November 1st, 2014
12:01 AM ET

Bourdain: Iran different from what I could have imagined

Fareed speaks with author and chef Anthony Bourdain about his visit to Iran. Watch the full interview on GPS this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN, or watch Bourdain in Iran on Parts Unknown at 9 p.m. ET.

So you did the thing most American negotiators haven't yet done, which is actually go to Iran.

Yes, and an incredible experience. What we saw inside Iran was extraordinary, heartbreaking, confusing, inspiring and very, very different than the Iran I expected from looking at it from afar, from a geopolitical sense or what we read on the news – what we know from that long and very contentious relationship we've had as nations.

What do you think was the most surprising thing to you?

To walk down the street as an American and have total strangers constantly saying, where are you from? America, have you tried our food? Thank you for coming. Just outgoing, friendly, welcoming to strangers, to a degree that we really experience very, very few places – and I'm talking Western Europe and allied nations.

We'd been told to expect that. But you get thrown by it when you face it everywhere. Our producer – it was his birthday and we all went out with our local crew to a very crowded restaurant. Traditional Persian music and Iranian families eating. And someone found out that my producer, it was his birthday. The entire restaurant sang "Happy Birthday" to him and presented him with a cake. It was a very different Iran than I had been led to expect or could have imagined.

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Topics: GPS Show • Iran

soundoff (193 Responses)
  1. Ferhat Balkan

    The people of Iran are good people. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for their government which is oppressive, backward thinking and arrogant. It's a very unfortunate situation... The people of Iran are very creative, rich in culture and very smart. I hope one day they break free from the oppressive regime they're forced to live under.

    November 1, 2014 at 5:20 pm | Reply
    • Chappel H

      The government is reflective of the people.

      November 1, 2014 at 7:43 pm | Reply
      • Shoogalumps

        So the government is very creative rich in culture and very smart? What have you been smoking?

        November 1, 2014 at 8:30 pm |
      • Bobatr

        What reflects you, Bush or Obama? You got democracy, they don't have a real democracy that's the difference!

        November 2, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
      • Hassan mostafavi

        THE WHOLE POINT OF THE INTERVIEW IS THAT THE PEOPLE OF IRAN ARE NOT HOW THE WESTERN MEDIA REFLECTED THEM TO BE . YOU STILL INSIST THAT THEY ARE JUST AS BAD AS PICTURED BY YOUR MEDIA ?
        Why DON'T YOU TRY TO GET FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE?

        November 3, 2014 at 4:48 am |
      • KKpo

        To many nations, US government is considered evil. Can you say the same thing about its people. I bet you never lived in a dictatorship. I don't wish you one but people dont talk about something you have no idea about.

        November 3, 2014 at 11:04 am |
      • Tari

        So Bush and Obama reflect your poor ideas?

        November 3, 2014 at 5:30 pm |
      • Neda Rezvani

        Chappel H, your statement is ignorant considering not even in the United States, where the type of government said to be practiced is a free and open Democracy for the people, does it actually operate that way and is a reflection of that. It is instead a reflection of the POWER multi-billion dollar corporations hold over the heads of politicians. How is that a reflection of the people? Now, with that said – I'd like you to reconsider the statement you made when we are talking about Iran, a country that ISN'T a Democracy, but a THEOCRACY. With far less rights and civil protections. People are being kidnapped, beat, incarcerated and murdered for speaking their mind. Saying the Government is a reflection of the people is an ideal philosophy, but thats all it is when theres money and power to be gained by those who seek control.

        November 11, 2014 at 4:11 pm |
      • Dusty

        Amazing comments one can make when they do not know what they are saying is so wrong? I am an American age 72. Recently I was in Texas and flying back from Dallas I sat by a husband and wife who are Iranian. The husband has been here since the 70 owns a business we got into a discussion about the people of Iran and he and his wife both said the people have no control over what the present Govt is doing and want to be like us to live like us ? The wife goes back to visit and she said all talk about hoping someday we all can be at peace? Then we see the Mullahs who control with the military try to make it look like they hate us yell death to us to try to show they have the control ? We must find a way to have peace for their young people to get out from this terrible type of Govt? Must free Jason and others soon if they want to show they are really trying for some kind of peace? How do these Iranians fight to stop this control with what? They need to have money to have jobs for their people and not to worry about bombs and arming others to kill for power? Tired all of us now all our Govt and the wars and killings enough? Bourdain showed another Iran?

        July 24, 2015 at 11:04 pm |
    • Londa

      Anthony, thank you so much for pronouncing the name of the country correctly! So respectful. Lived there for a number of years and loved the country and the people. So glad to hear they are still warm and friendly.

      November 2, 2014 at 3:10 am | Reply
    • Philip

      In a democracy, you simply cannot have crooked leadership without there being crooked peoples to vote for them time and again.

