The cheetah is for me one of the most fascinating animals on the planet. The body shape is unique in the world of cats and no other animal on land can reach such a high speed. The characteristic black lines starting under the eyes down to the corners of the mouth remind a bit of tears.
Unfortunately Asiatic cheetahs really don’t have much to laugh about. Every single day means a new fight for the survival of this severely endangered subspecies.
In 2008 I was travelling with my friend Stevey and he said to me that he would like to visit Iran. Unfortunately the news never tell anything about the beauty of this country. Otherwise there would have been no doubt.
But after some online research I knew that this country is the home to the last Asiatic cheetahs in the world.
This country offers a variety of habitats where you can find also brown bears, hyenas, gazelles, wolves, leopards and many other species. Unfortunately most of them are endangered like the cheetah.
The Asiatic cheetah is critically endangered with less than 70 individuals left.
I wondered if there are people who care about sustaining this species.
And YES there are!
In 2001 a zoologist named Dr. Mohammad Farhadinia founded together with other Iranians the ICS (Iranian Cheetah Society) to dedicate themselves to protecting these animals and other endangered species in Iran.
After some very friendly emails I had a very good feeling about this Society and I decided to visit them in Iran.
We flew from New Delhi in India to Tehran and thought we can find a place to stay when we arrive. But we didn’t even have to look for it. Already at the Airport in Delhi we met Fariba from Tehran who studied in India. She invited us straight away to stay with her family.
A few days later we caught up with Mohammad Farhadinia and some of his colleagues. We got invited for lunch and decided to meet again after a couple of weeks to see other cities in Iran. Back in Tehran Mohammad and his wife Fatimeh took as for a trip to the Caspian Sea and into the mountains. On the way we were allowed to have a look into the work of the ICS.
Office of the Iranian Cheetah Society in Tehran. From the left: Stevey, Morteza, me and Bagher.
Mohammad and his collegue at work.
Everybody smiling during lunch at the office of the ICS.
No cheetah – but a leopard scull showing its impressive teeths.
If you imagine Iran as a backward, dusty desert with threats around every corner with seclusive people I have to tell you about this country and maybe after that you will want to visit it soon!
The people are very friendly, helpful, and have a very good sense of humor. It doesn’t matter if you are exploring a city, eat, play volleyball in the park, go for a trip in the mountains or hitch a ride in a travel bus, it was always made sure that we were happy and had a smile on our faces. I have seen a lot of beautiful countries but I have to say no other country I took into my heart so much.
Farsi (Persian) is the official language of the country. Despite the Arabic writing it has an Indo-Germanic origin and sounds very melodic.
Iran lies between the Caspian Sea in the North and the Persian Gulf in the South. Neighbors are Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.
The country is 1,648,159 km2, approximately 4,5 x larger than Germany. With so much space the countryside is very diversified. The high mountains in the North are perfect for going tracking and skiing. The extinct volcano Damavand is one of the biggest mountains in the world and very popular with trackers and mountaineers. In the center of the country you can find deserts with oases. The south has beautiful beaches and if you are a diver don’t miss out on a diving trip in the Persian Gulf on Queshm Island.
A volleyball game in Tehran