Iran, twice the size of France, sits in an increasingly important corner of Asia — surrounded by Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. 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. Under its colorful dome, lattice windows illuminate intricate mosaic work. This bronze plaque featuring Gilgamesh dates from about 1000 BC, a time when this region was in the realm of Mesopotamia. Rick: And you must cover your hair. The remains of a ruined castle are a reminder of its former importance. In 1979, Iranian university students successfully stormed the embassy, they took 52 hostages, and held them with the world looking on for 444 days. Young educated people are internet savvy and well-informed about the West. Iran's rich history goes back millennia, to the days when Persepolis was home to "the king of kings." We're here in Iran with the permission of the Iranian government. Shot in Tehran, Shiraz, Esfahan, Persepolis and villages in between, RICK STEVES' IRAN details the country's rich artistic and cultural heritage. Streets were lined with cheap, colorful snack bars and inviting ice cream shops. With a teeming population of about ten million, its apartment blocks stretch far into the surrounding mountains. This subway system is really as good as anything I've seen in Europe. Religious freedom? What year is it? Imagine its immense roofs spanned by precious Lebanese cedar carried all the way from the Mediterranean. In fact cosmetic surgery — especially nose jobs — is big business here among the middle class. 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. And using technology from the days of David and Goliath, a farmer slings a rock to frighten the birds off his barley. Heading further south, I was impressed by the stark beauty of the countryside. It’s a multicultural city with Persians dominant; the people speak Farsi. Their art glorified their kings and the notion of peace through strength. 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. Immersed in the commotion of a busy work day — apart from the chador-covered women and lack of Western fast food chains — Tehran seemed much like any city in the developing world. It's a smoggy, mile high metropolis. I love it in the last hour of the day when everybody is out and here in Esfahan it's down to the river bank. ["Salaam."] Yet others are troubling and hateful — this one condemns what's considered American Imperialism with skulls and dropping bombs rather than stars and stripes. He had angered the West by nationalizing Iranian oil. Is there any word like that? Today, the Iranian government recognizes the value and the fragility of its heritage and it's working to preserve it. We've been invited into a fairly wealthy family's home for dinner and a look at the modern domestic scene. Faces seem to tell a story and are quick to smile…especially when they see a film crew from the USA. We're here it seems with much of Esfahan for Friday prayers. In 333 BC Persepolis was sacked and burned by Alexander the Great — the Macedonian Greek who turned the tide against the Persian Empire. Two wheels are faster than four. Smaller text Larger text. Rick: Chemistry? The tomb of sheikh Saadi has a similar impact on people from all levels of Iranian society. The earliest Persian kings were Zoroastrian. Travel with Rick on this video guide to Cairo, Egypt, and find out what to do on your next trip. 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. They use different calendars: Persian/Muslim and Western. Iran. 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. Compliance raged. And we're working within the limits it sets as we explore this complex society. University students give us a look at … And yet here in the Islamic Republic of Iran, to me, the atmosphere felt surprisingly secular compared to other Muslim countries. I never considered the value of knowing if it's a boy or a girl at the door. ", ©2020 Rick Steves' Europe, Inc. | Rick: But these differences seem small, but still, many people are dying, and I read in the news Sunni fighting Shiite. Rick: All the different Christians have one bible, what about Shiite's and Sunni's? I've been wondering to what extent the USA/Iran tensions might be explained by caring people on both sides motivated by love and fear. A place and time when farming and the domestication of animals helped give rise to the first great civilizations. Well it depends: After Mohammad — about 1,390 years ago, after Christ — two thousand and some years ago. 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. 