO GO TO SEE WILD ANIMALS?
Actually Iran has 26 national parks – but perhaps Golestan is the best known because it was the first area that was protected from hunting before it became a national park in 1975. It is so large that it covers three different provinces of the country! As the majority of it lies in the Golestan province, so goes its name. It contains both humid and dry regions, as a result you will see a great biodiversity in plants, insects, and animals. There are some 69 different mammal species and 149 bird species living in the park. It is home to leopards, brown bears, wild goats and wild boars, Roe deer and Red deer. And it is the only place in Iran where you will find the European pine marten.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE ANIMAL?
The Asiatic Cheetah is a highly endangered animal, and in the wild it is found only in Iran, so it is the “sweetheart” of nature lovers here. We have many favorites, including the cheetah, and we also like the Pleske’s Ground Jay and the Crab Plover among the birds.
WE HAVE COVERED SO MUCH, BUT I DO WANT TO ASK ONE LAST QUESTION. PERSIAN ART IS SO COLORFUL AND INTRIGUING – WHAT IS IT BASED ON? NATURE? MATH? FOLKLORE?
All of the above – depending on the era. For example pre-Islamic art was very much influenced by ancient stories and mythologies. With the arrival of Islam, Persian art took a new direction drawing inspiration from nature and geometric patterns. The rulers also had a major influence because each king had his own personal taste and preference in art and decorations. For example, the kings of the Qajar dynasty loved picturing their victories in wars. Today’s art continues to be prized the world over – including our famous rugs, calligraphy, mosaics, pottery, and jewelry.
THANK YOU BOTH FOR THIS GREAT INTRODUCTION TO IRAN.
You are very welcome.