June 13, 2008
For Immediate Release
Contact: Ashley Sytsma
Rick Steves' Travels in Iran
A paradox of warm people and anti-American billboards
Edmonds, WA — European travel teacher Rick Steves is "pushing the envelope" by introducing Americans to a not-so-European travel destination: Iran. Rick has just finished a 10-day filming trip for a new public television program slated to premiere in January 2009. Through his blog (blog.ricksteves.com) Rick provides a behind the scenes look into this travel destination.
According to Rick, Iran will delight and challenge American visitors at the same time. Warm and welcoming people, good food and beautiful architecture are spiced with "Death to America" billboards, hijab-clad women, and solders standing guard at Muslim prayer services. These paradoxes make for truly remarkable travel experiences.
After months of negotiations, Rick received his visa to embark on his Iranian adventure. Upon entering the country, he remarked, "I could tell...that the people of Iran will be the big joy of our visit — everyone's mellow, quick to smile, very courteous." And the warm greetings only continued. "These days, Americans think they're better off keeping a low profile. But here my nationality was a real plus. Absolutely everywhere I went the locals were as confused about and fascinated by me as I was about them."
While all American tourists must travel with a government assigned guide, Rick reported this did not interfere with the most important part of any trip: person-to-person contact. "Our government guide did not stop me from going anywhere or talking to anyone...I was free to roam about on my own without him and have fun connecting with locals."
Rick warns that Americans will encounter a challenging side to Iran. All women, even western tourists, must cover their heads, "Down with the U.S.A." billboards are prevalent in Tehran as are "Death to Israel" banners. Rick describes "a creepiness that comes with big government" where citizens are not free. "It reminds me of my early trips to the USSR, when only those with nothing to lose would risk talking openly to us." However, Rick describes these challenges as "a fascinating and complex paradox" — something to carbonate your travel experience.
In a time of increased tension between Iran and the U.S., Rick believes that travel is a powerful way to break down barriers and create a space for dialogue and understanding. The Islamic Republic of Iran hopes to promote more travel by western visitors. And just last month, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that travel to Iran by American citizens may bridge differences between the two countries. "There are actually a fair number of Iranians that come to the United States to visit," he said. "We ought to increase the flow going the other way, not of Iranians but of Americans, and that may be one way of creating some space perhaps over some period of time."
Rick is now available for a select number of interviews to discuss this new project and his experience inside Iran. To learn more, read Rick's blog, and view a slideshow of his trip visit www.ricksteves.com/Iran. For interview requests, please contact Ashley Sytsma, Publicist, at email@example.com or 425-608-4293.
About Rick Steves
Rick Steves in on a mission: to help make European travel accessible and meaningful for Americans. Since 1973, Rick has spent four months every year exploring Europe. He has researched and written more than thirty travel guidebooks, writes and hosts the public television series Rick Steves' Europe, and also produces and hosts the weekly public radio show Travel with Rick Steves. He is currently the best selling guidebook author in the United States. With the help of his hardworking staff at Europe Through the Back Door, Rick organizes tours of Europe and offers an information packed web site (www.ricksteves.com). Rick, his wife Anne, and their two nearly-grown children, Andy and Jackie, live in Edmonds, Washington.
Please contact Ashley Sytsma, Publicist, for press opportunities or interview requests for Rick Steves.