Get To Know Iran Guide Sima Jahandideh

Having earned a Masters majoring in tourism management last year, Sima Jahandideh has a year of experience guiding people around Iran and the town where she lives, Isfahan, which has been called ‘half the world’.  As an official cultural tour guide she can show you the best places to visit in Iran and also recommend what dishes to taste. As a fluent English and Persian speaker who is also learning Italian, she can tell you all of this in three different languages!
How did you get into guiding in Iran? How did you make the transition to becoming a tour guide?

Besides studying tourism management in University, I passed a six-month course in tourism at a special institute just for tour guiding. We learned all aspects of guiding, for example, geography, history, handicraft, language and how we should behave on a tour. This course included an exam and an interview about both our knowledge and our background. Finally, they gave us an official tour guide card. So now I am an official cultural tour guide. Besides this, I passed a four-month course for ecotourism guiding so I have an international official tour guide card for ecotourism.

What kind of ecotourism do you highlight in Isfahan, or in Iran as a whole?

You know, Iran is known as a four-season country, so we have different kinds of ecotourism: jungles, mountain climbing, bird watching, beautiful waterfalls, seas, and rivers perfect for rafting.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I am from Busher, a city next to the Persian Gulf. I moved to Isfahan to study, but after graduation, I decided to stay here for work, so I live in an apartment with two roommates. I like to use my time well, so I get up early and do some aerobics, then have breakfast. When I have a tour, my whole day is spent with it, and I am back home late. But routinely, I study Italian because I am an Italian tour guide too. I read history. Some days I cook lunch. When I am home, I like to chat with my friends from all over the world. I graduated in English translating with a BA, and I have a part-time job as an English teacher, two days a week.

Have you got a certain style of guiding, or do you just run with it on the day? 

The most important thing for me is being on time for my tours. And the second, because I have no background about my clients, I wait to see them and then decide how to behave with them. But I am always smiling and kind. For explaining the information about sightseeing, I always try not to overload them with information. I will explain the most important thing and then wait for any questions they ask.

How many languages do you speak? Do you get many chances to practice your Italian? What is a good phrase in Persian for first-time travellers to Iran to learn?

I can speak English fluently. I speak Italian, but it needs more work, so every day I practice and every night I talk with my best Italian friend via Skype. For more practice, I am going to travel to Italy and spend some weeks there.

A good phrase is ‘Iran is amazing ‘( ایران†زیباست†) (Iran zibast).

What is the best part of your job?

I love all parts of my job. But the amazing thing for me is the satisfied smiles of my clients.

What does the proverb ‘Isfahan is half of the world’ mean? Do you agree with it?

Sure, I agree with that. Isfahan is a green city in the middle of desert with lots of beautiful trees and an amazing river inside. It has lots of masterpieces in buildings, bridges and art. There are more than six thousand historical places in Isfahan. People have found some evidence that shows the city has seen thousands of years of civilisation. You can find all religions living together without any problems, as well as mountains, rivers, deserts, caves and more, all in one area. Besides these things, there are many kinds of handicraft in this city, all dating back to thousands of years ago, and Isfahan was also nominated as the first city of handicraft in the world.

What is your favourite thing/place to see or do in Isfahan and why?

That’s a hard question. For me, all things are beautiful and attractive. But if I have to choose, there are two places. First, Naghsh-e Jahan Square, it is amazingly beautiful and peaceful, even when it is crowded. The second,  Jame mosque (Atigh mosque), it is not just a mosque, it is a museum covering more than 11 centuries, and it is wonderful.

What one thing must first-time travellers to Isfahan see, and why? What one meal or dish should they try, and why?

It is obvious, Naghsh-e Jahan Square is the first, they will never tire of that, even if they spend more than five hours there. Beryan, Khoresht mast, dogh-goshfil (sweet) are favourite foods in Isfahan.

Every job has its ups and downs. Are there any aspects of your job that you don’t like or aren’t that keen on?

I love my job, even in its stressful times. I am never tired when I am on a tour.

As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain to our readers what the benefits of hiring a guide are?

When you hire a tour guide, the first and most important aspect is saving your time, because the tour guide knows how to manage your time so that you see all the main sights and enjoy yourself. The guide is a knowledgeable person who gives you all the information and stories about the sights. They are one person of whom you can ask any questions about culture, people and the very thing you’re looking at because your guide is a professional local person. The tour guide can take you to some special places that are not mentioned in any guide books. Even when you want to buy something, the guide can help you to buy the best quality goods at a reasonable price.

In your view, what makes a good tour guide?

A good tour guide should be a flexible person because in every tour there are different people, and the guide should know how to behave with them. The guide should be a knowledgeable person about history, speak fluently in his or her professional language, be an easy going and a kind person, know all the sights perfectly, and be on time.

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