I can not implore you enough to ignore the propaganda. This is a land of warmth and hospitality. As an American citizen I was required to visit under the care of an official tour company or have Iranian citizen take responsibility for me. I traveled with Iran Doostan Tours. Farzaneh was our tour guide. She was simply fabulous.
I spent a month in Iran beginning on February 17, 2004. My journal of this time is literally 12 pages. No more. I was on a group trip, an academic tour and so my style of travel, down time and solo time was not quite the way I prefer to travel. Great bunch of folks from the New College of California in San Francisco but it definitely was not my preferred mode of visiting a country.
Excerpt from journal dated February 18, 2004 Iran Air between Tehran and Bandar e Abbas :
We flew Iran Air from Tehran to Bandar e Abbas. Walking down the aisle to find my seat was an experience in and of itself. People stopped what they were doing to look at me. If they had caught sight of me out of the corner of their eye, their heads would jerk up and their eyes would get big. It isn't often Westerners go to Bandar e Abbas and even less common for Americans to visit.
Our group sat together on the plane. I would have preferred to have been spread out for 2 reasons: 1) time away from the group (it has only been 1 day together, ha ha) and 2) more important - the opportunity to interact with others on the flight.
The food was the BEST quality I have ever had on a plane. Chicken fresh off the bone. Hormone free. We continued to be a curiosity at the baggage claim. It was pretty funny to watch the "baggage" - one piece was simply a tagged bottle, about 8 ounces of medicine. Another looked like a child's sippy cup. Got to the hotel around 10:30 pm - the Amin Hotel in Bandar e Abbas. It was not a tourist class property. It was right on the Persian Gulf. Cross the road, walk across the sand and bam, Persian Gulf.
This means it was not ferangi - no western bathrooms - shower was pretty much over the toilet. The rooms were more like backpacker places. Some folks were pretty upset and thought we should have a more tourist class property. A few of us were non-plussed by it. Daniella was positively beaming about it. It definitely had more charm and character than the ferengi places do. In actuality, it was currently under construction - not remodeling, construction, cement block outer walls going up.
February 19, 2004:
I've been traveling about 72 hours and have gotten roughly 10 hours of sleep. It isn't enough.
February 22, 2004 Shiraz, Iran:
Today I realized that my left ear sticks out from my head alot further than my right one. How do I know? Hejabs are amazing items. The blue one Daniel bought me in Minab (our chant by about day 3 of the tour was Minab, Kebab, Hijab) keeps getting caught behind my left ear because my ear sticks out. Travel really brings you closer to yourself. Self knowledge...lol.