      November 2, 2014 at 11:49 am | Reply
      • Hassan mostafavi

        ARE THE GOVERNMENTS OF USA ,THAT ARE FIRST SELECTED BY THE FINANCIAL BACKERS AND THEN ALLOWED TO BE ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE , REALLY REPRESENT ORDINARY AMERICAN PEOPLE ? DO THE ORDINARY PEOPLE OF THE US APPROVE DROPPING A-BOMB ON HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI ,YELLOW CHEMICALS ON VIENAM, IRAQ &AFGHANISTAN WAR ..,. ? ORDINARY PEOPLE OF THE US ARE KIND,REASONABLE,HONOST,HARDWORKING AND FRIENDLY YOU ARE INDOCTRINATED BY YOUR POLITICAL CONVICTIONS AND NOT A FREE THINKER. YOU ARE NOT THE,BUT ,VERY GULLIBLE,WHICH IS MISUSED BY POLITICALLY MOTIVATED MEDIA. YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE BUT CERTAINLY A MINORITY.

        November 3, 2014 at 5:10 am |
  2. Mike

    The question is why the coalition does not address the fundamental roots of the war, tackling the disease itself rather than the symptoms.Why Assad have been ignored by John Kerry and USA is just air striking the Sunni groups and support of armed Shia terrorist groups in the region like Iraq, Syria and Yemen?!
    Is it because of fake negociate with the Shia corrupted Iran regime about the Nuclear bomb?!
    They can not make any real agreement with the Iran terrorist supporter regime, because they wanted to lift the sanctions and also continue to make the bomb!

    A strategic shift to target the Syrian government's military infrastructure is unlikely as many regional and international state actors have a stake in Syria.

    November 1, 2014 at 10:11 pm | Reply
    • Silas

      Are you Serious MIKE?
      1.Assad is exactly fighting with the same terrorists groups that USA is fighting now? you want me to name them? ISIS and Jebhatol Nusra branch of Al Qaeda
      2.Whatever Assad is better than dictatorship in Saudi and Qatar whose countries funding extrimists.
      3.You want to cut the root? cut the Wahabi schools in Pakistan and Saudi and Qatar.
      4.USA should cut the root by changing the government of Qatar and Saudi kingdom first and foremost
      5.Really Are yo asking why USA targeting sunnis?!!!! I think you forgot that Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi is Sunni and Al Qaeda is sunni too. All the extirmists in middle east are Wahabis and Sunnis. However real sunnis are killed by these sunni extrimist groups too.
      6.Name one Shia just one Shia who did 9/11?
      7.Shia militia? really? If it was not because of Kurds and SHia militia, Baghdad were in the hands of your ISIS terrorist friends now!!

      November 3, 2014 at 11:23 am | Reply
      • Mike

        The USA foreign policy is confused. For this reason the democrats got failed in the election badly.
        Assad killed 200,000 Syrian people. How many ISIS killed?
        The region must be cleaned up from Shia terrorist groups like Hezbollah that exploded the USA embassy in 1991 and killed 400 usa citizens and all radical sunni groups like ISIS.
        Mr obama is writing secret letter to the iran supreme leader that supporting all terrorist in ME and asking him to cooperate with him!! to get second noble price!!?
        This supreme leader group is worse than isis and Assad. They killed thousands of Iranian to be in the power.
        They also wanted to make the peaceful nuclear bomb !! to share it with the terrorists to secure their long term dirty and bloody government

        November 6, 2014 at 8:21 pm |
    • Kir Koloft

      Mike, you are no westerners. Go by your real Arab name you son of a gawad.

      November 3, 2014 at 2:31 pm | Reply
  3. D

    They are the biggest supplier of arms and weapons to terrorist groups..... very sympathetic

    November 1, 2014 at 11:04 pm | Reply
    • tigrrresss

      No, "D". In fact Iran is the biggest supplier of arms and weapons to those who fight western-backed terrorist groups.

      November 2, 2014 at 11:17 am | Reply
      • Philip

        Get a clue. The U.S. and Israel are the leading arms makers and suppliers. Not Iran.

        November 2, 2014 at 11:47 am |
    • Hassan mostafavi

      GIVE SOME EVIDENCE. THIS IS JUST AN EMPTY SLOGAN.

      November 3, 2014 at 5:13 am | Reply
  4. Thomas

    Why is everybody posting here highlighting the intellectual decline of the West ?

    America , the slowest internet speed at the highest cost , why ?

    Because Americans spend stupidly !

    November 2, 2014 at 1:59 am | Reply
  5. Zhang

    Why would anyone need anything faster than Road Runner, Thomas?

    November 2, 2014 at 8:26 am | Reply
  6. Donald Schellberg

    I am an admirer of both Persian culture and history. That being said, Mr. Bourdain's unqualified approval of Iranian society ignored the human rights abuses perpetrated by the government of that country. I wonder what would have been the reaction of the people had Mr. Bourdain said he was a Baha'i.

