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Iranian hospitality: embodiment, experience and representation

O'Gorman, Kevin D. and Prentice, Richard C. and Maclaren, Andrew C. (2008) Iranian hospitality: embodiment, experience and representation. In: Royal Geographical Society / IBG Annual International Conference 2008, 2008-10-26 - 2008-10-29.

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This paper seeks to triangulate methods to locate the essence of Iranian hospitality within heritage settings. It uses caravanserais, hostels for travellers and their trains of animals, and bazaars, covered markets, as its foci. These buildings have always offered multi-sensual experiences and represented aspects of symbolic interaction, as well as facilitating physical exchange, between travellers and locals. Hospitality has been fundamental to their evolution and remains so, particularly for the commercial caravanserais and tea houses which now exist as refurbished heritage accommodation and restaurants. There has always been a strong tradition of hospitality in the Islamic world, and Islamic practice emulates Ibrahim in the Koran. The first method used is to interpret physical structures, and in particular to show how the physical form of caravanserais traditionally embodied dimensions of expectation and behaviour that have characterised hospitality since it was first codified. The second method recognises the importance of personal sensing and reflection as a method, articulating personal experiences between individuals to come to a group experience. Bazaars are the focus of this second method. These were communities within communities, and had commonly caravanserais, tea houses, houses, workshops, baths, mosques and madrasas sited within them. Their architecture is commonly geometrical and enclosed. Personal sensing is used as a means of representing the felt experiences of authenticity and sincerity which these buildings and their communities and users facilitate, and the role of hospitality within this. The third method used is a content analysis of the representations of utilitarian, experiential and symbolic selling points collated from Iranian tourism and hospitality knowledgeables. The third method operationalises the Prentice-O'Gorman Destination Appraisal Matrix methodology, as a means of understanding the experiential and symbolic products offered by contemporary Iranian hospitality. Particular attention is paid to authenticity and sincerity within the hospitality and wider tourism offering of Iran.