Booking a trip to Iran: things you need to know and try
Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 22
By Khalid Kazimov - Trend:
Well, it seems like Iran finally has another thing going for it, except for the clinched nuclear deal. And that something is tourism.
"A high number of American and European tourists are currently making visits to Iran" a representative of a group of hotels told Trend agency's office in Tehran, adding they currently have no single free room in the capital city.
Meanwhile, Western and local media outlets suggest that following the removal of international sanctions on the Islamic Republic and despite a US State Department warning laying out the risks of taking trips there, the American and European tourists are planning to beat a path to the long-isolated country's door to explore whatever is beyond it.
Iran is considered to be a country with stable security amid the war-torn and never-stable Middle East, along with its fascinating sights. To a lot of potential tourists, this is a killer combination, which is not to be missed.
In the wake of the nuclear deal and as part of its ambitious plans to hit an economic growth of eight percent, official Tehran aims to lure 20 million sightseers per year by 2025.
If you are among those planning to visit Iran and enjoy Iran's wide range of tourist attractions, including 19 UNESCO-registered sites, as well as deserts and ski resorts, there are few important things you need to know before packing your bags.
Rule of the veil: the Islamic dress code
First of all, foreign visitors arriving in the Islamic Republic, have to understand the necessity for observing the Islamic dress code. There is no way around it. However, there is a question of comfort. Let's say a Washington DC teenage girl is a tourist in Iran, and she's booked for a desert hiking tour in Central Iran's Yazd Province - the rule of the veil still applies. The northern coast of the Persian Gulf is another issue - a sun bath is okay, as long as you're wearing a veil.
Yes! A strict ban on alcoholic beverages is still in place in the Shia-dominated country which is the second issue that all tourists need to consider before booking their trip to the Islamic Republic. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, alcohol consumption has been strictly forbidden in the country and the offenders may face harsh punishments in Iran.
However, if risk is your middle name, the good news is that drinking among Iranians is quite widespread. It all takes place behind closed doors as there are no nightclubs and bars in the Islamic Republic.
Despite the mentioned obstacles, as always, there's a way around every problem. You will have a chance to enjoy your trip to Iran if you manage to find a good local fixer. Over the past three decades Iranian youth enjoyed their life as much as Americans and Europeans through underground activities and coming up with ideas to circumvent official bans.
For instance just a couple of weeks ago, brainy Iranian tech geeks came up
with a fresh idea developing a mobile app to help fashionable girls and
women, avoid running into trouble with the Islamic Republic's morality
Hooked on hookah
If you are in search of an exotic environment to smoke a hookah or Shisha (qalyan in Persian), you should visit a typical Persian tea house, home of the hookah. Despite the government's anti-smoking drive and plans to remove the hookah from the Persian tradition, its rich aromas and ornate design has been an integrated part of Iran's culture for centuries. So do not get upset if someone tells you a hookah is not served in any public premises anymore. A good informant will easily arrange it in a garden of one of those hundreds of restaurants or tea-houses. In Iran it is also possible to try out different flavors of hookah, which feels especially good after a tasty meal. Speaking of meals...
Must try national dishes
Make sure that you have at least Chelo-Kabab and Dizi during your Iran trip alongside with a bunch of traditional meals such as Ghormeh sabzi, Fesenjan, Koofteh Tabrizi and so on. Chelo-Kabab is a simple but delicious meal cooked of saffroned Persian rice and kabab that you can easily find it across the country but those located in downtown Tehran , particularly at the Grand Bazaar, are the most advised ones to test. And if it is a cold and rainy day, Dizi, a lamb and chickpea stew, is something you would definitely enjoy.
Finally before leaving for Iran, make sure to check your status, as Iran doesn't offer visa on arrival, to the UK, US citizens, in particular.