I have recently returned from an incredible tour of the Islamic Republic of Iran, arranged by YellowWood Adventures, and lead by an outstanding local guide, Daryoosh Minoui, fluent in English, German and Spanish (and I mean fluent!). Everyone had a remarkable, exciting and eye opening experience. But more interesting, surprising, even shocking, was that the Iranian people I met, greeting an American for the first time in ages, were also surprised and shocked to see me, and were very happy for my being there. It seemed quite genuine, and the impression was widespread, virtually universal:

“Thank you for being here, thank you for coming. We know that your press has nothing but bad things to say about us. Thank you for taking the chance on us. Thank you for coming to Iran.” Such a response would be predictable if it were only coming from hotel and restaurant staff, i.e. those who needed the most – lacking business from the sanctions. It is not predictable when it comes as a consistent message from people on the street.

One little boy was typical: He asked where I was from, and when I told him he said, “I love New York”, and opened his jacket to show me his New York tee shirt. I opened my jacket to show him mine. “America is beautiful. Thank you for coming to Iran”. I can remember warm, welcoming people I have met from all over the world, but none more welcoming than the Iranians. I told one young man that I would bring the message home to my friends that Iran is a lovely place to visit, and he said, “Please, write to Mr. President Trump, tell him we are nice people”.

Iran has in prior years prided itself on its previous good connections with the rest of the world. We were taken to a palace in Tehran where gifts from other countries to prior governments are displayed including plates from China and Japan, a chair from Scotland, a table that we were proudly told was a gift from Napoleon. We saw the tombs of Emperors Cyrus the Great and Darius the First carved into mountainsides 2500 years ago, museums stuffed with antiquities and treasures, fortresses of empires, fire temples of the Zoroastrians, beautiful mosques, and the square in Esfahan – second largest in the world after Tiananmen and even larger than Red Square!

The food, the accommodations, the convenience and comfort of the transport but most of all the knowledge of our guides and their ability to articulate the history and culture of the country made for a delightful time indeed. Iran is a “fulcrum” of economic trade and transit not only through the Middle East, but also across the vast extent of Euro-Asia. Iranian people on the street were warm, welcoming, friendly, very much appreciative of an American coming to visit, and hoping for a reengagement with the west.

Although there remains, in the occasional official statements, antipathy to the USA, you would never see it from the warm welcome we had. It is time for Westerners to go to Iran. You will be very pleasantly surprised.

Click here to read Rick’s full political commentary on the America/Iran relationship

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