Just as the tone of Western media has slightly shifted, visa regulations in Iran have eased and more agencies are adding Iran packages to their lists, Iran has finally come to the spotlight. After many years of isolation and too much negative media coverage, recent visitors seem to come back with a different story. One that’s in stark contrast with everything they had thought.
For years, visits to attractions meant you have the whole place to yourself. No waiting, no lines and no photobombed pictures. Today, still on certain periods of the year, small lines seem to be gradually forming behind ticket booths. Hotels are going under major renovations to reciprocate for their long abandoned and dust gathered rooms and google is finally showing some empathy in handing out the right information on Iran.
What everyone seems to be really enjoying about Iran is not necessarily the shimmering architecture or the list of word heritage sites. Today’s travellers seek exoticness. Whether it be in culture, food or people. And Iran is hitting the jackpot for now.
While everyone leaves with unforgettable memories to share back home, there’s a slight uncertainty and worry that occupies everyone’s thoughts. Will Iran be like how it was when they return? Will the features of home to us Iranians change as we tend to share it with outsiders? The answer is rather easy. No matter how professionally and delicately we handle this sudden boost of tourists, Iran will change. And it will change fast. Whether we like it or not.
So why is it important to travel to Iran now and not in 5 years?
#1 It won’t be as cheap
Iran was never dirt cheap anyway. It’s really just been the price of food and transportation that would fit it in the list of budget destinations, but the already rise of entrance fees is proving that it won’t be as affordable in years to come. The economical pressures haven’t been helping either. For years Iranians have been surviving devastating inflations and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop any time soon.
#2 It won’t be so untouched
As more and more people talk about their experience in Iran, it’s getting more frequent to hear of places in the country even unknown to Iranians themselves. The variety in Iran is so huge that every little corner can be a new surprise. For now it takes us a trip to a less popular province to find untouched and unique places. But once everyone else knows about the secret, it won’t be so untouched, will it?
#3 You won’t go back home as a hero
Nowadays as soon as your family and friends hear of your crazy decision of going to Iran they suddenly get super conscious. They try everything in their hands to change your mind and bid you farewell as if you’re never going to return. Once you’re back, you’re the hero who has survived the war. You’re the ambitious one with wanderlust who broke the conventions. All the cool kids in the block want to be your friend. You’ve proven yourself well and you’ve made them proud. But let’s fast forward to a few years later when perhaps Iran will be just another India. It sounds all fascinating, but people are just going to wish you luck and perhaps ask for some cheap saffron for souvenir. There won’t be any pressure, no convincing and no worries but no one will be waiting for you with flower crowns once you’re back home.
#4 It won’t be so exotic
I don’t think any tourist leaves Iran without a picture with a woman in chador. Somehow they all want to prove that they got to see the women in ‘Not without my daughter’, took a picture with her and it was actually fine. But soon enough, your new profile picture with a woman in hijab or with the Imam mosque as the backdrop won’t be getting as many oohs and aahs. Perhaps it’s a bit exaggerating to say it will be another Eiffel tower picture, but it’s definitely not going to receive all the attention.
#5 The famous hospitality might have faded
These days it’s typical that if you’ve got the social skills, you’ll probably get invited to dinners out of nowhere. Free tea is offered as if they were samples and Iranians treat you like you’re a superstar. But once everywhere is flooded with tourists, chances your ticket to Iran with come with a VIP card won’t be that high. The long lived culture of hospitality will obviously continue to exist, you just won’t be the shiny star anymore.
You need to get to Iran NOW. Before it gets over crowded, over explored. Before modernization takes away the authenticity and before the sweet taste of money makes you look like cash rather than a guest before the local eye. Before too many street vendors push you into buying cheap Chinese replicas of national monuments and before we get warnings of pickpocketing in public transportation.
You just need to visit Iran now! Before everyone else does.
This post was originally written by myself for Marcopolo Iran Touring Company