Series: Provinces of Iran – Gilan Part 1

More photos of Iran:

Gilan, Iran - Green valleys - Flowers in Talesh [Click to enlarge]

Gilan, Iran – Green valleys – Flowers in Talesh [Click to enlarge]

Gilan, Iran - Green valleys [Click to enlarge]

Gilan, Iran – Green valleys [Click to enlarge]

Gilan, Iran - Green valleys - Flowers [Click to enlarge]

Gilan, Iran – Green valleys – Flowers [Click to enlarge]

Gilan, Iran - Green valleys [Click to enlarge]

Gilan, Iran – Green valleys [Click to enlarge]

Gilan, Iran - Green valleys - Horses [Click to enlarge]

Gilan, Iran – Green valleys – Horses [Click to enlarge]

Gilan, Iran - Green Valleys - Village at Dawn [Click to enlarge]

Gilan, Iran – Green Valleys – Village at Dawn [Click to enlarge]

John Simpson: Iran is the most charming country on Earth

For John Simpson, Iran’s incredible monuments, dazzling landscapes and hospitable people make it a holiday destination beyond compare.

Iran, Tehran, Golestan Palace

Iran, Tehran, Golestan Palace

Think of a country, largely cut off from the outside world, with a lovely dry climate, sophisticated and charming people, superb archaeological monuments, mountains, deserts, the Caspian Sea. If recent history had been different, it would be the India of the travel business, only without the beggars and the chaos. Iran is, quite simply, the most charming country I know.

What always strikes me in Iran is the normality of it. If you wandered down the street in Tehran – say Dr Fatemi Avenue, where the old and much-loved hotel, the Laleh, stands – you would find it suspended between West and East, between the modern and something altogether older and more attractive: the Persian past.

This is not Saudi Arabia: women drive cars, run businesses and often forget to cover their hair as they’re supposed to do.

I first became aware of this affection in the Eighties, when I ventured out to cover an anti-British demonstration in the city. I was a lot younger then, and accompanied by a charming, fatherly cameraman. The crowd pushed and shoved, and shouted “Marg bar Tacher” – “death to Thatcher”. I asked the cameraman to stand on a low wall and film me as I walked through the angry demonstrators. “I really don’t think you should do this, John,” he said, with a troubled look at the mob. But I’d seen it done before, by an American correspondent. I weaved my way through the crowd, smiling and explaining that I was a Brit, and they opened up a pathway for me, shaking hands and bowing.

I finally reached the ringmaster, a professional demonstrator who was beating his chest, the spittle shooting from his mouth in his anti-British fervour. “Welcome, welcome to Iran, sir,” he said, and actually kissed my hand. It went down well on the news that night, I promise you.
All right, you’re saying, that was decades ago. But, you see, Iran has been cut off from the West for so long since then that the longing for contact with westerners has actually grown. If you spend an evening wandering round Isfahan, the incomparable city of Shah Abbas on the Zayandeh River, with the distant foothills of the Zagros purple in the fading light, your main problem will be saying no to the kindly people picnicking in the parks and gardens who beg you to join them.

Iran is recommended by the Telegraph Travel team as one of the 20 top destinations to visit in 2014. For more on what’s on offer, read our guide to holidaying in Iran.

Other travel articles on Iran:

Series -Yazd, Iran: Tezerjan Glacier

Yazd, Iran, Terzejan Glacier

Yazd, Iran, Terzejan Glacier

Yazd, Iran, Terzejan Glacier

Yazd, Iran, Terzejan Glacier

Yazd, Iran, Terzejan Glacier

Yazd, Iran, Terzejan Glacier

Tezerjan Glacier is a natural glacier on Shirkouh mountain and Tezerjan village is located on its foothill. ( Top of Tezerjan mountain is 4005m from the sea level). Not long ago, a great of ice and snow were carried 60km to Yazd on hot days during the year, using pack animals, in order to chill beverages, especially Yazdian Paloude (sweet beverage containing thin fibers of starch jelly), so Yazdian Paloude is related to this natural glacier.

Alireza Taghaboni – Iranian award winning architect builds rotating home in Tehran

An award-winning Iranian architect has designed and built a seven-story building with three revolving bedrooms in the capital, Tehran.

The house designed by contemporary Iranian architect Alireza Taghaboni is located in upscale north Tehran and includes rotating levels.

The three revolving bedrooms of the house allow its residents to always enjoy the sun and the best views over the city.

In order to change the view from the windows and enjoy the mid-afternoon sun, all you need to do is to push a button. Alternatively, the windows can tuck into the structure to provide a closed, more private environment.

“Our design scenario was based on seasons. In winter, when balconies are not usually used, and the outside view is not very important, the structure gets closed, and all attention is shifted towards the void inside the house. In summer, the cubes are extended outwards, and balconies are activated. Now all attention is towards the outside,” Taghaboni said.

Privacy has always been a top priority for the Iranians and this was taken seriously in the design of the rotating home. Instead of providing large windows, a void or empty space has been used in the middle of the building to allow sunlight into the house.

The void also resembles ancient Iranian architecture.

“Our main reference for this project is ancient Iranian buildings, but with a complete revision based on a reading of our own, which obviously uses a modern design language,” Taghaboni said.

Around three million euros (USD 4 million) was spent on designing and building the house. Taghaboni says only one seventh of the money was used for building the rotating boxes.

The revolving home has been nominated for an international prize at an event called the World Architecture Festival which is to be held in Singapore in October, 2014.

Series: Iranian Handicraft and Art – Painting


Oriental historian Basil Gray believes “Iran has offered a particularly unique art to the world which is excellent in its kind”.

Painting in Iran is thought to have reached a peak during the Tamerlane era

when outstanding masters such as Kamaleddin Behzad gave birth to a new style of painting.

Qajarid paintings, for instance, are a combination of European influences and Safavid miniature schools of painting such as those introduced by Reza Abbasi.


Masters such as Kamal-ol-Molk further pushed forward the European influence in Iran. It was during the Qajar era when “Teahouse painting” emerged.

Sar Yazd Castle in Yazd, Iran wins the grand prize for the 2014 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Cultural Heritage

The grand prize for the 2014 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Cultural Heritage went to Sar Yazd Castle in Yazd, Iran.

In June 2014, a panel of judges composed of international experts in conservation and restoration evaluated 46 projects from countries in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Among the projects, Sar Yazd Citadel restoration project from Iran managed to receive the grand prize. The grand prize was awarded to Iran due to the role of private institutions in preserving this historical location which has consequently influenced the socio-economic status of the locals in regard to creating job opportunities.

Sar Yazd is situated 30km south of Yazd province. Some speculate that the castle belongs to the Sassanid era.

Conserved and restored sites with more than 50 years of age which have been finished within last 10 years and have been open to visitors for at least a year have been considered eligible for this contest.

Yazd, Iran - Saryazd citadel - inside

Yazd, Iran – Saryazd citadel – inside

The 2014 and 2015 contests are held with the financial support from Beijing Sino-Ocean Charity Foundation.

Call for participation in the 2015 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Conservation contest will be announced in October 2014 via the contest’s website.