    November 2, 2014 at 2:02 pm | Reply
    • John Bates

      Or a Muslim in the US?

      November 2, 2014 at 2:36 pm | Reply
    • Cyrus

      There are Jews and Baha'i people still in Iran. Stop with your alarmist paranoid Americanized stereotypes of this country. I'm an atheist and Ive been to Iran and you should see the anti Islamic sentiments that run rampant amongst the population.

      Get your head out of your ass

      November 2, 2014 at 4:01 pm | Reply
      • Mike

        The Baha'i can not get into university or get a job and majority of Jewish quit the country because this regime is untrusted!

        November 2, 2014 at 7:17 pm |
      • Hassan mostafavi

        MIKE SHOULD KNOW THAT THE BIGGEST POPULATION OF JEWS IN THE MIDDLE EAST LIVE IN IRAN,OR EVEN ,AS AN IRANIAN JEW CLAIMS, THE BIGGEST POPULATION OF JEWS IN THE WORLD ARE LIVING IN IRAN,WHILE THE OFFICIAL FIGURE IS ONLY 20,000., THE REAL FIGOIS AROUND SEVEN MILLION. IRAN HAS ALWAYS BEEN A SAFE HAVEN FOR JEWS.THIS IS SHOWN BY THAUSENDS OF YEARS OF HISTORY.ASK IRANIAN JEWS TO LEARN THE FACTS. IRANIANS ARE DIFFERENT FROM OTHER PEOPLE IN THE AREA.THEY NEVER PROSECUTED PEOPLE FOR THEIR RELIGION.OPEN YOUR EYES AND SEE FACTS .DON'T BELIEVE WHATEVER YOU READ IN YOUR MEDIA. THE REASON MR.BOURDAIN WAS ASTONISHED IS EXACTLY THAT.WITH A MIND FULL OF WHAT HE READ IN YOUR MEDIA HE SUDDENLY FACED A REALITY VASTLY DIFFERENT.

        November 3, 2014 at 5:32 am |
      • Ahmed Amado Asgher

        Well said Cyrus. How about American profiling of Muslims. Truth is every nation has its own stupid laws and customs. However, we as humans are on a collective thought evolution and Iran is a leader in this evolution. Get off your keyboard and go see for yourself. 2 years ago, I did 4000 km by road, with a small back pack, hitch hiking through iran. I met amazing people everywhere I travelled. Amazing what can one learn first hand and equally amazing how one can remain ignorant through second hand news and propaganda. Peace to all mankind and unity among humanity. Salamati.

        November 3, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
    • Vahid

      Donald! I'm a Muslim living in Iran,
      The reaction of Iranian to a Baha'i would be nothing but respect. All of the conflicts here are political, not between normal people...
      We, like your nation have safety and human rights...

      November 5, 2014 at 7:58 am | Reply
      • Mike

        Yes. Iranian have lived together for centuries, but the Islamic regime act different way. The islamic regime execute even muslem Sunni Iranian people like Kurd or Baluch or Arab.....

        November 6, 2014 at 8:26 pm |
  7. Hparadis

    Wow! Wonderful that most people were kind and welcoming!! Aren't them all realy!! I mean they are kind and welcoming in Iran of all places...I mean let's look at it in a positive objective way people...

    November 2, 2014 at 5:19 pm | Reply
  8. Baman

    after all he talks about people, not the government. Do you have any problem with Russian immigrated to the US after 1991.
    They suppose to be the part of evil empire before falling the "Berlin Wall". The Rolling system is not democratic, that's a fact, but remember the American/ British coup ended the democratic system in Iran about 60 years ago.

    November 3, 2014 at 2:10 am | Reply
  9. joe

    Anthony Bordain reporting from Hitler's Germany: "Wow, I am totally surprised, the people are so friendly and the food is amazing!"

    November 3, 2014 at 9:34 am | Reply
  10. we the people

    Americans should dump Israel and befriend Iranians

    November 3, 2014 at 11:54 am | Reply
  11. Steve hunt

    How does a guy with this much travel experience and culture go in with so many misconceptions? If you are around decent people who aren't fools it's pretty clear Iran is a place with great people and culture.

    November 3, 2014 at 1:15 pm | Reply
  12. Commonsense 171

    Interesting episode. What. We don't know is what the restrictions were on filming. The government clearly screened who Anthony could interview which presents a distorted picture. The only one not screened were probably the WaPo reporter and wife and they ended up in jail. Also many of Anthony's negative comments were recorded after he returned home. Finally no mention of why sanctions were imposed, the nukes. Iran tried to use Anthony for propaganda purposes and generally got away with it.

    November 3, 2014 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  13. corey

    Didn't it occur to you that your handlers made sure you saw what they wanted you to see?

