You Are American? Ohh, That’s Great. Welcome!!

Where to begin? With the most important thing about Iran. It is this daily encounter, repeated endlessly. You meet someone’s eyes. They look at you, at your nametag. “You are American?”
Yes you say. “Great, great, welcome, welcome to Iran!” This steadfast enthusiasm for American people is what makes this country so wonderful, and this has made our trip so far a pleasure.

Yes, said one guy in the bus, the outside of the former US embassy is emblazoned with signs saying “Death To America” and there are other hateful signs you read in Tehran. But whoever wrote them didn’t represent these people, who smile so warmly and embrace you with welcome. I was trying to figure out what my plan was since my trip goes a few days longer than the formal itin. No worries, of course, I have a legion of concerned Iranians, working hard to find me a tour, to find me a hotel, to take care of me in every way. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in all of these years of overseas travel. A sparkling fun exhuberance to meet me.

I am rushing to write this in Shiraz, where we just left the tomb of Hafez, Iran’s legendary and greatest poet. It is hushed there, despite the traffic, and pools line the grounds and the tomb is beneath a gorgeous blue tiled dome. A guide recited a poem of his, a lyrical symphony of images formed by the right words. He raised his hand in the air, and even that small snippet, about how the earth, the mountains and the oceans don’t want to be responsible for man, so the poet says he will, is strikingly beautiful.

Earlier we saw Persepolis, among the greatest ancient treasures in existance, spread out over a vast open spot, and saw incredibly detailed carvings that depicted the dozens of different lands that were brought to the nation by Darius the Great. It’s so much more than I can describe, but to anyone who said I should be afraid, or anyone who ever thought they wouldn’t want to come here, God you are missing a lot!