Dream destination

Lexa Cain and Julie Flanders are hosting the Dream Destination Blog-Hop, in celebration of the release of their respective books Soul Cutter and The Ghosts of Aquinnah. Some pretty awesome prizes are available by signing up on the Rafflecopter.

Here are just a few pictures of the gorgeous country I’m hoping to visit within the next few years.

Iran, one of the most beautiful, hospitable countries in the world!

It really makes me sad that so many Westerners, particularly Americans, are terrified of the mere idea of traveling to Iran, and that some people, like my walking DSM ex, think I’ll automatically, immediately be arrested or killed there. Don’t believe the media stereotypes. About 1,500 Americans tour Iran every year, and speak glowingly of the awesome time they had there, and about how warmly they were welcomed. A lot of Iranians are impressed that Americans actually want to visit their country, and went to so much trouble to do so.

While writing my WIP, my third Russian/North American historical novel, Journey Through a Dark Forest: Lyuba and Ivan in the Age of Anxiety, I felt compelled to bring back some of my favourite former orphanage girls Alina Petropashvili, Ohanna Zouranjian, and Izabella Nahigian, and Izabella’s very young mother Maral. They escape to Fereydan over the Alborz Mountains during the Great Terror of 1937.

Former orphanage girl Inna Zhirinovskaya, now the co-director, also flees to Iran with their now-elderly orphanage mother Mrs. Brezhneva, some employees, and 50 of the children. They settle in nearby Isfahan, instead of, as originally planned, Austria.

While writing the chapters and sections set in Iran, I fell totally in love with Iranian history, culture, architecture, food, and geography. Not only that, I was inspired to visit Iran for some firsthand research for the future second draft. Not only would I visit Isfahan and Fereydan, but also the Caspian Sea, Tabriz, Qom, Tehran, Kish Island, Bandar Abbas, Bushehr Province, Chabahar, Shiraz, Lake Urmia, all the beautiful cities and beaches I’ve read about and admired pictures of. I’ve never felt so confident and passionate about visiting any place, and feel completely unafraid.

Even though the U.S. doesn’t currently have diplomatic relations with Iran, it’s still possible to go. You have to go through a tour, not on your own, and apply for a visa through a special department in the Pakistani Embassy. Since I plan to visit Eretz Yisrael again within the next ten years, and my passport needs renewal in June 2014, I’ll simply get two passports. Perfectly legal, and avoids a lot of trouble with Iranian or Israeli customs if the country of one sees the stamp of the other in your passport.

My parents and I were dear friends with an Iranian family when I was growing up in the Eighties and early Nineties. It was so fun to help them with celebrating Norouz, the Iranian New Year, and to eat their food. At one point many years ago, I knew some Persian, though the only word I can remember them teaching me now is “Peef!,” an exclamation you utter when something smells bad. They were extremely intelligent, educated, secular, Westernised people.

Most Iranian women wear pants, and many don’t even cover their hair in public all the time. Only in more religious, traditional cities, or at mosques, will you tend to find women extremely covered-up. Iranian women are very highly-educated, in spite of obvious limited opportunities. A lot of Americans don’t realise that before the Revolution, Iran was an extremely modern, Westernised country, and that the Iran of today has come a long way from the reality of 30 years ago.

Of course there are precautions to take as a Western tourist, and national laws to be followed, but if you don’t make trouble and aren’t a journalist, politician, etc., the visit should be fine. I actually think it’ll be fun to wear a jilbab and hijab while I’m there, like trying on a special uniform and assuming a new identity for a little while.

22 thoughts on “My beautiful dream destination

  1. From looking at the pictures, I never would have guessed that they were taken in Iran. Okay, maybe I would have figured it out eventually, but not within my first few guesses. You’re absolutely right, though; most of us are fearful of traveling in Iran… afraid of being hated as an outsider, especially as an American, and afraid of being harmed. But for the most part, we know what the media feeds us. I’m glad to hear travel isn’t as dangerous there as I thought, and I hope you have a wonderful trip.

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  2. I know the feeling. Many are afraid of Egypt now, too. One of the other blog hoppers loves Iran and posts lovely pics of it on FB – Kim Lajevardi (#26 This Writer’s Growing). You’ve done a great job of setting people straight on this beautiful country. Thanks for joining the hop! 🙂

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  3. Iran is indeed a spectacularly beautiful country with a warm and inviting people, but travel there can still be difficult for Americans in particular. My husband is Iranian, and even he is nervous to travel freely there. The rules of law are not always fixed, and the laws and government are not always reasonable or humane. If you do decide to go, take caution to follow the rules very carefully.

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  4. Glad to see I’m not the only one picking a country most people probably don’t realize they can actually visit even if it takes more time. Iran looks very beautiful in your photos. So kind of you to share and give us such needed insight.

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