Back in 2012, I went to Iran for the first time and ever since that I’ve been longing to go back. I was looking to go somewhere in January and when I saw that flights to Iran were really cheap, I didn’t hesitate a second. I was a bit worried at first, as I was going to Israel less than a week before going to Iran, which is not allowed by Iranian authorities. However, as I didn’t get an Israeli stamp in my passport, I didn’t have any problems.
I firmly believe that Iran is one of the most misunderstood countries on earth. In the media, Iranians are usually depicted as behind the times, extremely religious and anti-Western. That is, however, not my observation. Iran is very modern and developed. With sanctions lifting and a government that is much friendlier to the West (and vice versa) than former governments, I think Iran’s future is looking brighter.
Esfahan was the first stop on my journey through Iran. The city is, according to a Persian proverb, “half of the world”, and it is also the former capital of Iran (under the Safavid Dynasty). With its beautiful tree-lined streets and the grandeur of the Nasqsh-e Jahan Square (aka Emam Khomeini Square) it’s easy to see why many Iranians see Esfahan as one of Iran’s most pleasant and nice cities.
Yazd, the second stop on my journey, had a special impact on me the last time I went — so naturally, I was thrilled to return. Some of the words that come to mind when I think about Yazd are: enchanting, exotic, and magical. The oldest part of the city, made up entirely of mud brick houses, feels like one has stepped directly into a tale from 1001 Nights.
While the city is predominantly Muslim, Yazd is also one of the last frontiers of Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion from before the time of Islam and Christianity.
Shiraz is a city beloved by Iranians. Famous for its poets — who seem to be heroes of every Iranian — and for its (former) wine production, it is a very cultivated city. Shiraz also abounds with beautiful shrines and mosques, such as the extravagant Nasir-ol Molk Mosque.
Hormuz Island is a tiny island in the Persian Gulf. Made entirely from sedimentary rock and volcanic material in different hues, it feels very otherworldly. The sound of salt crushing under your feet combined with beautiful colors, the intense heat, the smallest of settlements, and the remains of an old Portuguese fortress make this place rather extraordinary. I’m very happy I decided to explore this faraway place, and even happier to share with you the images from that escapade.
Qeshm (pronounced “reshm”) is the biggest island in the Persian Gulf. Like its sister island Hormuz, it is also geologically significant, which has also made it a so-called “geopark,” protected by the UN. That was the main reason I wanted to go, but it also proved to be an interesting destination culture-wise, as it is quite distinct from the rest of Iran. It feels much more Arab; women wear colorful dresses fully covering their faces (which you don’t see in the rest of Iran).
Overall, the Iranians I met — both pro-Western and religious/traditional — want to live in harmony regardless of religion or nationality. They are also, without a doubt, the most welcoming, kind, and hospitable people I’ve ever encountered. It’s a people tired of being kept out, being held down, and being stigmatized because of politics many have nothing to do with. I hope that my photos can help people reconsider their views and ideas of Iran — that they can change minds.