    Did you see anyone swinging by their neck from a crane?

    Did you see any political prisoners?

    Bourdain, you are a cat's paw

    November 3, 2014 at 4:27 pm | Reply
    • Allison

      Have you ever been to Iran?
      At least, Bourdain has been there, but you haven't. Are you still insisting on our stupid media that just wants to close our eyes on the truth. Nothing is more important to me than the truth.

      November 3, 2014 at 5:54 pm | Reply
      • Mike

        He did not live in IRAn and Iran regime look after him to do not see any issue. Why he did not go to visit the Evin prison that is full of lawyers , students and human right activists..? Why he did not ask anybody about keeping Green leaders in the prison without any court? and.....

        November 6, 2014 at 8:30 pm |
  14. Allison :)

    I enjoyed it a lot. Thanks.
    I always thought all the information we get is through media, it may not be all the truth.
    I see Iranian students in my university and they always said that the real Iran is different from what we have learnt from media.
    I'm happy of seeing this video. There should be more journalists to go there and show us the true face of this mysterious nation.

    November 3, 2014 at 5:51 pm | Reply
  15. Amir

    i saw an American professor visiting Iran on a scientific conference ,he said he's shocked by the fact that Iran is so modern & people are so different from those propaganda advertised on T.V. he mentioned Tehran high ways as modern as USA counterparts & how people hate their government

    November 3, 2014 at 6:32 pm | Reply
    • Sarah

      You should never say people hate their government. It is because people don't have so much travel outside of Iran to see how other governments have lack in their performance. It's okay, no government is perfect.
      Another thing that I have realized about western nations after living here for years, is that here, people support their government and believe whatever thaeir government says on media and news. In Iran its not true, so people of Iran think other govenments love and care abot Iran's people, but they on't. They only think of their own country, so Iran should be friend with them, but Iraninan people also should support their own government because the government is doing its best to protect people from war. Iraninan governemt is not as bad as the propaganda we see on the news.

      And, I just wanted to say that people of Iran are very friendly to westerners, while westerners are not friendly to Iraninan people. WHY???!!!

      November 3, 2014 at 6:53 pm | Reply
      • Mike

        Are you joking? The government of Iran protecting its people from war?
        How: with making peaceful nuclear bomb? or sending troops and weapon in all around countries to make tension? or executing 3 iranian per day? or forcing iranian women to wear head cover by pouring Acid to their face? or put thousands of journalist, human rights activist, student, lawyer and anybody that requested democracy?!!.

        November 3, 2014 at 9:45 pm |
      • erfan

        to sarah As an iranian I agree.

        November 4, 2014 at 9:40 am |
    • Mike

      Tehran high ways and its structure left over from Shah. The biggest park in Tehran made during Shah, the main soccer stadium is from Shah, the subway plan was from Shah.........

      November 3, 2014 at 9:39 pm | Reply
  16. Nakisa

    Soooo in response to some of the doubters and naysayers: if Mr. Bourdain is presenting the positive aspects of Iranian culture and its ppl, he's lying? Misrepresenting? Why do some of you INSIST on making all Iranians evil. There is good and bad in EVERY culture. Iran has had a very skewed representation in the media and I think it was very brave and inspirational of him to go to such an unstable part of the world to gain more insight into the culture and its people.

    November 5, 2014 at 3:37 am | Reply
  17. Sarah

    I'm an Iranian girl and should remind you that none of us like to be called evil beause of our nationality! You know that media is not trustful source. So if you don't have any personal experience about Iranians and Persia, never judge them as monster or evil!

    November 5, 2014 at 6:16 am | Reply
    • Mike

      your regime is evil that killed neda in 4 years ago when the people went to steett against fake election, or arrested Ghoncheh ghavami and jail her for over 100 days because she wanted to watch a men volleyball game!, or pour acid to the iranian women face because they do not like head cover or chdor....

      November 6, 2014 at 8:38 pm | Reply
  18. Mary Stallworth

    Mr. Anthony Bourdain, Thank you very much for your report on Iran, you brought tears to my eyes. As American Iranian person who is working for Government in U.S , I all time had to defend my people, you made it very easy and clear , that Iranian's hospitality ,respect and caring for people in general is very unique trait.
    Thank you very much.

    November 9, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Reply
  19. Observer

    As a person who have lived in America for the past 40 years and lived in Iran in the first 20, and loves both countries for all they give their people and even with all their flaws, I know both governments focus and exaggerate on the negative aspects of the other side, and turn their people against the other side. They both need "hate" against the other side in case of war, and they both also need to distract their people from the corruptions by either the friendly corporations or leader's family and friends by making the other side look like an enemy.

    Lets focus on the positive and love and live happily. Maybe this way we can reverse the effect of the brainwashing that is going on every where!

    August 8, 2016 at 2:56 am | Reply
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