I've done a lot of travel in the middle east and it's one of my favourite parts of the world and that's because of the friendliness of the people. So when my family and friends heard that I was travelling through Iran they were worried but I wasn't. I knew I'd be fine. I just didn't know that I'd be looked after quite so well!
My crossing point into Iran was a mountain top border crossing from Ashgabat in Turkmenistan. There was plenty of freight traffic passing through, but there were only two other foot passengers, and they were both locals. I wondered if I was going to get out of Turkmenistan as the immigration officials were obsessed with the Madrid stamp in my passport - They kept asking if I'd been to Madrid, and I kept saying yes. After what seemed ages I got through the big iron gates and into Iran!
Iranian immigration have a batch approach to processing passports - the collect 20 or so passports in one go, take them away to get stamped, and then just shout out the names and you come and collect them. An interesting way of doing it, and it works.
It was here that I got my first taste of Iranian hospitality. I asked one of the other people passing through the border with me where he was heading. That led to the following sequence of events with him:
I tried to give him some cash for this, but he was having non of it.
This level of kindness was repeated a number of times on my journey. I cannot understand how the outside worlds perception of Iran as a country can be so diametrically opposed to the actuality of the people.
I spent my time in Iran in Yazd, Shiraz, Isfahan and Tehran. I guess the highlight was Persepolis an ancient city with some amazing carving and statues. But in real plus was the people, you'll never be lonely in Iran as one (if not more) of the locals will always want to talk to you, and know all there is about you.
If you were thinking about visiting Iran and worried about the type of reception you'd get, then I'd say stop worrying and get down to the embassy to get the visa. Chances are you'll be safer and treated with more respect as a traveller than most western countries. Oh, and there's some great things to see. Oh, and they have a good rail network with excellent sleepers. Oh, and it's still pretty cheap (but prices are rising).