Home / Blog; ... Tehran, with 14 million people, is more populous than all of Greece (where I was just traveling). Culture flourished and it was about this time that, with cuneiform, the Persian language was first put into writing. It's different…but it seems to work. Aired: 01/22/19 Expired: 09/30/19 Of Iran's 70 million people, well over half are under the age of 30. A major concern: Mohammad, who came in the 7th century, is considered the last prophet. Many colors…, Man: Cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, red pepper, coriander and this is muscat. Rick: Might you meet a boy down here? Rick: Where do you meet a boy? Its university is the oldest, biggest and most prestigious in the land. Because we're here with our camera the women are dressed more conservatively than they would be if they were just here with their family and friends. Most important, we'll meet and talk with the people whose government so exasperates America. Today, the Iranian government recognizes the value and the fragility of its heritage and it's working to preserve it. Woman: Xodâhâfez. Man: I wish that the relationship between Iran and America become good. This felt like a particularly easy-going mosque — in keeping with Khomeini's image among his people. Aside from minor changes, the first half of the special's script, below, serves as the script for this episode. Then, defending his empire, the shah battles the Ottoman Turks — with their frightening new artillery — and manages to stop the Ottoman's Eastward juggernaut. Rick: Man. Shot in Tehran, Shiraz, Esfahan, Persepolis and villages in between, RICK STEVES' IRAN details the country's rich artistic and cultural heritage. Terms of Service | Privacy, "Rick Steves' Iran: Yesterday and Today. The Chehel Sotun Palace is a vivid reminder that Esfahan was the capital of Persia 400 years ago. If you need to get somewhere in a hurry — or if your motorcycle taxi is under some big bus — thank goodness for the subway. Bye bye. Girls: OK, yeah, they find us. Rick: Girl? Rick, Great info, keep up the excellent work. This encounter provided an opportunity for a quick language lesson. In the 20th century, with the discovery of its vast oil reserves, Iran became entwined with the West. Iran has a polite and respectful population even when they disagree with you. A couple more hours to the southwest is Shiraz — a booming city of over a million people. Granted, there are no easy solutions to the problems confronting our two nations. They generally spoke some English. Each rough roadside town we pass gives an insight into work-a-day Iranian rural life. Seyed: Difference is very simple. The figure on the eagle's wing, that symbol of the Zoroastrian faith, is a reminder that the king's power came from Ahuramazda — the Zoroastrian god. Imagine its immense roofs spanned by precious Lebanese cedar carried all the way from the Mediterranean. This medallion symbolized humankind finding enlightenment in the one Zoroastrian god. Iranians visit with a great sense of pride. Rick: Yeah, it's true, it's actually true. Another local treasure is so typical of this land that the words just fit together: Persian carpets. Oil flowed easy and he was a friend of western oil companies. Rick Steves' Europe: Season 5. This travel show host visits splendid monuments of Iran's past, explores the 20th century history of this nation, and encounters Iranian people and customs in everyday life. Rick: That's what people say: If you want to eat well in Iran, make some friends. What year is it? In Rick Steves' Iran you'll discover the splendid monuments of Iran's rich and glorious past, learn more about the 20th-century story of this perplexing nation, and experience Iranian life today in its historic capital and in a countryside village. Same verses, same writing. The script looks Arabic to me, but I learned — like the language — it's Farsi. Esfahan, as a religious center, is an ideal place to try to better understand complexities like these. This is the chicken. And using technology from the days of David and Goliath, a farmer slings a rock to frighten the birds off his barley. To me, these young people felt like the future of Iran. We are anticipating a challenging and extremely productive 10 days here. Join Rick as he explores the most surprising and fascinating land he's ever visited: Iran. In this first of two half-hour shows on Iran, Rick dodges traffic in Tehran Rick: Is this the beginning of the book here? In this episode, Rick Steves explores three historic capitals of Iran: Persepolis, with its splendid monuments; Shiraz, with the tombs of Iran's most beloved poets; and Esfahan, with its extraordinary mosques and endearing people. Woman: Yes. It believes the Western media has given Iran an unfair image. Here, as in other Iranian universities, students enjoy a higher education paid for by the government. Rick: Very nice to meet you. I'd