I can’t get the blog to let me use italics in the title, but its usually said like this. “Why would you want to go there?” Sometimes its even more like this. “Why would you want to go there?” Often this is accompanied by a raised eyebrow and an obvious attempt at assessing my sanity.
I wonder if I’ll ever stop hearing this question. Probably not if I keep planning adventures in interesting and uncommon locations. It is usually well intentioned; friends and family concerned for my safety, or strangers who simply aren’t used to my own strangeness. Yet those simple words always put me on edge. I am constantly reminding myself that not everyone as much about the region as I do and that most mainstream media outlets have a habit of using catching, if inaccurate, terminology. Most of the time my response is simple. “That question is exactly why I want to go there.”
There’s a better answer, though. The Persian culture has arguably contributed more to the world than most any other culture in history (Greek and Roman empires being obvious contenders). To borrow a bit from wikipedia, Persians were the first to develop the common brick in 6000 B.C. Somehow it took them another thousand years to figure out how to make wine (Shiraz is a city in Iran). Around the same time they invented the tar, the ancient precursor to the guitar. Seems wine and music have always gone well together. They created the first banks around 2500 B.C., so I suppose in a way you can blame the recent economic crisis on them. Maybe I shouldn’t mention that one. Polo (521 B.C). That’s a good thing, else we wouldn’t have those shirts. Mail, taxes, and staples all around 500 B.C. Office Space wouldn’t be the same with the red stapler. Taxes on the other hand, well lets not go there. Few besides the lactose intolerant can argue about the benefits of ice cream, though (400 B.C.), nor the early refrigeration systems that came with it. Supposedly they invented the cookie in 700 AD, but wiki has no reference for that one so I’m not sure I believe it.
Much of early medicine came out of Persia, including the use of alcohol for sterilization (~900 AD) and “The Canon of Medicine”, one of the foundational texts of modern medicine. Persian mathematicians were also primarily responsible for the development of algebra and trigonometry, much to the frustration of high school students everywhere. I won’t quote sources here, and I’ve left out quite a few interesting tidbits. Read all you like (Wiki – Iranian Cultural Contributions).
Outside of their past discoveries and ingenuity, however, Persian art, architecture and the land itself are all substantial reasons to visit this ancient country. Iran is more than twice the size of Texas and home to far more diverse ecosystems, climates, and communities. Mount Damavand, a potentially active volcano, at 18,406 ft is the highest mountain on the Eurasian landmass west of the Hindu Kush. Northern Iran is covered by dense rain forests while the east consists mostly of desert basins.
Not to mention the famous hospitality of the Persian people.
So. What was the question again?