According to a report by Faradid, as covered by IFP using barcroft.tv website, after meeting with Iranian people, Belgian photographer Pascal Mannaerts, 38, was enchanted by the warm hospitality of Iranians and had to visit the country and explore its rich cultural heritage.
Starting in the capital of Tehran, Pascal travelled across the vast country, stopping off in Yazd, Fahraj, Shiraz, Isfahan and Kashan.
He said, “Meeting the Iranians was truly amazing. It’s so crazy how the image that has been shown about the country in the worldwide media for years, because of politics and international relations, could have given people a totally wrong idea about the people of the country.
“They are among the sweetest and most welcoming people you could find on this planet, believe me!”
Settlements in Iran date back to as early as 4,000 BC, making it one of the oldest continuous civilisations in the world.
In the contemporary era, Iranians are eager for other countries to see beyond their conflicted past and enjoy the stunning architecture and welcoming culture of modern Iran.
Pascal said, “I really felt that they were so happy to meet foreigners and sincerely eager to know about you, about where you come from, about what you think about them, what you have heard about their country before arriving and what your impressions are once inside the country.”
“It was a true, sincere and enriching experience. I really felt this will of the Iranians to be known by you for what they are and not according to the image some people may have had in the past.”
The fast-growing country was once the centre of the Persian Empire, the first established by Cyrus the Great in 550BC when he conquered Media, Lydia and Babylonia, and it now houses countless ancient relics.
While Pascal travelled, he found all Iranians happy to have their photo taken and recalls meeting one particularly memorable group of students.
Mannaerts said, “I remember I was in an old mosque in Fahraj and suddenly, a group of students came in. There was no one else around except them and me and they ran to me like crazies, asking me questions. It was so funny.”
“Of course, they then started to take pictures and selfies together. Surprises like this just demolished all the clichés you could imagine about Iran.”
Iran is made up of a broad spectrum of people, including Shiite and Sunni Muslims and a small Jewish, Christian and Zoroastrian population.
Mannaerts said, “I think it’s very important for anyone to share his experiences once back home but for Iran, it’s probably even more important.
“There has been a lot of press about the country and its people for years that was not especially flattering or was totally wrong.”
“The people you’ll meet there are among the most welcoming and friendly people you’ll be able to meet when travelling around the globe.”