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The former U.S. Embassy in Tehran: one of its most iconic places of recent Iranian history. From a bunker beneath this building, CIA operatives orchestrated a coup d’état in 1953 that brought down the government of Mohammad Mossadegh. For the next 25 years, US support for and influence over the Shah was implemented largely from here. When the Shah was pushed out, students who feared another coup stormed the embassy and held 52 diplomats hostage for 444 days. The subsequent result was the birth of the Islamic Republic.

Nomad child near Perspepolis, the “City of Persians”.

Masuleh near the Caspian Sea. Surrounded by mountains and forest, its first village was established around 1006 AD.

Sunset in Yazd.

A door in Yazd with an interesting fact: they have two different door handles - one for women, one for men - both making different sounds. Based on it, the house owner knows what to expect.

Shiraz, home to one of the most beloved poets of historic times, Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muhammad Hāfez-e Shīrāzī, or short: Havez. “And still, after all this time, the Sun has never said to the Earth, "You owe me." Look what happens with love like that. It lights up the sky.”

Shiraz.

A woman in Shiraz.

Yazd and one of its inhabitants.

Amir Chakmak Mosque, Yazd

A local school in Yazd. The two towers are windcatchers, created for natural ventilation in buildings. It works!

Yazd - centre of Zoroastrian culture and surrounded by nothing but the desert. Zoroastrianism is considered as the first monotheistic religion in the world – its followers believe that the elements are pure and that fire represents God's light and wisdom.

"If you have seen Esfahan, nesf-e jahān ast - then you have seen half the world."

Esfahan at night.

Local worker at Esfahan’s markets

Two men demonstrating the overwhelmnigly friendly hospitality that I was lucky enough to experience

Esfahan – the former capital of Persia and then one of the biggest cities of the world. Esfahan’s Islamic glory remains intact with its grand architecture, beautiful boulevards, covered bridges, palaces, mosques, and minarets.

The former U.S. Embassy in Tehran: one of its most iconic places of recent Iranian history. From a bunker beneath this building, CIA operatives orchestrated a coup d’état in 1953 that brought down the government of Mohammad Mossadegh. For the next 25 years, US support for and influence over the Shah was implemented largely from here. When the Shah was pushed out, students who feared another coup stormed the embassy and held 52 diplomats hostage for 444 days. The subsequent result was the birth of the Islamic Republic.

The Azadi Tower or "Freedom Tower" marks the west entrance to the city and is one of the most recognisable symbols of the city.

A view of Tehran and its 13 million citizens at night .

Story: If you like people, you will love Iran. This country, despite or due to its dubious reputation in the world, simply overwhelms the visitor with its endless sense of hospitality and qualms of beauty. I was travelling on my own, yet never found myself alone. Instead, I discovered the country’s startling architecture, explored the cities’ bustling and colourful bazaars, and trekked through hot deserts and high mountain ranges. I constantly found myself in traditional tea houses following the invitations of locals and was welcomed with open arms and faces full of curiosity.

I shared strangers’ lunch boxes at bus stations, slept at family’s homes I had met just hours before, partied by the Caspian Sea playing football until the early morning, and enjoyed picnics in the lush countryside. I discussed the political life of Iran and the West with the people I met, able to converse in English, German or Spanish and accepted countless offers for future visits. I could not help but walk around constantly with a smile and sense of wonder. I felt safer there than any other country I have visited. And best of all? I had the place to myself. Few tourists, no hustling. Just genuine and authentic generosity.

If you can, look beyond the political turmoil and pay this country a visit. I know I’ll be back.

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