I was asked this question numerous times and looked at with some pretty funny faces - Why on earth I was travelling to Iran? That too with my two toddlers!
Quite frankly, Iran has been on my travel list for quite some time. It’s not the Arab Middle East most of us know about, but rather a country that is more of a secret gem to both the sight and knowledge of a traveler. It’s a country of vast contradictions, a country filled with the super modern youth, co-existing with extreme versions of Islam. It’s difficult to explain, but I have probably never felt like I did being in Iran anywhere else in the world. Every aspect, from its friendly people, the Farsi language, the fact that you must cover your head, the hundreds of posters commemorating martyrs, the cuisine, sanctions and sanction busting, the bazaars, and the general ambiance has been captivating. I hope some of my pictures will convince those skeptical about visiting this very interesting country!
my photo gear
I knew I would have ample photo opportunities on this trip, but I wanted to keep my gear to the minimum. My picks were the Fuji XT 2 (for its amazing performance and compactness), 23mm / f2 (I found the f1.2 would be too bulky), 16mm / f1.4 and the 50mm / f 1.2 (which I must admit I simply did not use and will next time swap for the 35mm f/2). I love Fuji’s f 2 lenses; they’re so small, they literally fit into a trouser pocket meaning I had no issues carrying my gear even whilst carrying my daughter around.
As you would imagine, some 2500 years plus of history means that Iran has some of the most spectacular architectural sites in the world. From the inside of mosques to open historical space like Persepolis, I found myself using the 16mm f1.4 quite often. Although it is slightly larger, the f1.4 really helped in low light situations within buildings, whilst allowing me to capture at a wide-angle. Otherwise, my street or all-day lens was the 23mm f/2. It was so light I hardly felt it around my neck. I love shooting at this focal length as I prefer shooting environment portraits, but also because it’s a lens I could use for portraits and street scenes. If I had to choose just one lens, it would definitely be the Fuji 23mm f/2.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is the 17th largest country in the world with a population of approximately 80 million people. Although the vast majority (98 percent) of its residents are Shia Muslim, there is a small number of Sunni’s, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians that live peacefully within the country.
Iran is home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world starting from the fourth millennium BC, where in the sixth century BC under Cyrus the Great (The Achaemenid Empire) became the largest Empire that ever existed during its time. When Arab Muslims conquered the region, it lead to the rise of the Safavids in the 15th century leading to reunification of the country under the conversion of Shia Islam. Iran grew very close to the West in the 1950’s under the rule of Shah, which fueled resentment again foreign influences leading to the 1979 Revolution and the establishment of an Islamic state.
Given its vast landscape, you would need a good 2-3 weeks to cover the whole of Iran. We had 8 days, and chose to start in the south and work our way up to the capital Tehran. We started off in Shiraz, driving north to Sepidan, Isfahan, Abyaneh, Kashan and finally to Tehran. As you drive from city to city, the landscape and temperature surreally changes in front of your eyes. We were lucky enough to have coincidentally be visiting during the month of Muharram, an extremely Holy and precious time of year for Shia’s around the world. This allowed us to get an insight into the Shia religion and culture, but also avoid the traffic, which we so dreaded, due to the holidays during that time.
Iran is a country I find difficult to write about. It contradicts all the myths that we are bombarded with on television. In fact, I felt very secure, and homely. The Iranians people are extremely friendly and foreigners will get away with most things as long as it is not insulting to the countries religion/culture.
I traveled with my husband and children (3 & 5 yrs old). We paced ourselves spending at least 2 full days in each city in order to avoid fatigue with the children. It is highly recommended that you have a tour guide in Iran; most people do not speak English well and getting around Iran isn’t easy without a car. The country is massive and despite good infrastructure, it can be difficult to find your way around the various cities. We were also lucky enough to have had a home stay in Sepidan. It’s an experience I would recommend to anyone visiting this country. My children thoroughly enjoyed meeting other children, seeing how they live and experiencing another way of life.
I have a lot more to say about Iran, about its people, about Friendly Iran the tour company we used, about our guides who were ever so accommodating, and about a country that is highly misjudged. But for now … I hope my images can speak better then my words.