rather leave a little paint on passing buses than a piece of scalp. For me, this is the most magnificent ancient sight between the Holy Land and India. So, it surprised me. Every country, including our own, limits access to foreign film crews. Rick Steves Join Rick as he explores the most surprising and fascinating land he's ever visited: Iran. Sayed: Just consider that many nations have fought each other during the course of history, not all of it has been because of religion. Lions, a symbol of might, represented both the king and the power of the seasons. Thank you… America and Iran, we can be friends. As far as many parents are concerned here, it's family values. Rick: So we are learning very much when we come to Iran. We visit the National Museum of Iran to learn about Iran’s history. Many major streets actually intersect without the help of traffic lights. Woman: Yes, it's a law in Iran. Rick: Hey, look at this! Dating from the 1970s, it's one of the former Shah of Iran's many extravaganzas. For me, this is a journey of discovery. With one day of filming down, I’m in a fancy hotel on the 14th floor, enjoying a view of a vast city at twilight, lights twinkling right up a snow-capped mountain. We start in the capital, Tehran, follow an ancient trade route south to the village of Abyaneh, to Esfahan, to Shiraz, and then finish at Persepolis. Friends and families gather here to share their poetry. Hi, I'm Rick Steves — in what just might be the most surprising and fascinating land I've ever visited. And the flip side of fear is understanding. That first Persian Empire was conquered by Alexander the Great from Greece. Girls: Yeah, it's great. Guide: The same as bon appétit. Rick: I’m from the United States… We found the people in Esfahan were as friendly and willing to talk to us as they were in the countryside. My first impression: wild drivers. see our FAQ. Religious offering boxes are on every street corner. Tehran, the mile-high capital of Iran, has bad traffic and good public transit. Negotiating traffic as you cross the street is a life skill here. I've overcome my fear by getting to know the Iranian people. Rick: And all of you guys together. Girls: Yes. Rick: Do you have friends that you come to see on the river? One of the finest cities in Islam and the cultural heart of Iran, it's famous for its dazzling blue tiled domes and romantic bridges. Still 10,000 guards served at the pleasure of the emperor. Like so much in Iran that prior to 1979 was named for the Shah, now it's named after Khomeini, the great Imam — as leading Muslim teachers are called. So for Americans we are a very religious people but we make the government and the church apart you know? For me, the village highlight was meeting its people. Are we ready? Egypt: Cairo & the Pyramids - Video - Rick Steves' Europe For coronavirus (COVID-19) travel information, see our FAQ . Leaving Tehran was quick and easy with its impressive system of highways. I don't know what the word is in Farsi…but they've got the paseo. I'd always dreamed of visiting Persepolis and it didn't disappoint. So the governments have a difficult time but the people, if we meet the people, it's like this…(links fingers). And today in this predominately Muslim society a small Zoroastrian community still survives and worships freely. Their surviving children married. The days when the shah's men boasted that mini-skirts in Tehran were shorter than those in Paris are clearly long gone. Rick Steves’ Travel Blog I'm sharing my travel experiences, candid opinions and what's on my mind. And in Farsi, the book starts where our books end. But after surviving my first day: I realized they were experts at keeping things moving. Rick: Oh, that takes me back to dinner last night, yeah…. Traditionally, women here wore their personal savings in the form of gold bracelets. Its impressive citadel, with fine brick work, survives from when this was the capital of Persia 200 years ago. [Woman reading poem in Farsi (translation below)], The links of the beloved's hair form a chain of suffering The constitution does allow for other religions as long as they don't offend Islam. At the "Nations' Gate" dignitaries from the 28 nations subjugated by Persia entered "we're not worthy"-style to pay their taxes and humble respect to the emperor. He was the spiritual leader of the rebellion that overthrew the Shah in 1979 and Khomeini ruled the country for the next decade. My vagabuddy and future co-author Gene Openshaw and I were about to embark on our first overland journey from Turkey to Kashmir. ... Iran: Tehran and Sidetrips. All the portraits and all the dates are from the 1980s. Visitors are welcomed into Iranian homes as honored guests. In 1979, Iranian university students successfully stormed the embassy, they took 52 hostages, and held them with the world looking on for 444 days. ["Salaam."] Pedestrians fend for themselves. Rick: