Iran Lays out the Welcome Mat
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 30th December, 2015
The successful conclusion of nuclear talks with Iran earlier this year means that the Islamic Republic has been losing its pariah status with much of the previously critical world. This should lead to far more inter-action between Iran and erstwhile enemies, including the “Great Satan”, the United States, and bilateral improvements in visa regimes. The head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation, Masoud Soltanifar, expects that this warming of relations will lead to a sharp rise in the number of foreign tourists to his country, and in preparation for this, Iran has been building no fewer than 125 4-star and 5-star hotels to cater for the anticipated influx. A number of leading international hotel corporations have been involved in this frenzy of building, including France’s Accor Group and the UAE-based Rotana.
As someone who has travelled very widely in Iran, I can testify that it is indeed a treasure-house of cultural heritage, from the atmospheric ruins of Persepolis to the historic tea-houses of Isfahan and the rose gardens of Shiraz. It’s true that the capital Tehran is one of the most congested and polluted cities on earth, but even there there is much to enjoy, from the large downtown bazaar to the jaw-droppingly vulgar complex of palaces inhabited by the last Shah. Of course, 36 years after the Revolution that ousted the Shah, this is still a strict Islamic Republic in which women have to cover themselves, mixed swimming pools are a no-no and you won’t find anything stronger than a non-alcoholic beer to drink. But for anyone who is willing to accept those cultural differences Iran is about to lay out the welcome mat and share its treasures with the world.