I travel to Iran often and am always struck by the serene beauty of the people and the country. The two go hand in hand and make for the most memorable and extraordinary of travel experiences. I relish going back and experiencing the country and all that unfolds on each journey there.

In every instance the Iranian people have been very hospitable and friendly towards me. It is a delight as a traveller to meet such warm and welcoming people. The Iranian people are proud, intelligent, curious, and always happily stop me on the street or the bazaars to engage in conversation. Often it is as benign as “Where are you from”, to “What do you think of Iran”. But more than often there was a true discourse and friendly exchange.

In one instance in Esfahan I met two young women. They were friends and wanted to talk to me as I was visiting the Imam Square in the city. The first woman, in her twenties was progressive in her thinking and attire. She wore more Western clothes and was not covered as fully. She embraced me physically and was very interested in the West (particularly the United States) and had many questions and observations, whereas her friend was from a very conservative family. She was in traditional clothing and did not allow for any physical contact with me. She had a very restrained view of the West and while curious was very much more guarded.

What struck me so deeply was the fact that these two women, while being so very different in their upbringing, where equally engaged in a dialogue with me. They were respectful and honest with each other and despite their opposite views of the West were welcoming to me as a person.

In big cities like Tehran and Shiraz, in small mosques, in rural communities like Yazd and Kerman, at restaurants and tea shops, in sprawling bazaars and World Heritage Sites such as Persepolis…everywhere in Iran that I travelled to, I was met with a smile and warm welcome.

Many Westerners know of the great and glorious heritage of Iran, however they worry about the realities of travel in modern day Iran. My experiences have led me to believe in the greater humanity of the Iranian people and I have always felt safe and enriched to be among them while visiting their beautiful country.