Here is why a trip to Tehran will leave you in wonder
|Tehran is a modern and a well-designed city, with mainly vertical living|
The next one I had ever come to Tehran was when I was nine years old. I was on a PIA flight to the UK and the plane had stopped in the Iranian capital for a couple of hours for an intermediate stop. And the only sight I got from the city was then from the airplane window.
A few months later, the Shah was overthrown and Khomeini came to power in Iran.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend a seminar in Iran. I wondered if it was even worth traveling to our neighboring country as I had started to see it in the light of what the mainstream media is.
But I wanted to go. And so with a few possessions in hand, I boarded the Oman Air flight to Tehran.
What I saw completely changed my perception of Iran and its society. Contrary to what we are told, Iran is not a country shrouded in Chador. As someone who traveled extensively around the world, I can safely say that Iran is one of the best countries I have been to.
Let me explain why.
To my surprise, I was not asked for my religion or sect by Immigration Officer at Teheran Imam Khomeini International Airport.
Outside the airport we had a very energetic and good looking driver, who waited with our name plates. We were taken to our hotel, where we were warmly welcomed by the staff.
Tehran is a modern and well-designed city with predominantly vertical living space. It is very clean; Unlike in Pakistani cities, I never saw garbage on the streets. I noticed that every night at midnight workers clean the streets and in the morning everything is ready to go again. Our government can learn one or two things from Iran about garbage collection and cleanliness.
|Chelo-Kabab: The National Dish of Iran|
Traffic is organized and everyone follows the rules. A trail on the road is reserved for buses which are a cheap transportation option and take you prettty much anywhere in the city. You can also take the metro, which is much faster, but just as cheap. The trains are air-conditioned and correspond to all modern subways of the world.
There are guides and train tickets on smartphones and similarities between Farsi and Urdu making navigation even easier for a Pakistani who can read in Urdu.
How to write about Iran and not talk about food? As a foodie, I fell in love with the Iranian cuisine. I've also learned that cooking without spices and chili is quite possible.
|Tea in Iranian Culture|
The typical Iranian breakfast usually includes cottage cheese, honey, dates, olives, milk, eggs and bread with tea or coffee.
Iranians love lamb meat and you would be amazed at how good they are in making kababs. The kobideh kabab, which still forms my mouth water, is to die, along with the joojeh kabab, kabab-i-barg and jigar kabab. My non-meat favorites were baghali pulao and gormeh sabzi.
To finish it off, you have doogh, which is the Iranian version of lassi.
The hygiene standards are really high and even roadside cafes had cutlery in sterilised packs.
Tehran has so many places to see that the eight days I was there were not nearly enough. There are historic palaces, such as Golestan Palace from the Qajar period and the Saadabad Palace from the time of the Shah. Shrines and mosques are also steeped in history.
|Golestan PalaceوThe oldest of the historic monuments in Tehran|
The city has numerous parks and gardens where you can go, sit and relax.
One of the central places is the Grand Bazaar of Tehran. It is spread over 10 kilometers, every product is sold imaginable.
I thought the Milad Tower was a must; 435 feet tall, it was the world's sixth tall free-standing tower by 2012. Along with the Palladium Mall, it represents the modern side of Tehran, with shops with latest brands, food dishes, and a drunken restaurant with two decks that provide a breathtaking view Have out of town. Look at the sunset from there was a wonderful experience.
Tehran probably has a museum for everything. To name but a few, it has a carpet museum, a contemporary art museum, a cinema museum, a glass and ceramics museum and a jewel museum. The Iranians value their history clearly, what Pakistan can learn.
|Persian Calligraphy : Calligraphy is a common artistic expression in Iranian art.|
My appreciation for Iran deepened after mixing with his people, who are full of warmth. Before traveling to Iran, I was warned that Iranians do not like Sunnis and Pakistanis. I did not find it untrue, but in reality I was a living company with progressive citizens.
I have a few examples. Once a taxi driver refused to take payment from me when he found out that I was visiting from Pakistan.
Once I came on the wrong train and a young man named Hamed helped me find my way by getting to the right station and a map to explain to me how to go back to my hotel. He even called later to check whether I had reached my goal.
At other times, a confectioner offered me free cream puffs and a shisha bar owner free shisha just because I was a visitor.
Once, a gentleman in a museum translated descriptions for me from Farsi to English and yes, how can I forget my hotel manager who spent an entire hour activating my cell phone.
The media will tell you different stories about Iran, but as soon as you interact with its people, you will get to know the country and its people who they really are.
So the next time you plan a vacation, put Iran on your list. I'm sure you will not be disappointed.