Iran on New York Times List of Top Destinations

Undeniable Appeal of the ‘Middle East Jewel’

Farzad Hosseinpour Jan 23, 2019 4 min read

It was early in January when the New York Times published its famous list of top tourist destinations in 2019. The list is a source of inspiration for travelers who want to quench their thirst of exploring new places. And it came with no surprise that Iran was among the American daily’s 52 picks.

Nasir-ol-molk Mosque
Nasir-ol-molk Mosque in Shiraz

Iran has always impressed travelers. The country’s ancient history, spectacular scenery and rich cultural heritage have given it an indisputable appeal. Attractions abound in Iran which the New York Times article calls a “Middle East Jewel”. But the writer makes some specific suggestions: ‘monumental ruins of ancient Persia’, spectacular mosques of Shiraz and Isfahan and the traditional Grand Bazaar in Tehran.

According to the Times, Iran’s appeal in 2019 is not only about its world-famous attractions. In fact, Iran has is a special treat for travelers this year: A major art exhibition in the capital Tehran.

“Forgotten” Picassos to go on display at Tehran museum

Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art will definitely be in the spotlight in 2019. The museum possesses one of the world’s most exclusive collections of postwar Western artworks. Many of these works have not been put on show over the past decades. But the public will get a rare chance this year to take a close look at the unique artworks.

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art
Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

A selection of about 500 works, including pieces by big names such as Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko and Marcel Duchamp will go on display. The real showpiece, though, is a collection of some 40 Picassos recently discovered in the museum’s basement vault.

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art
Unique collection of Western artworks to go on display in Tehran

The exhibition, titled “Portrait, Still-life, Landscape”, was originally scheduled to run from February 21 to April 20 but the opening has been postponed due to delays in the renovation work at the museum. Art lovers cannot simply miss out on the chance to see the collection of rarely-exhibited art pieces in Tehran.

Iran alluring travelers despite tensions with U.S., media bias

Iran’s tourism industry has experienced a boom period since the landmark 2015 nuclear deal. Numbers of foreigners visiting Iran increased significantly while the country partially retained its position as one of the hottest destinations in the Middle East. However, new challenges emerged when U.S. President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the deal. The Trump administration has since been trying to isolate Iran and cripple its economy through sanctions. The U.S. State Department discourages travel to Iran by American citizens. But Americans still travel to Iran as part of organized tours.

There is also negative media coverage painting Iran as a dangerous country to travel to. But despite such claims Iran has always been among the safest destinations in the world. According to the Travel Risk Map 2019, Iran is as safe as the U.S., Canada and the UK when it comes to security.

Tensions and the media campaign have failed to undermine Iran’s appeal for travelers who want to know the real Iran. This year the New York Times is sending Sebastian Modak to all 52 destinations on its list. Interestingly, Sebastian has picked Iran as the destination he is most excited about:

More than any other place on the list, or even in the world, Iran is somewhere that I’ve only ever been able to look at from afar, through the lens of scary newspaper headlines. I’ve found that there’s often a huge gap between the everyday lived experience of people on the ground and the country as we understand it through geopolitics. I’m ready for any preconceptions I have to be totally shattered, and I’m excited to share my experience with New York Times readers.

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