Travel black book: Iran's many fabled sights

Travel black book: Iran's many fabled sights

Who: Chang Theng Hwee, 50, is managing director of Country Holidays travel agency

Favourite destination: Iran

Why: This is the heart of the ancient as well as mediaeval Persian civilisation, which ranks with the Chinese, Indian and Turkish civilisations as one of the most sophisticated of its time. Iran's historical cities are superbly preserved and its architecture ranks among the most beautiful in the world.

For all this, the country is still infrequently visited, which is perhaps what makes it so charming. And contrary to the negative publicity Iranians sometimes receive, they are some of the most welcoming people I have come across.

Favourite hotel

The Abbasi Hotel ( in Esfahan. It has been converted into a hotel from a mediaeval caravanserai, a roadside inn built to accommodate travellers along trade routes in the Middle East.

Make sure you get a courtyard-facing junior suite on the second floor. Sitting at the arched balcony and looking down on the courtyard's Persian Garden at twilight is a magical moment.

Favourite restaurant

My favourite restaurant is Divan (www.monsoon- in Teheran. It serves Persian cuisine with a modern twist, such as organic grilled chicken with pomegranate and plum sauce and apricot breaded rack of lamb with saffron sauce and potato cake.

I recommend the oven-roasted quail in lemon marinade served with couscous.

The interior design is stylish, decorated with artwork by Iranian artist Fataneh Dadkhah, and it boasts a stunning view of the Alborz Mountains. A meal here costs about US$40 (S$52) a person.

Favourite museum

I have three favourite museums, all in Teheran. I like the National Museum of Iran ( for its excellent collection of historical artefacts and the Reza Abbasi Museum ( for some of Persia's finest art, such as Islamic miniatures, paintings and calligraphy by renowned Persian calligraphers including Mojtaba Malekzadeh and Yadollah Kaboli Khansari.

I also like the Saadabad Palace Museum ( The Saadabad Palace was a royal summer palace from 1794 till the Iranian Revolution in 1979, after which it was turned into a museum.

I like to go there and imagine the scene of the last shah running away when Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution stormed through the capital.

Favourite tourist site

Persepolis is one of the most impressive archaeological sites I have seen. Equal to Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, it pre-dates and is even more stunning than the Acropolis of Athens.

It is from here that Persian Emperors such as Darius The Great (550-486BC) and Xerxes The Great (519-465BC) ruled, which gives the ancient city a sense of history.

It is an extensive city and I was most impressed by the throne room, which shows the kings of various states of the ancient world paying tribute to the Persian emperors.

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