I’ve long been hoping to take a first immersethrough group to Iran. There wasn’t time to get a group together for October 2017, so we then scheduled it for April 2018. I was thrilled. BUT: We sent in the visa applications for the grpooup way ahead, to allow for the delays we’d be warned about, especially with the processing of US< Canadian, and British passports. But the Iranian authorities out-waited us, and after more than three months we still had no visa approvals. With the Persian New Year (No-Roz) coming up, and thus the closing of government offices, it was looking too fraught and stressful to go on waiting, perhaps uselessly. And so we cancelled the trip and withdrew the visa applications.
I’m not giving up! The current geo-politics between Iran and the USA, and also Canada, are bitter and so it’s not surprising that we ran into delays and unhelpfulness. But I hope that the way ahead may be smoother, and if it is, we’ll try again. I am grateful for the help of Hamid of Iranian tours with all this, and for the patience of those who signed up and now have to deal with disappointment and to change their April expectations (the trip was to be from April 13 to 25, travelling by land from Shiraz to Tabriz; more details below).
Iran has a long fascinating history that goes back to Cyrus the Great, who founded the Persian empire, and to Darius the Great, who built his capital at Persepolis. And it has of course a wonderful and rich food culture. I want to take people to visit markets and bazaars, tasting the foods on offer, and discovering the beauties and complexities of ancient Persia and modern Iran.
Hamid, the Iranian travel agent who is helping with all this, had warned me that visas for holders of Canadian, British, and European passports should be obtainable without much trouble, and that visa applications for American citizens generally take three months to process. Anyone with an American passport who wanted to come needed to decide before December 1, 2017, so we had the necessary three months for the application. Anyone with a Canadian or British passport needed to decide by January 15, because those visas take a generous month. But despite all that, the approvals still didn’t come.
Here’s the my anticipatory description of the itinerary – on a roughly south to north route . It makes be sad to read it now, but I hope that we can do it next year… or in the near future. Fingers crossed that the sabre-rattling eases.
Our plan is to fly into the relaxed historic city of Shiraz, heartland of Persian culture, in the early hours of April 13th. We’ll travel by land for the whole journey, visiting a nomad encampment and staying at a nearby eco-lodge, and spending time at the amazing ruins of Persepolis and nearby Naqsh-e Rustam before heading to the desert city of Yazd. We’ll have two nights there and in the graceful city of Isfahan, before heading to Tehran, where we’ll spend time shopping in a food bazaar, visit some sites, and have a hands-on cooking class. After two nights in Tehran we have one night in Qazvin, and one night in the hillside village of Masouleh just south of the Caspian Sea. On our way to Tabriz we’ll visit the market in Rasht and, we hope, a caviar plant in Azali. Tabriz is a predominantly Azeri city in northern Iran with an extraordinary bazaar (a great place for good food and also for buying carpets). From there we’ll fly out to Istanbul.
I’d like to try again in 2019. So if this sounds like your type of trip, if you’re adventurous and anxious to explore the for-so-long- inaccessible landscapes, people, foodscapes, and historic treasures of Iran, please consider joining us in spring 2019.
There are easy direct flights to Shiraz, our start-point, from Istanbul, and direct flights out to Istanbul from Tabriz.
Because this is our first tour in Iran, I’ll be bringing only a small group, for greater flexibility. And because we aren’t sure of conditions or of how flexible things can be, we’ll be unable to accommodate special diets or even those with mobility issues or need for accessibility in our local transport or hotels (there may not be lifts or elevators and there will be a fair amount of walking, sometimes on rough ground). The other thing to note is that consumption of wine or other alcoholic drinks is illegal in Iran. Though many people who live in Iran do drink behind closed doors, we will not be taking that kind of risk on this tour.
We already have a list of people who, over the years, have told me that they are interested in going to Iran with me. If you are interested in the idea, please contact my partner in immersethrough, Deb Olson. Her phone number is 307 745-7191 and her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.