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Mention to relatives and friends that you are going to Iran, and the chances are that they will stare, pause, swallow and hesitantly if not incredulously ask 'Iran? Are you sure?' You may well feel they have a point after your first contact with Iranian Consulate staff as it seems that officialdom is conspiring against you visiting Iran and learning first-hand something about the country, its history and its culture, past and present. Iran is one of those countries, like others in the Middle East and elsewhere, where issues concerning religion and the modern world confront you at all turns and compel you to consider your own stance. It is impossible to return from even a short visit and not feel that, while seeing magnificent historic architecture and evidence of ancient civilisations, you have also been witnessing history in the making.