Summary of Iran
Trip Start Aug 31, 2005
77Trip End Aug 25, 2006
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I have stayed with two families, had dinner or lunch with 6, received at least 20 invitations to visit other families, I have picnicked in true Iranian style, climbed mountains, eated kebab everyday, sat eating icecream in teahouses, visited the most beautiful city in the world (Esfahan), shopped in bazaars, visited holy shrines, seen the anti-American graffiti on the wall of the (old) American embassy, visited palaces, and EVEN been interviewed for TV!
How's that for great adventures! Iran is amazing. The people the most hospitable I have EVER met in any country. The cities some of the most beautiful in the world. And it's SO SAFE!
There are also a few ideas we have in the west about Iran that I want to clear up. I can say in all honestly that:
Iran is a safe country to travel to. Even as a lone female.
Thats not to say that I did not get harassed, I did. But it was not a lot (and in fact only in 1 town - Shiraz) and the harassment was quite controllable. Because of the segregation of sexes, you will always get seated next to other women on public transport and in formal occassions, making it for more pleasant journeys than I have been used to in other countries!
Women in Iran are not as suppressed as we think.
They have a lot more freedom than most other countries I have travelled to. Because of the dress code. The men of the family think the women are 'protected' and so you see a lot more of them out on the streets, travelling alone and working. They study a lot more too - one report I read said that since the revolution and dress code introduction, female enrollment in university has soared. Women now make up 65% of university entrants.
The hijab (headscarf) didn't bother me as much as I expected.
I didn't find it hot (most of the clothes they wear are made or a very light material and so are very airy) - and in many ways, I am sure it was much better for me to be wearing hijab in the strong Iranian sun. It was also great protection from unwanted male attention. I could pull it lower down over my face. And, to be honest, I have missed my hijab since I left Iran even though I personally would always want the freedom of choice to wear it or not.
Iranian people are very lovely and very innocent
I would venture to say they are the most hospitable people I have ever met. Everyday I got at least one invitation to visit somebodies house for dinner or to stay over. Because of their seclusion from the rest of the world (all news is carefully monitored and internet access is restricted) they have very innocent ideas about what goes on. Some thought that in case of divorce, all children immediately get handed to the state. Others thought that 'going out' with a girl in our countries meant holding hands and reading each other poetry. A very lovely kind of innocence... the manner and ideas of many people reminded me much of how I imagine it would have been living in Victorian times.
Many people I spoke to in Iran did not support their government
Most seemed to have no idea why he wants to provoke the west so much with threats of nuclear armament and didn't support the president or the government. A few however - mainly school girls and university professors - said that their president 'loves' them and that he is 'wonderful'. One official said that Iran is ready for war with the west, but this was the only such pro-war sentiment I heard in my time.
The sights of Iran are truly spectacular
From the amazing city of Esfahan (the most beautiful city in the world perhaps?) to the mountains and lakes, to the grand palaces of ancient times, and historical ruins. It is a country teaming with romance and flowers and history. A truly beautiful country.
Iranian's ARE rebelling
A walk around the streets of Tehran will show you how much: the young woman only JUST wear headscarves - more like a wide piece of ribbon in reality, balancing precariously on the tops of the head, hair showing both front and back. Their manteaus (knee length coats to hide the figure) are in fact short, just covering the bum, and oh-so-tight. They wear make-up, paint their nails and wear Gucci sunglasses. The men are in jeans and t-shirts. Most houses in Iran have banned satellite TV. Fastfood consists of Iranian versions (or sometimes the originals themselves) of coca cola and pizza hut. I drank alcohol twice and saw hashish twice. I have seen video tapes of weddings where (shock horror) men and women mixed and danced freely, without headscarves. The young are rebelling, slowly and in their own way, after the ultra-conservative government of the past. And slowly, I believe they are changing society and Iran. The recently elected President is fighting back, trying to bring the country back to 'true islam' - he is trying to introduce a new 'Islamic' dresscode and satellite dishes are again being actively looked for. But I believe that the young (and the old, who know pre-revolution freedom) will not let their freedom backslide.
So, I guess in summary, Iran is fantastic. Not scary at all, and very easy to travel around. But best of all, is the people of Iran. Incredibly welcoming, hospitable and curious about us in the west. Iran is a special country - visit while you can!
And finally, some random words (and my favouriate pics) that spring to mind that remind me of my time in Iran:
POETRY, NIGHTINGALES, TEA, PLUMS WITH SALT, HAFEZ, GRAND PALACES, POP, ROMANCE, BAZAARS, MOSIAC, MOSQUES, PRAYER MATS, CARPETS, HOLDING HANDS, MOUNTAIN WALKS, SUGAR, CUCUMBERS, FLOWERS, BEAUTIFUL WOMEN, PROTECTION, CHADOR, GARDENS, PILGIMAGE, ROSES, FRENZY, SUN, PICNICS