Iraq

As important gateways between Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, this region has a rich history and a tumultuous present. Here you can survey two and a half millennia of history and marvel at the illustrated architecture in the grand capital of the Archaemenid Empire, or recall recent history on the path forged through Afghanistan by the Hippy Trail of the 1970’s. You can wrestle in the name of religion in an Iranian House of Strength, ski with the beautiful people through snowy peaks, ride on top of a rickety Russian ‘motor’ through the gorges of the Khyber Pass, or sit and enjoy a quiet bowl of hot quince soup.

Perhaps not the first place that springs to mind as a holiday destination, Iran is currently more famous for its inclusion in American President George Bush’s so-called ‘axis of evil’. Its government is a political experiment – a combination of modern Islamic state and fledgling democracy – which is being closely watched by the rest of the world. Suffering high tensions between traditionalists and reformists within the country, and even higher tensions with the West, Iran is far from a freak anomaly, but a nation struggling with some of the most pertinent global dilemmas of the 21st century. British, American and Australian governments have all issued travel warnings, but if Iran is your idea of a holiday, there are ways of minimising danger. As Iran has never really developed its tourism industry, visitors are a novelty, and you will be rewarded with warm hospitality – and therefore privileged insights.

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