Stuart Williams is a journalist and writer specialising in the former USSR, Turkey and Iran. He studied modern languages at Oxford University and lived in Iran from 2006-2008 before moving to Moscow. Stuart is currently based in Istanbul.
Tehran's saving grace are its wonderful, well-maintained parks and position at the foot of the Alborz Mountains, whose slopes bring a natural end to the breakneck expansion of the city. These twin virtues are combined in the magnificent Jamshidieh Park just north of the former imperial Niavaran Palace in northern Tehran. The beautifully landscaped park, created under the last shah and well kept to this day, extends up with Alborz foothills with gushing streams and colourful gardens. Take a taxi from Tajrish Square. You can either relax in the park or more ambitiously start climbing the mountain using the trails that lead directly out of the park. Just follow the river. To watch Iranian society at play, come on a Thursday or a Friday (the local weekend) when families seem to have quite literally brought the kitchen sink for picnics complete with samovars, carpets and endless spreads of food. For solitude and meditation come on any other day, when your only company may be a man singing Persian poetry as he walks up the mountain
Every trip to Iran will leave astonishing memories, but for many travellers even after experiencing Isfahan and Shiraz it is Yazd that will leave the strongest impression. And so it was for me. Improbably located in the desert, Yazd has a magnificent old city where getting lost is a pleasure and random encounters rewarding. High above its famous badgir windcatching towers are an effective air conditioning system against the ferocious summer heat that have not changed for thousands of years. Watching the sun set over the city’s mosques holds you spellbound. Adding to the fascination, Yazd is a stronghold of Iran’s Zoroastrian minority. The fascination with the city is shared by Tehranis as well as foreigners, meaning there is also a fine selection of boutique hotels and restaurants..