In the guidebook that I will never write, Iran would have a special chapter. Unlike other countries that might appear in this imaginary work there will be no description of places and monuments, traditional food or mountain hikes, but just one line: “go there and meet the people”. As beautiful as Iranian cities can be, as picturesque the hidden villages, as delicious and refined the food (if you manage to escape the ubiquitous McDonald's wannabes), the real wealth of Persia doesn't lie in the inestimable jewel collection that generations of Shahs have left behind and the oil in the Persian Gulf (not Arabic, mind you), but in the men and women that populate its vast territory. Indeed, Iran proves once again that the image of a country cannot be built upon what television constantly feed us: Iran is not the loose tongue of its president rushing for nuclear domination, it is not the chant of the mullahs in their black robe, it is not a raging mob burning American flags. It is the place where people are truly and genuinely lovely and kind and hospitable and warm hearted and willing to smile and laugh and forget a public life that is so different from their hidden, private, one. It is the country of the people who marched against an oppressing regime to protest the results of rigged elections, who are striving for freedom but do not need unwanted help, who dream of a higher ideal than the pre-cooked recipe of American democracy. Go there and meet the people, you will be surprised at how much kindness and generosity Iran has still to offer, how painfully moving it is to witness how much love it has to give in an environment that teaches exactly the opposite. Go there and meet the people, you will remember the beauty of the land and the majesty of the monuments only as a background of all your encounters, of the child running towards you, of the smile that opens up recognising you as a foreigner, of the bewilderment of strangers getting acquainted with an outsider, of the people that cannot speak a word of English and yet call you “Mister” shuffling you in the right direction. This is Iran and this you will find if you go and meet the locals, the true pearls in an ocean in turmoil.
And before I say goodbye to Iran in the next few days (ah, this endless story with embassies and visas…) let me say au revoir to all the people that have made my roaming in this part of Asia (or is it Europe already?) a better one: Sam, Mahmoud, Amir, Nava, Rosa Luxembourg, Arsalom Bergman, Ali, Fariba, Russof, Pooya, Yosra, Ali, Zovosh, Paolo, Samira, Parisa, Hoda, Samira, Nada, Aida, Pejman, Badir, Ojan, Selem, Sasan, Behrooz, Laghman, Hadi, Hussain, Majid, Omid: thank you all for showing me a great time in your respective towns, you have all been exquisite examples of Persian hospitality and your kindness should be what Iran is famous for all over the world. Thanks for sharing with me your daily lives and your hidden thoughts, you have made my stay among you one to remember and never before in this trip I have met so many people that I can now call friends. I hope that one day I'll see you again in a different Iran or somewhere else, around this small globe. Take care.