Good Sunni, good Shiite die, do they both go to heaven? Woman 3: For example? ["…situation is open."] You get the feeling this could be back in ancient Mesopotamia. Is this good? And all this complexity is the result of a long and tumultuous history. An hour's drive from Shiraz takes us to Persepolis, the dazzling capital of the Persian Empire back when it reached from Greece all the way to India. Rick: Yeah. Browsing in its malls and classy shops, you could be in London or Paris. Well let's put it this way: if you want to get anywhere in Iran's military or government you better be a practicing Shiite Muslim. Struggling to understand the difference, I asked our local guide, Mr. Seyed Rehim Bathaei, to explain. These murals mix religion, patriotism, and a heritage of dealing with foreign intervention. We're here in Iran with the permission of the Iranian government. Later, a second Persian Empire was conquered by Arabs. The scale of Darius and Xerxes' tombs is intended to dwarf the mere mortals viewing them. While it's weathered wave after wave of conquerors, the essence of today's Iranian culture is still rooted in that first Persian Empire from 2,500 years ago. After the war Iran's young shah, or king, Mohammed Reza Shah Palavi became more closely involved with the West. 26min. Woman: I love you, America. This subway system is really as good as anything I've seen in Europe. Girls: On the river? For me, it was a great opportunity to get a lesson in things uniquely Persian from merchants who, perhaps, had never met an American tourist. Imagine, this fortified complex providing a safe refuge for the night — complete with restaurant, good place to park the camel, market, entertainment, and a great place to catch up on the latest news. He enjoyed summers in this one until the late 1970s. By Rick Steves In the spring of 2008, my TV crew and I traveled to Iran to film Rick Steves' Iran, Yesterday and Today — a one-hour travel special which appeared on public television stations across the US in 2009. Then we came across the village of Abyaneh nestled in its valley. Of course, Protestants have fought Catholics and many people were dying, today in Islam Sunni and Shiite are fighting, why is that? Tehran's thriving subway moves over a million people a day. Knowing we're here to explore social and cultural dimensions rather than contentious political issues, the Iranian government is allowing our work. As for myself, strike me by the sword in her full view Iran, twice the size of France, sits in an increasingly important corner of Asia — surrounded by Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Waging what I would imagine was very high powered diplomacy; the shah threw extravagant banquets in this very palace. The fertile river valleys still grow grain as they have for ages. It believes the Western media has given Iran an unfair image. In 1951 the popular Prime Minister Mossadegh nationalized Iran's foreign-owned oil industry. We visit the National Museum of Iran to learn about Iran’s history. Then in about 500 BC, with the great kings Darius and Xerxes, the mighty Persian Empire was established. If you think it's inappropriate for a travel writer to stir up discussion on his blog with political observations and insights gained from traveling abroad, you may not want to read any further. Therefore, rather than the carved statues you'd find decorating a Christian church, a mosque has decorative designs and script. Nomadic carpets such as this one made by the Kashguy tribe have an improvised design so each one is unique. Its university is the oldest, biggest and most prestigious in the land. Should I skip Tehran and go straight to Isfahan and Shiraz? Then I learned that most of its treasures were destroyed or looted by invaders and much of what survived was taken away to the great museums in the West. For coronavirus (COVID-19) travel information, Guide: This is called Iranian kebab. Submit totally to him for the good of Persia. This is where families and friends gather over a pot of tea or box of sweets. But segregation is the rule. And between those bridges, stretching for six miles on either bank is a much-loved city park. About people? Much of Iran is a high plateau. Time and time again we experienced how, in Islam, visitors are considered a "gift of God" and treated as such with generous hospitality — and tonight, that includes a wonderful meal. The reflective roofs help residents weather blistering summers. Rick: I'm from the United States… Locals pick up the basics for everyday living. Woman: Xodâhâfez. Sayed: Nationalism, economic expansion, some help from superpowers. His words still stir the souls of Iranians. I was impressed by how the people we met were curious and eager to talk. This bronze plaque featuring Gilgamesh dates from about 1000 B.C., a time when this region was in the realm of Mesopotamia. In this recurring scene, a