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. Helmet laws are generally ignored. Each comes with huge carved reliefs displaying their battle prowess. Rick: If I want say "hello," what do I say? Culture flourished and it was about this time that, with cuneiform, the Persian language was first put into writing. Immersed in the commotion of a busy work day — apart from the chador-covered women and lack of Western fast food chains — Tehran seemed much like any city in the developing world. This high-end confectionary shop gives a glimpse of the taste and lifestyles of North Tehran citizens. This in turn led to this website with Rick’s comment about his experiences there: The only danger I could imagine during my visit would be something explosive falling … Rick, Great info, keep up the excellent work. Two wheels are faster than four. Shot in Tehran, Shiraz, Esfahan, Persepolis and villages in between, RICK STEVES' IRAN details the country's rich artistic and cultural heritage. It functions like a big shopping mall. At the edge of Esfahan on a windy bluff stand the well-worn remains of the Atashkedeh Fire Temple. Girls: No, no worries. Then in about 500 BC, with the great kings Darius and Xerxes, the mighty Persian Empire was established. Rick: I would like to take a picture (that's a good-looking hat). Woman: Man. Well it depends: After Mohammad — about 1390 years ago, after Christ — two thousand and some years ago. Tehran, the mile-high capital of Iran, has bad traffic and good public transit. For me, the village highlight was meeting its people. With the resulting turmoil, the shah was forced into exile. I didn't expect to find it here in Iran, but boy, they've got it. 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. But Islam forbids images. Thanks for joining us. Sayed: Because it wasn't a religious war. Their art glorified their kings and the notion of peace through strength. This encounter provided an opportunity for a quick language lesson. Religious offering boxes are on every street corner. Ending Persian dominance, Alexander spread his Greek culture all the way to India. For me, this is a journey of discovery. He enjoyed summers in this one until the late 1970s. In the first part of Rick's Iran lecture, we learn what inspired Rick to make "Rick Steves' Iran" and about his experience landing in Tehran. While relatively uncluttered with commercial advertising, there are plenty of billboards and murals and they pack a powerful propaganda message… Some religious murals are uplifting — this one is a Shiite scripture claiming; the most caring help is to give good advice. Like most Americans, I know almost nothing about Iran. They should be friends. 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. Its main boulevard is a delight giving the visitor a slice-of-life look at today's commerce. I'd rather leave a little paint on passing buses than a piece of scalp. We are anticipating a challenging and extremely productive 10 days here. And they've shared memorial meals together here at the tombs of their lost sons ever since. Others say it was a pre-emptive strike to stop the USA from orchestrating a military coup designed to overthrow their theocracy and put the shah back in power. Iran, twice the size of France, sits in an increasingly important corner of Asia — surrounded by Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Rick: Man. Happy travels…and as they say here, "peace be upon us. That's about when Bernini was redoing St. Peter's basilica and Europe was in its Baroque age. I only have one week in Iran. 2009 г. Many of these people could afford to live abroad, but prefer to live as economic elites here in the ritziest corner of Tehran. Waging what I would imagine was very high powered diplomacy; the shah threw extravagant banquets in this very palace. So they installed the pro-Western shah instead. Rick Steves' Iran airs Saturday, June 5 at 5:30 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT21.1/cable1011/cable11), Steves’ journey of discovery will provide a glimpse of a culture few of us understand. Anywhere foreigners went, signs were bilingual: Farsi for locals…and English for everyone else. Many of these bits of its ancient past go back 2000 years — to the age when silk and other treasures from the Orient began arriving in Europe. You know, all over Europe you've got this passegiata / paseo — people are out during the magic hour. Girls: We love them… OK, we love the people in America. These splendid scenes seem to show off the very best of Persian life. The unrest led to crackdowns by the shah's forces that tortured and killed thousands. This isn't just any ice cream sandwich — saffron, rosewater, and pistachios…a Persian specialty. But there are perplexing differences: women worship in a separate section; soldiers stand guard among the worshippers — a reminder of the tensions within