Magazine article New Internationalist

Iran

Magazine article New Internationalist

Iran

Article excerpt

The Western world's image of Iran primarily as a threat and a progenitor of terrorist outrages has recently been reinforced by the third series of Homeland - a TV drama that is undeniably compelling but which sees the world from the vantage-point of the CIA. Small sense there of the diversity of this country - from the ski slopes in the north to the sandy beaches of the Persian Gulf - or of the appetite for peaceful coexistence among its people.

On any public holiday the Chaloos Road in Tehran leading to the resorts on the Caspian Sea is always at a standstill, packed with cars full of people in search of fun. Families, rich or poor, are always seemingly equipped for an outing. Iranians could win Olympic medals in picnicking. Public parks are filled with people eating al fresco and it's even not unusual to see carefree travellers picnicking in a bit of green at the centre of a busy roundabout.

At the other end of the country, Kish Island in the Persian Gulf has it all: sandy beaches, coral-edged clear lagoons, ancient structures that include an underground city, dutyfree shopping malls and plush hotels. Prior to 1979, this was the exclusive playground of the rich, with a casino to boot. Gambling is now banned in the Islamic Republic, but the Dariush hotel, complete with columns inspired by the ancient Persian ruins of Persepolis, remains pure Vegas.

In any event, sanctions mean that international tourism to Iran remains untapped. Those sanctions derive from Iran's status as one of the West's main bugbears. Before 1979, Iran was seen as something of a strategic plaything of the Great Powers. In 1906, the strategic rivalry of the 'Great Game' between Russia and Britain saw them dismantle the constitutional government and thwart early Iranian aspirations for democracy. By 1953 Cold War agendas saw the US and Britain unite to overthrow the democratically elected government of Muhammad Mossadegh. …

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