Iran: An Alternative Escape From Cairo
A unique aspect to Iran is that one can experience the four seasons within one day; up north you can go skiing, while in the south the weather can be suitable for swimming; however, autumn and spring are the most recommended times to visit.
Landing in Tehran, and before leaving the plane, women are expected to cover a portion of their hair in accordance with the local Islamic dress code. However, the general dressing habits for women are relatively normal and not the least bit as conservative as is perceived by mainstream media. The veil, or the covering of the hair, is just a formality and these rules are somewhat lax for foreigners.
Upon leaving the airport we discovered that most of the locals understand English, even if they don’t speak it. It’s easy to find a taxi outside the airport, and prices are fixed if you take the airport’s service. Getting stuck in Tehran traffic is quite a nightmare, so it’s imperative that you select a hotel with a strategic location in regards to sightseeing.
Sadly, Tehran is somewhat of a concrete jungle. Like many major cities in the world, its aesthetic value can leave much to be desired; however, this all changes when the sun rises on the city, unfolding the mountains that stand tall and majestic as a backdrop. The whole scene becomes like one from an abstract painting; the mountain’s coffee hues contrasted against the buildings’ haphazard heights and colours.
Most restaurants offer lunch from 12PM till 3PM, then they take a break till 7PM to prepare for dinner service – this is with the exception of fast food restaurants.
If you‘re craving international cuisine while in Tehran, Kivano is a fusion restaurant that offers a nice atmosphere and a great variety of Asian food. Located in the ASP complex, on the Kurdistan Highway, the tables are equipped with a grill where one has the option of ordering meat, chicken or fish, and grilling it themselves. A big dinner, with beverages for two, would cost around 170LE. Estaghlal Hotel also houses an upscale Italian restaurant, which offers premium food and excellent service.
Esfahan city itself, on the other hand, hasn’t been able to preserve its architectural heritage in the same way. Most of the streets are bland and the buildings are quite similar; square, yellow and made up of three or four storeys.
However, Imam Midan remains an architectural jewel that you could spend the whole day in. Walking and browsing its shops, which sell an array of handcrafts, you could easily end up finishing your whole budget for the trip in one day. The midan has more than one historical mosque in its vicinity, but Imam Mosque is the one to choose if crunched for time. No words can give this mosque justice and it must be seen.
Roozegar Café, with its choice of cinnamon, cardamom, or saffron tea – as well as its mouth watering chocolate cake and cosy atmosphere – is a great spot to relax after the excitement from shopping and sightseeing simmers down.
For lunch, head to the Jolfa area, where the biggest Armenian community in Iran resides. Have a walk in the cobbled stoned alleys and stop by Jolfa Midan, where there are many cafés that offer delicious snacks and hearty coffee. For dinner, try Shahrazad restaurant, which offers delectable, authentic food that is invigorating and rejuvenating; perfect fuel to replace energies exerted during the day.