today's Islamic world; … and the seemingly innocuous yellow banner in the background proclaims death to Israel. Maybe we're all just struggling to defend the moral fabric of our respective societies. He built it to celebrate the 2500th anniversary of the Persian Empire and all the mighty Persian kings who came before him. We'll go to Friday prayers in a leading mosque, consider the challenges confronting Iran's youth, enjoy the hospitality of a family dinner and survive the crazy Tehran traffic before experiencing the tranquility of rural life and meeting joyful school kids on a field trip. Rick: So, there are more than a billion Muslims on this planet. Rick: For example, the people are not angry with America. Leaving Tehran was quick and easy with its impressive system of highways. For an American, it was eye-opening from the first moment. At the time Persia was so mighty, no fortifications were needed. This mosque's cantor is happy to demonstrate the splendid acoustics of its 17th century dome. It believes the Western media has given Iran an unfair image. This is an important issue with the people of Iran. The fertile river valleys still grow grain as they have for ages. TV-G | Jan 1, 2008 | 26m. Wish we were there with you. Woman: Mart??? Browsing in its malls and classy shops, you could be in London or Paris. Girls: Thanks. They gave us our visas provided we respect its limits as enforced by our guide. Actually, we found that the easiest way to get a smile was to tell people where we're from. Oil flowed easy and he was a friend of western oil companies. City-woven carpets can be made of wool and/or silk. Rick: Yeah. And the conflict continues. Is this good? I'd rather leave a little paint on passing buses than a piece of scalp. Rick: Nooshe jan, nooshe jan. Rick: Is this the beginning of the book here? The days when the shah's men boasted that mini-skirts in Tehran were shorter than those in Paris are clearly long gone. The collection starts in prehistoric times, back when nomadic hunters were becoming farmers. Woman: No, because here it's a religious society. Woman: Yes, of course. Khomeini gave millions of Iranians hope. They had a modern sensibility and seemed well educated. This creates a visual chant of Koranic verses praising Allah — or God. Rick: I'm from the United States… Terms of Service | Privacy, "Rick Steves' Iran: Yesterday and Today. Supplicants gracefully climb the same steps we do, bringing offerings to the king. Each little visit left me with indelible and often tasty memories. Next to the columned palace is the throne hall marked by its distinctive collection of mighty doorways. Rick Steves' Europe: Season 5. But surely getting to know this culture is a step in the right direction. Rick: I'll shake your hand for her…OK? This medallion symbolized humankind finding enlightenment in the one Zoroastrian god. Rick: What do you study? He was the spiritual leader of the rebellion that overthrew the Shah in 1979 and Khomeini ruled the country for the next decade. Esfahan's sprawling covered Bazaar still serves the community — as it has for 1300 years. Rick: Oh, that takes me back to dinner last night, yeah…. Of course, Protestants have fought Catholics and many people were dying, today in Islam Sunni and Shiite are fighting, why is that? Tehran is a vibrant metropolis — Iran's social, artistic and educational center. How does that work? The Chehel Sotun Palace is a vivid reminder that Esfahan was the capital of Persia 400 years ago. On our way out of town we visit a symbol of this vibrant city, its Freedom Monument. keywords 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. But his materialistic decadence and pro-Western policies offended Iran's conservatives and alienated religious and political groups. Lions, a symbol of might, represented both the king and the power of the seasons. Rick: Xodâhâfez. Rick: Ohhh, thank you… oh you guys! They are Persians and they speak Farsi. While I hoped to find some non-conformity, the vibe here made BYU seem like Berkeley. It's different…but it seems to work. The local ethnicity reflects the turmoil of this country's long history. Rick: Now I cannot shake your hand? Woman: Yes. I was impressed by how the people we met were curious and eager to talk. 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. a sidelong glance from those eyes will full ransom make. Iran is a land with thousands of years of history, little known to the average american. I'm glad we're here in May. Sayed: They both go to heaven. ["…situation is open."] With tender dancers, flowing hair, and dashing moustaches, the sumptuous richness of this culture comes across in these fine paintings. All the portraits and all the dates are from the 1980s. Its university is the oldest, biggest and most prestigious in the land. 