Ken’s heart was pounding as he ventured off on his own through the foothills of Iran’s dramatic mountainside, no one else in sight, gazing at the Saint Stephanos Monastery from above. It wasn’t the altitude or the solitude that had his heart beating, but the adrenaline rush from the same journey Achaemenians had taken more than 2,000 years ago, long before the Monastery was built in the 14th century. Ken Fish, Absolute Travel President, was in the middle of his fourth trip to Iran.
“Many travelers want to witness a country before other people get there, and for visitors to Iran, they will see a virtually unspoiled ancient civilization with an unwavering and incredibly compelling cultural identity, which is only enhanced by Iranian people today.” So much so, that Ken believes visiting Iran is unlike being a guest in any other country; quite an endorsement considering the notches on his travel belt. “Hospitality must run through Persian blood… I am humbled by how warmly received I am as an American.”
Understandably, it is a challenge to look beyond the image of Iran as portrayed in current world events, but Ken speaks of hills carpeted in wildflowers; a well of UNESCO World Heritage sites that could keep any historian busy for weeks (ten official sites and almost sixty on the tentative list); and culinary traditions and styles distinctive of the region, particularly their use of sunshine-grown vegetables and herbs. But what carried the spirit of Ken’s visit was the sincerity of the local people. A photograph (below) taken during a spontaneous moment with university students in Tabriz captured the students’ endearing curiosity about their western visitor. “I will keep that moment with me just as much, if not more, than the students.”
Accompanied by Taghi Aghaei, who after eleven years is not only a business associate but also a dear friend, their travels focused on the northwestern Azerbaijan province, known for its arresting natural beauty. Along the way, it seemed the Persians were just as eager to explore their homeland as Ken was – whether picnicking alongside the windy roads, discovering holy sites, or just relaxing and enjoying themselves – their pride and love of Iran stood out from the scenery.
And there was never a loss of sites to see. Kandovan’s rock dwellings were not relics of the past, but still home to many – in keeping with the timeless soul of the region. Armenian monasteries still dot the mountains surrounding the Aras River on the border with Azerbaijan, and speak to both Iran’s cultural and geographic breadth. And structures like the Dome of Soltanieh only cemented thoughts of how much talent and tenacity, over the centuries and today, have been invested to make Iran what it has become.
Now is the time to visit Iran and see its many other sides – Persians living their day to day lives with passion and open hearts, fiercely proud of their home and happily willing to share it with you. Our Highlights of Persia journey is perfect for first-time visitors; please contact us for more details on this trip or to discuss a customized itinerary with one of our travel specialists. And for those who would like to chat with Ken, he is happy to speak with you personally about his Iran experience!
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