The U.S.A and Cuba restored full diplomatic relations yesterday after more than 50 years of Cold War-inspired animosity. But don’t book your vacation for the largest collection of unspoiled beaches in the Caribbean yet, as hardliners from both countries plan to continue hindering efforts to normalize relations. Members of Congress have vowed to block any efforts to lift the long-running trade embargo or to name an ambassador, while in Cuba, hardliners are demanding a return of Guantanamo Bay and an end to the embargo.
And just because embassies are now open for business, the ongoing trade embargo means the U.S. still prohibits its citizens from visiting the island as tourists. In fact, Cuba is the only country in the world that America bans its own citizens from visiting.
So, you can scratch Cuba from your exotic vacation list for now, but we’ve got another idea for you:
That’s right, linchpin of the “Axis of Evil,” taker of American hostages, supporter of worldwide terrorism, home of nutcase Ayatollahs, and all around destabilizer of the Middle East.
Call us crazy, but consider how an Iranian writer might suggest America as a vacation spot for his fellow citizens.
That’s right, the “Great Satan;” shooter downer of civilian aircraft (Iran Air Flight 655, blown out of the sky by the U.S. Navy in 1988); invader of Muslim countries; home of nutcase Presidents; all around destabilizer of the Middle East; and land where every man, woman and child has a gun and hates Muslims.
Maybe we are a bit crazy, but we’re just trying to be a bit objective in consideration of our relations with rogue nations and speculate that as much as we think they’re rogue, they in turn think we’re rogue.
And we’re not the only ones thinking about Iran as a vacation destination, as various international news media began reporting this past weekend on an expected resurgence of Iran’s tourism industry as a result of the signing of the nuclear agreement signed in Vienna. According to the United Kingdom’s The Guardian, the Iranian government is already moving forward with easing tourist visa requirements and plans to build 200 new hotels, as existing accommodations are already overtaxed by the expanding number of tourists that have been visiting since the election of moderate President Hassan Rouhani in 2013.
“No other industry in Iran will see a bigger boost than tourism as a result of this deal,” the newspaper quoted a high level Iranian government official. As it should, being that the country is ranked among the top 10 in the world for having favourable tourism characteristics such as history, diversity of climate and variety of beautiful landscapes.
But is it safe, you might wonder? According to the increasing numbers of Westerners who have travelled the country since 2013, not only is the country safe, but the people are exceptionally warm and welcoming.
While most Americans reading this probably envision hordes of wild-eyed Muslim fanatics shouting out “Death to America,” such hardline fanatics are the exception rather than the rule (though, yes, a small horde was filmed doing just that this past weekend, apparently as part of their opposition to the nuclear deal). Just realize that American fanatics of all stripes probably receive comparable airtime as part of Iranian news coverage of our country.
And what about the Islamic State? Well, despite U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s comments yesterday that labeled Iran as a supporter of Islamic State, Iran would very much like to bomb Islamic State back into the stone age. Either the Secretary needs better briefings from his underlings, or he just can’t be bothered to try to distinguish one Muslim group from another, even if both groups might be avowed enemies of each other.
Finally, if you are surprised that Americans are even allowed to go to Iran–whether by our own government or the Iranian government–you might be more surprised to learn that the number of American tourists visiting Iran has been increasing exponentially in recent years.
Among some American tourist comments on Trip Advisor:
“I never felt unsafe.”
“The people are incredibly friendly.”
“We felt absolutely safe–You will find it very different from what you hear back home.”
“It was interesting to us how many people asked to take photos with us…they love Americans.”
Biggest complaints: the requirement that American tourists must be accompanied by an Iranian chaperone, and the mandatory wearing of headscarves for women.