“Tourist guide training in Iran in February. Report by Steve McAuley
In February this year, I was lucky enough to visit Iran to take part in a tourist guide training program. This was arranged by the Iranian Federation of Tourist Guide Associations in conjunction with WFTGA (World Federation of Tourist Guide Associations) to prepare guides for the next WFTGA meeting which takes place in Tehran next year. Thirty-six guides, with experience ranging from two to 22 years, took part in the seven-day Hands-on Training (HoT) class. Apart from myself, there were two other WFTGA trainers, one from Greece and the other from Singapore. The course concentrated on guiding skills, and the students had three exams – one written and two practical, a walking tour and a coach tour.
When approached to do the training I was quite apprehensive. Just about everything I knew about Iran, which apart from its ancient history wasn’t much, I had got from the media, and most of it was negative.
The reality was very different. The people were warm and friendly. There were women in the courses and women were also the heads of some of the tourist guide associations. The architecture was amazing. The course took place in Isfahan with its UNESCO central square surrounded by mosques, a palace and a bazaar. I visited this square and the famous bridges nearby about ten times over the period of a week and so got to appreciate it even more. Isfahan also has a large Armenian Christian community, and the Vank Cathedral, mosque- like in appearance but with a cross on the dome, had its inner walls covered in colourful frescos and murals. We also were able to visit a few of the nearby desert towns, seeing ancient underground mills, handicraft makers in the old cave systems, castles, and houses with wind catchers which are really ancient air-conditioners.
In January next year, Iran is hosting the 17th WFTGA Convention. It will be in Tehran but there are pre- and post -conference tours. The post conference tour will go to Persepolis, Shiraz and the ancient city of Yazd. I am certainly planning on going. If you are able to attend, expect to see things you have only imagined before. Also expect to have many of your pre-conceptions and misconceptions broken down.
IATG members are also members of WFTGA and so eligible to attend this conference. If you would like more information, please check the WFTGA website or contact me.
P.S. And as an aside, all 12 students in the class did really well.