Iran was one of the more eagerly anticipated countries for many of us on this rally. We hear so much negative news of Iran yet it has such a rich history with deep connections to its neighbours near and far. It probably wasn’t as well ruled as it should have been in the times of the Shahs and it probably was badly treated by Brits, Europeans and Americans. But the Islamic revolution was over 30 years ago and so the current state of the country is a fair judgement of the dismal regime there. First and most obviously it is clear that wealth does not trickle down very far. It is decidedly 3rd world and shouldn’t be. Iran has no excuse not to have a thriving economy with decent infrastructure and western living standards for its population.
On the positive side, the people are delightfully warm and friendly. The first reaction is always to smile and wave and everyone wants to talk to you. That’s not always ideal when you are driving at 90kph and your would be conversationalist is overtaking you with his passenger window open as he leans across his wife to point his camera out of her window at you and demand that you answer his questions. Inevitably there’s also a motorcylist coming up your inside leg and trying to get a good shot of the Bentley without his sheep’s head in the way and the oncoming traffic is honking wildly as the road is only so wide. And that was really a bit of an issue – the warmth and friendliness soon becomes total madness and horribly dangerous. The driving in Iran was by far the worst of any country we have been through and we all had far too many near misses for comfort. The fatalism of Imshallah does not make a good highway code.
Iran could be a wonderful country, a simple change of politics and religion should be enough to do the trick. The people have a strong cohesive national identity and teir destiny is rightly in their own hands. We wish them well and have no desire to return for the time being.