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. Man 2: America? And the main industry seems to be selling dried fruits. No, we just come here with our families. But according to an Islamic perspective, modesty is considered respectful. Continuing south on the main highway, the arid vastness of this Alaska-sized country is clear. Iranian women live under strict Muslim laws in public. Rick: So I can go like…Salaam? They generally spoke some English. It's traditional in Iran to picnic at the gravesites of lost loved ones. The work is funded by small donations mostly from the poor as they were the people Khomeini inspired the most. Essentially: the king is empowered by god. Rick: Very nice to meet you. Their surviving children married. For coronavirus (COVID-19) travel information, The script looks Arabic to me, but I learned — like the language — it's Farsi. This subway system is really as good as anything I've seen in Europe. Hafez who lived in the early fourteenth century is entombed beneath this ornate canopy in this peaceful garden. In classrooms, it's men on one side and women on the other. TV-G. Subtitles. Tolerance?…to a degree. By Rick Steves It was 1978, just before the rise of Khomenei, the war in Afghanistan, and the publication of the first edition of Europe Through the Back Door. It's considered a hedge against currency devaluation and inflation… and, it's dazzling to wear. This is not a democracy. Of Iran's 70 million people, well over half are under the age of 30. Any interaction between men and women seemed very discrete. That's why Sunni Muslims, Christians and Jews are tolerated but Bahai's (whose prophet, Baha u llah, came in the 19th century) are not. Rick: All of you are chemistry! Still, even with the constraints of dress and behavior, I sensed a confidence and youthful vitality. Wow! That Revolution and the Ayatollah established the Islamic Republic which rules to this day. Seeing the shafts of light swirling with ancient dust, it's easy to imagine the smell of cook fires so many centuries ago and the cacophony of sounds as travelers took shelter within these walls. Rick Steves' Europe. Iran: Tehran and Sidetrips. Man 2: America? Traveling here, it felt like a paradox — it's contradictions difficult to understand. His words still stir the souls of Iranians. But after surviving my first day: I realized they were experts at keeping things moving. The countless gold shops are a reminder that for locals — especially the women — gold is a solid way to keep your wealth. Across the farmers field atop a cliff sits the ruins of an ancient city. Rick: Thank you, that’s nice to hear. You'll find people with Greek, Arab, Turk, Mongol, Kurdish and Azerbaijani heritage. Culture Built by Darius and his son Xerxes the Great around 500 BC, this was the awe-inspiring home of the 'king of kings' for nearly 200 years. Everyone singing: Happy Birthday to you… Rick: Hey, look at this! The Shah who had fled to Rome comes home backed by General Zahedi military strong-man who engineered his return to power. Nomadic carpets such as this one made by the Kashguy tribe have an improvised design so each one is unique. Friends and families gather here to share their poetry. They first met here twenty years ago and became friends. Woman: I love you, America. This one, made in the Ayatollah Khomeini's city of Khomayn, took one master weaver 14 months to complete. Tehran, the mile-high capital of Iran, has bad traffic and good public transit. Girls: You too, same here. Zoroastrianism, which predates Islam by over a thousand years, is a reminder that Iranian or Persian culture goes back long before the 7th century advent of Islam. The smaller mosque was built for the women of the shah's harem. But to the poor and the less educated the charismatic Khomeini was like a messiah. But in Iran unfortunately the religious and the politics is mixed with each other. Man 1: Oh, you're from the United States…OK. And those who didn't believe in the system, we call them Sunni's. (photo: Rick Steves) December 2008 Last summer, I flew from Istanbul's Ataturk Airport to Tehran's Khomeini Airport to film a public-television show on Iran. That one? 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. Perhaps the two greatest were Hafez and Saadi, who lived here centuries ago. 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. The local ethnicity reflects the turmoil of this country's long history. 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. , poets, and keep an eye on what we 're dropping into this book store and surveying its,... 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