The version of Iran that Americans see in the media can certainly seem like a
frightening, hostile place: stern mullahs, clandestine nuclear
programs, angry (if often staged) anti-American protests. Yet Iran
seen first-hand is very different, and much friendlier. Approximately
half of Iranians are willing to tell pollsters they hold a favorable
view of Americans, but when visiting the country it seems like many
more share that view. The many Iranians I've met have been eager to
tell me how much they like Americans and the U.S., the many
commonalities they see between the two countries, and of course their
desire to visit--and remain permanently if at all possible. I hope
this other side of Iran comes through in these photos I've taken on my
visits to the country. These are not nearly as disturbing or
frightening as the Iran-related images you're likely accustomed to, but they show the "real" Iran that outsiders rarely see.
Iranian-Americans, left, chat with some Iranian women outside the Imam Mosque in Imam Square, Esfahan.
A book seller displays his wares in Hamedan, on the street outside the tomb of Avicenna, not far from the synagogue and grave of Esther and Mordecai, a Jewish pilgrimage site. Iran is home to as many as 25,000 Jews.
Bazaar shoppers buy fabrics in the main bazaar in Shiraz, a city in southern Iran.
Men laugh over the poultry at a bird market in Esfahan.
A boy walks with two mullahs in the courtyard of the Madraseh-ye Chahar Barg (religious school), built in the 18th century, of Esfahan.
Children play in a fountain in Esfahan's Imam Squareon a summer evening.
A vendor grills corn at the Ganjnameh historic site, known for its cuneiform rock carvings, and near a nature area. It's a popular destination for residents of nearby Hamedan on summer evenings.
Tourists stroll past the vendors at Ganjnameh.
Women walk past the waterfall at Ganjnameh historic site.
A couple walks through a public garden in Bagh-e Eram, Shiraz
People relax at the courtyard of the Tomb of Hafez, the grounds of the tomb of the Persian poet. This Shiraz spot is also known a clandestine rendezvous/pick-up point for young Iranians.
Iranians mill outside the Tomb of Hafez, Shiraz.
On a hot summer day just outside of Kashan, a girl walks through gardens meant to represent the classic Persian view of paradise, designed for Shah Abbas I.
A man relaxes at the Fin gardens on a hot summer day.
A woman kneels to better see the flowers at Fin gardens.
A smiling boy plays in Fin gardens.
A woman and group of schoolgirls smile for the camera at Esfahan's Imam Square.
A young woman speaks on her phone at Bisotun, near Kermanshah, the site of ancient rock carvings from the sixth century B.C., and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Shoppers at a market in Esfahan.
An old man stands at Bisotun.
A woman dressed in pink looks over Imam Square on a summer evening.
A man works on his pottery in Bijar, a town of many such workshops, near Hamedan.
A rally poster for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hangs above a building.
Two young girls try out rollerblades in Esfahan's Imam Square.