The very first time I travelled to Iran, I was absolutely amazed at how open and inclusive its community was, how safe the country was and how astonishingly beautiful. Sadly, it is blatantly misrepresented in most Western media, a tendency I would gladly counter as a journalist in the making.
So far I have been to Iran twice and both times I have been embraced by the Iranian community, famous for its unfaltering and sincere hospitality. Iran is an unusual, incomparable place. From a vibrant metropolis like Tehran to the ruins of Persepolis, one of the greatest civilizations of the past, Iran is a true mystery, a riddle that can’t and shouldn’t be solved.
One of my Iranian friends in Belgium once warned me that Iran is a dangerous place. “You see, when you go there for a first time, you will come back for a second time, and then a third, and then a fourth, and then a hundredth. It just keeps calling you back. You can’t stay away”. I guess he was right, because here I am once again, and I still recall his words vividly, like a mantra.
I’m only in my twenties, but I can’t say I’ve ever been to a more compelling place than Iran. It’s highly unusual for a stranger, a foreigner, to feel completely at home in a country that is not their own. But not once have I felt unwelcome or even homesick. Iranians whom I have encountered here are wonderful people. They’re open and outgoing, and at the same time they’re humble and generous. They adorn and contribute to the inimitable beauty of the country more than any impressive mosque or attraction.
And this is just my personal, subjective experience, of my encounters with Iranian people, of places I’ve visited and things I’ve seen. Iran has left me slightly stupefied; its modern cities and remnants of ancient civilizations, the magnificent kaleidoscope of colors in mosques all across the country; the dazzling, crowded bazaars; the vertigo of patterns in the hand-woven, famous Persian rugs; the fleeting scents of colorful spices; the warm sun and varying landscapes, from snowcapped mountains to deserts under a scorching hot sun.
Iran manages to completely amaze in its magnificent grandeur and elegant beauty around very corner. From traditional Islamic architecture and every subtle detail in the handmade mosaic to splendid constructions dating back to 2,500 years ago, to modern tall buildings and roads of a vibrant metropolis.
For me, Iran has been a collision of sensations, an eye-opening experience that has made me more open-minded and left my blood boiling with energy and determination. Its people emboldened me with their kindness and acceptance, their pride and dignity in the face of numerous setbacks and changes. I feel like this world doesn’t deserve Iranian people.
Iran has a strong, powerful, warm, beautiful and enigmatic soul; it’s the cradle of civilization with a history so old that it’s almost impossible to perceive, were it not for tombs of ancient kings and ruins of Persepolis for us to stare in awe at.
I will greatly miss it when I will return home to Belgium. Briefly travelling or even working in a country, you never expect to establish lasting friendships as a fleeting passerby. But it’s different in Iran. Not only have I made friends for life here, I even feel part of a family now.
We can never really tell when will be the very last time we see a place or a person. I genuinely hope this time won’t be the last time I will see Iran.