Everyone we met in Iran wanted to be friendly and welcoming

 

Share

Hearing that my wife and I were in the Holy City of Qom, the Council of Mullahs invited us to meet with them. I shall never forget the gentle, authoritative voice of a senior Mullah. “We know that there have been bad times between our two countries. But we would like you to understand that we admire and respect your Jesus Christ, we love your Virgin Mary; it’s only the British Government we do not like!”

A decade-and-a-half ago – relations are less strained now – I went with the excellently organised British museum travel company, paying the full commercial rate, to Iran, on a holiday.

Everyone in Iran whom we met wanted to be friendly and welcoming.

From Tehran, a metropolis with many stunning museums – the one I remember most vividly was the carpet collection – we went to Rasht on the Caspian. The beach of a freshwater sea is something different. The fish was unusual and delicious, partly because it was cooked with such care in a tradition which had lasted for centuries.

Sent to Hamadan, as a beekeeper, I encountered a delicious range of local honey in the market sold directly by local beekeepers. When I had asked them how they handled bees, I realised that the Iranians had skills which we did not. In particular, they would move their bees from one desert-like land to another depending on where the wildflowers were blooming.

The wildflowers of Iran are something to behold whether or not you are a beekeeper. In Kashan, where one could purchase carpets, many women would spend hours making them, for embarrassingly small prices.

Old Isfahan is quite simply the most beautiful city which I have ever been to. Its mosques are breath-taking. The blue glazing on tiles is astonishing in the early morning or late evening sun.

Our bus then took us on roads well tarmacked, with very few potholes across the desert to Yazd with its tall minaret. Back to Shiraz, by way of the striking desert tomb of the great Persian warlord Cyrus, with its ever so delicate architecture.

Having been informed by the Iranian embassy in London – they had done their homework on us – that my wife was chairman of the Royal Commission in Scotland for ancient and historical monuments, special care was taken to explain their funereal monuments, many of which have stone lacework remarkable in its intricacy. Exquisite paintings, done with cats’ tails can be purchased in the market. It’s an art form all its own.

The final stop was Persepolis. My mother and father had been there in the 1920s and told me of the lifelike faces equal to those at Autun cathedral in France but made a thousand years earlier, of the captive peoples of Xerxes and his kin. The sadness was that they had recently begun to blur since the sandstone was suffering from the polluting presence of oil refineries, hastily moved out of harm’s way from the Iraqi frontier during that awful eight-year war.

Once in a lifetime you should go to Iran; don’t forget to pack a couple of toilet rolls in your bag.

Tam Dalyell was a Labour MP from 1962 to 2005

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Independent Voices
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project