This is part 1 of a 7 part blog describing the highlights of a 2-week trip to Iran taken in November, 2014 visiting Tehran, Shiraz and Isfahan. We started with a flight to Melbourne from New Zealand and then to Dubai (a 13-hour flight) staying in a transit lounge in Dubai for 10 hours while waiting for the evening flight to Tehran. (The transit lounge was pleasant enough and we were able to have a shower and a leisurely lunch and Internet access — the last for a while!). After clearing customs in Tehran we were picked up by our Iranian hosts and taken to their luxurious 3-bedroom apartment in northern Tehran. There were immediate restrictions particularly for my wife who had to wear head-gear and a coat that covered her behind and socks on her feet.
We found the people very hospitable and polite but Iran has no real tourist industry so if we were not hosted it would have been difficult for us to make our own way. Iran suffers from the sanctions that the West has put on the country — their inflation rate is about 35% per annum and the bank interest rates are about 20% — this is crippling economically. Since the sanctions they have become more and more self-sufficient in making their own cars, electrical goods and household appliances, etc. But there are limitations — for example the airplanes used by Iranian Air are 40 years old and there are problems in maintaining or replacing them. Our Iranian hosts were stoical about it -- better than having to travel into the mountains everyday for 7 years to avoid bombing, during the Iran - Iraq war in the 80's.
While in Tehran we did the usual visits to the former Shah’s residence and the numerous mosques, bazaars and palaces. The city of about 17 million is surrounded by mountains and has problems with air pollution and in the summer most people stay indoors if they can. November (which is autumn) is considered to be the best time to visit Tehran before the cold of the winter and after the heat of the summer.
During visits to the bazaars we were tempted by the Persian rugs and after many merchants we ended up buying one - 40% silk which became the souvenir of our trip.