Compared to Dubai, Shiraz is much nicer. The people you meet here are all locals and that makes a huge difference with Dubai. As I expected, the people here are super friendly, like no other place I have ever been
. People wave at me, want to start conversations, want to marry me, give me presents, have my phone number, give me Kung Fu To'a demonstrations, etc. I spent my 3.5 days here at Mohammad (a.k.a. Sharuz) through the couchsurfing website. On this website I was overwhelmed by the amount of invites I got, a complete contrast with Dubai. I did have his wrong phone number when I arrived in Iran, but after 3 hours of being kind of lost in the city, and numerous people trying to help me out without knowing any English (so I didn't get any further than a cup of tea while figuring out how to solve the situation), I made it to his place.
Mohammad Moassir lives with his father, mother and brother in a good neighbourhood in Shiraz and has two ducks, a diesel generator and an orange tree in the front yard. The ducks are there to eat any leftovers from dinner and the diesel generator is there for when a war starts and they are cut off from electricity. The floor of the house itself, like any other place in Shiraz, is completely covered with Persian carpets, they take this stuff seriously. Water is purified by a fridge as they don't trust the supply of the government. Sharuz's mother can cook very well and his father took me to some places at midnight where only muslims are allowed. He has good connections though so I also got in to some holy pilgrim places.
The first night Sharuz invited me to a party with some of his friends (girls and guys)
. In Iran this means listening to Iranian music, eating more oranges than I have ever done in my life and drinking some low on alcohol home-made banana liquor. I found out most of his friends were graduated from all kinds of engineering studies but unemployed, like the majority of the young generation in Iran. By the way drinking alcohol in Iran is illegal, but as I experienced, every Iranian has at least something illegal in his house, like James Bond movies, facebook, satellite TV or the excellent Shiraz wine. I did some hitchhiking and the people who took me invited me to go to their house for drinking somee of this wine. Getting drunk is not so hard for them so within no time there was a nice atmosphere and I played a few songs on the guitar and sang some Iranian songs. I uploaded a video, hope it works. In Iran a lot of websites blocked so I can't check it, unless I get a laptop with some proxy server software.
So I don't spend my time here as a tourist, apart from taking more taxis than the average person. Taxis are very cheap, never paid more than 1,2 euros for it. Gasoline costs so little, for one euro you can buy 30 liters (!). That makes it 50 times cheaper than at home and cheaper than water. Life here for me is very cheap, due to the sanctions the inflation here is sky high and the local currency Rial is worth almost nothing anymore compared to the euro or dollar
. Exchange rates change by the hour and right now it is around 1 euro = 44000 Rial. A few weeks ago it was around 14000 Rial. My host has a really hard time converting his money into euros as he will spend 6 months studying law in Austria in 2 weeks time. But the weirdest thing is, people still want to pay for me all the time. I have never bought a meal here and even the ticket of the bus (6 hours to Yazd) was bought by a friend who is sitting next to me (I am writing this in the bus now). It is a very Western idea to think that I should really pay them back but here it is considered insulting. I actually tried a few times after some guy bought me a meal for the second time, but they just don't accept the money. I read similar stories in other people's blogs and it makes you think why we can be so greedy in NL. But maybe it is also because tourists here are very few. Ever since I was at the airport in Sharjah going to Shiraz, I have not seen any 'white' / Western person. Tourism is almost non existing, and if there is it's for 99% for Iranian tourist themselves. That makes the main tourist attractions like the Persepolis very cheap to visit (15 cents). The Persepolis was discovered under meters of rocks and sand somewhere around 1930 and was the main HQ's of the ancient Persian empire. Even though a lot of the structures were never restored it is still an impressive site and a must see to understand the history of Iran. It is a Unesco World Heritage site but again there were almost no people there, I might have seen 20 people in total in the three hours I was there.
I also went to the barber here, one of the best cuts I got in my life. The barber was deaf and I only found out after he was almost done, That is why he had a laptop in front of me with google translate on it. The reason he is deaf apparently, is because a lot of people born in the 80's have some kind of dissabilities due to the chemical weapons used by Saddam Hussein in the Iraq Iran war
. People from the border regions moved to places like Shiraz because the ground in the attacked villages at the border is still polluted. This war still has an impact on daily life here, for example Sharuz's aunt lost her brother in this war and other victims are still being memorized in some holy places as I have seen.
So far I am really enjoying Iran, I just hope it will stay so good. Staying with Sharuz as my host and meeting his family and feeling part of it gave me a unique insight in the Iranian life style, also in the way how they deal with a government that they are very against at.
That's it for now, I heard people are not getting the email notifications when I update my blog. I informed the developers about it. Next three weeks no facebook for me because they locked it and I can't unlock it through proxies. So I can't promote my blogs through facebook but just spread the word the old fashioned way guys ;). I am off to Yazd now, a desert city. After that some more couchsurfing in Esfahan, Sush and Tehran. Take care!
My first stop in Iran was Shiraz, a 2 million people city famous for its flowers, gardens, oranges and poetry. There is one thing I have to rectify right away from my previous blog post, where I wrote that Iran probably has more separation between men and women. I was wrong. Though the people here don't have a lot of freedom, I have seen no completely covered up girls here on the street, just around the hair a little bit. Also no seperate sections for men and women in public transport. Iran is a Persian country, not Arabic. I guess I also became victim of the Western preconceptions. So with that said, let me tell you what I have experienced so far, it's a lot.