lion kills a bull symbolizing spring killing winter and bringing new life. Persian carpets go back twenty five hundred years and have a rich tradition. Ohh… mamnūnam, mamnūnam very much. Woman: Yes of course. His job: keep us safe, manage the complicated permissions, and keep an eye on what we're shooting. Continuing south on the main highway, the arid vastness of this Alaska-sized country is clear. Man: "Xoda" means "God," "hafez" means "keeper.". Each comes with huge carved reliefs displaying their battle prowess. Create custom playlists with more than 400 educational clips featuring the best of European history, art, culture, and experiences (plus topics beyond Europe) . Rick: I'll shake your hand for her…OK? Strolling through its fine rooms visitors are reminded how the shah lived in extreme luxury. His picture — not the president's — is everywhere. Him? Khomeini gave millions of Iranians hope. I'm Rick Steves. Rick: Yeah? While women can dress as they like at home, in public they wear the chador and are expected not to show their hair or showoff the shape of their body. As the sun goes down the people of Esfahan also gather in Imam square as if to savor the beauty of their city at twilight. Rick: Do you say bon appétit? Iran, twice the size of France, sits in an increasingly important corner of Asia — surrounded by Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Two wheels are faster than four. ". Every Iranian school kid knows the date: 1953. This mural honors a martyr — one of hundreds of thousands who died fighting Saddam Hussein back in the 1980s. Those who remain are old and seem to have an abundance of time on their hands. I think Isfahan is absolutely beautiful. It's a Shiite Muslim theocracy… there's no separation of mosque and state. Locals say it's like "going to Chechnya.". Actually, we found that the easiest way to get a smile was to tell people where we're from. Underlining the ancient roots of this society, its design symbolizes a Zoroastrian fire altar and it's decorated with classic Persian motifs. Wow! Rick: I have many friends in America that are curious about Iran, what can you tell them? That's good to hear. Rick: And you must cover your hair. How does that work? Twinkling mirrors lure you into the interior of the palace. That was a territorial thing, and also ambitions of a dictator, Saddam Hussein. The vast complex is a series of royal palaces built on a massive elevated terrace. In this first of two half-hour shows on Iran, Rick dodges traffic in Tehran, enjoys the tranquility of a nearby village, and encounters both anti-American propaganda and a warm welcome from everyday Iranians. They were split after the death of the prophet Muhammad, and it was the beginning of seventh century, and it was over the succession of the prophet Muhammad. Across the farmers field atop a cliff sits the ruins of an ancient city. In 333 BC Persepolis was sacked and burned by Alexander the Great — the Macedonian Greek who turned the tide against the Persian Empire. This austere yet holy mosque was dedicated to the Muslim equivalent of a saint. Shot in Tehran, Shiraz, Esfahan, Persepolis and villages in between, RICK STEVES' IRAN details the country's rich artistic and cultural heritage. In Esfahan, everything seems to radiate from the grand Imam Square — it's one of the largest in the world. This isn't just any ice cream sandwich — saffron, rosewater, and pistachios…a Persian specialty. Woman: Yes, government has a lot of war with each other because they benefit but there's no war between people. They had a modern sensibility and seemed well educated. You don't see sexy magazines. Culture flourished and it was about this time that, with cuneiform, the Persian language was first put into writing. Rick: I would like to take a picture (that's a good-looking hat). the man, not thus bound, remains unaware of this tale. Traffic is notorious here. After 25 years of the Shah's rule, the Islamic Revolution threw him out and brought Ayatollah Khomeini back from exile. Rick: Yeah, it’s true, it’s actually true. But Islam forbids images. Rick visits Tehran and a small village for a look at some of civilization's important historical sites and a sense of Iran's 21st-century culture. I was struck by the elegance and grace of Islamic Persia at its zenith. Its main boulevard is a delight giving the visitor a slice-of-life look at today's commerce. There is almost no public display of affection. I'd rather leave a little paint on passing buses than a piece of scalp. Man 1: Oh, you're from the United States…OK. They always have a geometric design, are made of lamb's wool and use organic colors made from vegetable dyes. If you need to get somewhere in a hurry — or if your motorcycle taxi is under some big bus — thank goodness for the subway. The tomb of sheikh Saadi has a similar impact on people from all levels of Iranian society. I was impressed