Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

Middle Eastern hospitality in Iran

May 13, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published April 13, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

From Di’s eyes: I liked Richard’s attitude. If more Americans traveled to places that are mysterious to them, even scary, they’d discover what he did. As Richard says of the Iranians he met: “They’re more like us than not.”

WHO: Richard Dobrow, 60, of Marblehead, Mass.


WHEN: Three weeks in October and November

Persian garden at Royal Palace, Shiraz, IranWHY: “I like to go places before they get really discovered. One sure way to do that is to pick countries that are on the tenuous list,” said Dobrow. “I‘ve always been interested in Iran because it’s Persia. It’s always been an important country. And I was interested in seeing if it was as bad as we are led to believe.”

TRAVEL PROS: Dobrow visited the country with American outfitter Geographic Expeditions. “I used them before to camp in the Libyan desert. On a trip like this you get very seasoned travelers and they tend to be politically liberal. People wanted to see for themselves what was going on in Iran.”

The Jameh Mosque in Yazd, IranPOLITICS ASIDE: “When people asked me what I thought about Bush, which wasn’t always complimentary, they smiled and said they felt the same way about their president. We agreed if our presidents would just get out of the way, we’d be OK,” he said. Although Iranians are accustomed to seeing European and Asian tourists, Americans are uncommon. “One man, when he found out I was American, he yelled ‘America!’ at the top of his lungs and gave me a bear hug he was so overjoyed we were visiting his country. Belgium tourists nearby snapped photos of the Iranian and American hugging.”

Young boy near the Iraq border with Red Sox hat from DobrowLAND AND AIR: The group met in Tehran and went by van and airplane to several places, including Hamadan, Kermanshah, Tabriz, Mashhad, Yazd, Shiraz, Persepolis, and Isfahan. “Tehran sits at the foot of mountains that have year-round snow. It’s a very modern city and not that interesting. At Kermanshah, we were right at the Iraqi border. They have some incredible bas reliefs.” It was there that Dobrow gave away his Red Sox cap to a young Iranian boy who had never heard of baseball.

A nomad (not Muslim) woman at bazaar in Isfahan, IranCHANGING YOUTH: Dobrow noted differences in dress between older women, who would be covered except for their eyes, and younger ones. “They’d wear waistcoats and show their individuality with the fabric and jewelry. They came right up to you and talked to practice their English. They’d ask things like, ‘what do you think of Iranian women?’ They had their hair covered, but as little as possible.” A decade of fighting affected the male population, he said. “The Iran-Iraq war basically wiped out a generation of boys. Almost everyone I talked to had lost a son.”

Lotfallah Mosque on Imam Square in Isfahan, IranAMAZING SIGHTS: Dobrow found Tabriz fascinating for its incredible carpets and its diverse population that includes tribal groups, Christians and Zoroastrians. In the desert town of Yazd, the group visited several historic caravanserai, mud and straw fort-like structures where travelers would stop to rest with their camels. “They invented all these ingenious ways to survive the desert.” In Isfahan, the country’s cultural capital, Dobrow was drawn to Imam Square, “one of the most beautiful in the world, and the second largest. On one side is a palace and on the other a mosque, with green down the middle.”

ON THE LOOKOUT: “I met only delightful people,” Dobrow said. “I was looking for a balanced view. I saw love. The economy is terrible and there are all these well-educated kids driving taxis and working at the hotels. They just want to have employment and a middle-class lifestyle. They’re more like us than not.”