by how the people we met were curious and eager to talk. Woman: Man. It’s a multicultural city with Persians dominant; the people speak Farsi. That's about when Bernini was redoing St. Peter's basilica and Europe was in its Baroque age. But his materialistic decadence and pro-Western policies offended Iran's conservatives and alienated religious and political groups. It functions like a big shopping mall. Along the entire route, every 30 miles or so — that would be a day's journey by camel — there was a rest stop providing a safe and secure overnight for the caravans. Rick: You think that's — In Tehran, I found simply wandering the shopping streets endlessly entertaining. Here the shah and his troops quell a revolt against his rule by the Uzbekis. They may have a president, but the top religious official, a man called "the supreme leader" has the ultimate authority. And we're working within the limits it sets as we explore this complex society. For me, very difficult. Rick: For example, the people are not angry with America. Man: Salaam. Even in our rushed modern world, Iranians take time to slow down and be meditative. The earliest Persian kings were Zoroastrian. The countless gold shops are a reminder that for locals — especially the women — gold is a solid way to keep your wealth. Rick: But there's so much bloodshed between Sunni's and Shiite's. And the conflict continues. Maybe we're all just struggling to defend the moral fabric of our respective societies. As the personification of the Islamic Revolution, he symbolized deliverance from the economic oppression and Western decadence of the Shah. Note on the script: This episode of Rick Steves' Europe was created with footage from the one-hour television special, "Rick Steves' Iran: Yesterday and Today." Rick: But these differences seem small, but still, many people are dying, and I read in the news Sunni fighting Shiite. Filled with thousands of worshippers, the mosque comes to life. While there are plenty of minorities, the Persian population dominates. This bronze plaque featuring Gilgamesh dates from about 1000 BC, a time when this region was in the realm of Mesopotamia. Rick: So you are a modern young woman? With a teeming population of about ten million, its apartment blocks stretch far into the surrounding mountains. They generally spoke some English. Some Iranians claim the hostage crisis was a way to radicalize the Islamic revolution and put the hard-liners in power. And yet here in the Islamic Republic of Iran, to me, the atmosphere felt surprisingly secular compared to other Muslim countries. I find these caravansaries evocative. Rick: Puff em' out… yoooo! Inside, two young men who work in a Tehran TV station were attracted to our high definition camera. Very difficult. After the shah's excesses and corruption, Khomeini's simplicity and holiness had a strong appeal to the Iranian masses. TV-G | Jan 1, 2008 | 26m. That one? In 1979 the new government brought Iran not freedom, but what they call a "Revolution of Values" – it legislated morality such as no alcohol, and no casual sex. In this one-hour, ground-breaking travel special Steves will go beyond Europe to Iran for a rare, candid, and humanizing look at this powerful and perplexing nation. Rick: Thank you, your heart is kind, too. Rick: OK. And I can shake his hand? The National Museum of Iran helps to give an appreciation of this country's rich heritage. Newsreel: …oil was struck at last and drilling commenced…, During World War II, Iran was a vital oil resource for the Allies. This is an important issue with the people of Iran. Then things changed…, Oil, again poses a threat to peace and the Middle East again becomes a trouble spot as Iran's vast petroleum reserves aroused nationalists…. Girls: We love them… OK, we love the people in America. Other man: Yeah, nooshe jan. We met two families, who each lost a son in the war, sharing a meal. Many of these people could afford to live abroad, but prefer to live as economic elites here in the ritziest corner of Tehran. With its reflecting pool and fine gardens, the palace gives you a sense of Persia's 16th and 17th century golden age. And those who didn't believe in the system, we call them Sunni's. This scene struck me as similar to a church service back home — sermon… responsive reading… lots of prayer… lots of getting up, and getting down. While I hoped to find some non-conformity, the vibe here made BYU seem like Berkeley. Iranians are not Arabs and they don't speak Arabic. In this first of two half-hour shows on Iran, Rick dodges traffic in Tehran, enjoys the tranquility of a nearby village, and encounters both anti-American propaganda and a warm welcome from everyday Iranians. 'S on my mind seems with much of Esfahan for Friday prayers to..., too twenty five hundred years and have a game I like to see on the main seems! 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