Iran – my impression after traveling 22


Traffic

I have to admit crossing the street in Iran is even more insane than in India or any other place I have been. Of course there is no traffic lights, cars going like crazy and there are numerous. On the wide streets it is impossible to find a moment with no car coming. So the only solution is to GO! Just go and hope that all cars coming straight towards you, will stop. Believe me, I was just closing my eyes because I couldn’t watch that crazy vehicles coming to kill me. Drivers in Iran are totally mad! Going by car was like in video games world. Unforgettable.iran

Clothes

We have learned quickly that people are really serious about the scarf covering girl’s head. For some reason I had hoped, that they will be more relaxed about it, especially in between tourists and young people, but I was wrong. We saw some police cars showing up that they arrested plenty of girls for showing too much of hair. Tight clothes are also not welcomed, specially jeans. We have seen people yelling at girls like that on the street or throwing small stones, so it is not only government policy but also society rule. What I couldn’t support is that girls have to wear long sleeves (even if it’s 45 degrees), long pants and scarf covering neck and head but men don’t have to do it. More, they can wear very tight t-shirts or jeans. The only thing – they must dress long pants.

Woman and man

We have learned also about woman and man relations and that the way I was holding our couch surfer on the motorbike afraid to fall, was way too intimate to happen on the street. Couples can not show their intimate feelings, they have to stay in distance while they are in public. It wasn’t that bad – married couples sometimes were holding hands. Girls and boys which do not know each other cannot share the same sit in the bus. In public transport there is usually back of the bus reserved for women as well as separate parts of the metro.

Some houses still have 2 knockers on the main door, each for different sex. Hearing sound of man coming, woman inside has to dress because no man can see her hair, unless it is a member of the family. According to that rules houses in Iran surround high walls, so that they can do and wear whatever they want on their yard. Streets look more like tunnels in between those walls.iran

Entertainment

All entertainments known for young people in the western part of the world are forbidden in Iran. Alcohol, cinema, concerts, disco, TV. They exist, but for instance media are limited to Iranian or Arabic channels, films or music. Government controls strictly what citizens should watch. Basically contact with the world outside is illegal. Of course people got a way to do what they want. For instance, they gather in some houses for a disco, they make bands in the houses, they use proxy to unblock forbidden sites like Facebook or You Tube. Government is still trying to block as much as possible and keep Iran closed from the influence of other countries, but people keep finding solutions.

Inside of Iranian house

What amazed me is that most of the people don’t use furniture in their houses, except some wardrobes. All is happening on the floor, always covered with a Persian (or made in China) carpet: eating, sitting as well as sleeping. Toilet is a hole including extremely narrow pipe, sometimes camouflaged with funny plastic door. Entrance opens with the pee force and closes automatically, so that the bad smell is not getting out. Technology! By the way Persians are proud to invent first pipes system or canalization, which you can still see in the underground Museum of Yazd. Like in any other middle east country, in the restroom there is a tap water and bucket instead of toilet paper. Remember, don’t throw any papers inside, because it will all get stuck as it happened to me in the first day. Besides usually there is no trash bin, so be ready for that if you bring your own toilet paper…iran

Hitch-hiking

Hitch-hiking in Iran is safe. I was traveling with a girl and no negative situation happened to us. Accept if you try to stop a car showing a thumb which means “fuck you” in their culture… Hitch-hiking it is very hard though, since the idea is unknown. There is, however, amazing unofficial system of transportation. Every city has its spots, where people wait for being taken to certain destination. It is like appointed place, which everybody knows about. There is no website controlling that, like we have car share sites.

Drivers seeing us on the road stopping, didn’t know what we are really doing. They were shocked that two girls stand alone. There were asking “Where is your owner?” “Where is your leader?”. When we prepared paper in Farsi language with the name of the city we are heading to, they thought we are using their car share system and expected us to pay. When we showed them another note in Farsi, that we use hitch-hiking and travel without money, they were starting to be even more worried, took us to the bus station and bought tickets. All of our drivers were extremely kind and curious what the hell we are doing. They were calling family, friends yelling the amazing adventure, which is just happening to them. They were trying to find some friends speaking good English to talk to us, to make us explain why we are doing “this”, what is wrong with us.

As you see hitch-hiking in Iran is quite interesting experience but you need to have a lot of time! We didn’t have and drivers discussing for hour what we are doing here, were not really helpful. Still, in 90% of the cases we were finally taken to the bus station anyway and finished our trip with a ticket in out hand. We decided then to use buses and trains because hitch-hiking was just too time-consuming while our plan was strict.

People

Iranians are amazing. They are searching for contact with foreigners, they are curious and very hospitable. Pride of Persian culture is very evident. On the other hand, hate for the regime, politicians and Arabs. Throughout the stay we used couch-surfing and didn’t have any problems finding accommodation. Usually, I sent only one request and that was enough. People are eager to meet with tourists, invite home or show around.

I was told that educated people in the cities don’t like conservative government. On the other hand old, religious citizens, specially those in the countryside, support it plus receive some benefits.

In Iran, there is no tourist information for foreigners, because the need is too low. Once we found it, and there was no word of English, and none of the employees knew the language. However, we didn’t mind, because the whole country we visited with our hosts, who were always keen to show their city. It happened that people stopped us on the street, asking where we are from, who we are or even how we can help them get out of the country. Mostly residents wondered what two girls are doing on their own or as they said “without owner.” They couldn’t understand it.yazd

Police

Talking about the police there are 3 kinds: road traffic police, official police for security and hidden police – which look civil. People complain that they hate it because it can be pretty much everyone, even the best friend. Locals must be careful what and with whom they talk. They cannot offend the regime or do anything against the rules, because everywhere are spies.

Safety

If someone thinks Iran is dangerous place to travel is totally wrong. It is just closed to international cooperation with west and not known as much as other countries. Of course there are places which can be dangerous, for example close to the border with Pakistan. Although Iranians are so kind and will warn you where you shouldn’t go to stay safe. Remember that country is under the regime and various forces control it. They will make you feel safe as long as you respect local rules.

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22 thoughts on “Iran – my impression after traveling

  • cris

    I am uncertain what to comment… I refuse to visit country which don’t allow women to dress how they want and show affection to their husbands in public. That’s because I’m a crazy European who is free to do all that here 🙂

    I cringe when I see accounts like “We saw some police cars showing up that they arrested plenty of girls for showing too much of hair.”

    Kudos for having the courage to go.

    • Time Travel Bee Post author

      Hi Cris, thanks for your thoughts. There are plenty of countries which rules are different that we (Europeans) are used to. If I would refuse visiting countries which policy annoys me I wouldn’t visit half of what I have seen. Iran has an amazing heritage and extremely kind people which mostly disagree with the rules they have to obey, but simply they have no choice. They cannot leave the country easly as we do. Moreover it is true that it was hard for me to travel there and feeling that I have to behave in a certain way was making me crazy but… this is the spirit of traveling, to try new things, experience what you never expect to happen. What do you think?

  • Annika

    I am not quite sure after reading this – did you like it or not? Did you feel too restricted in your movements and the way you had to dress? I have long wanted to go to Iran and after reading this I think I would get more irritated with the lack of infrastructure and transport as you describe it than with the dresscode.

    • Time Travel Bee Post author

      Trains and buses work well in Iran I didn’t mention that. Infrastructure for tourism does not exist, it is true. I was suffering a lot while in Iran because the restirictions were driving me nuts. I am European and not used to that. Imagine heat 40 degrees Celcius + scarf and all long dresscode + Ramadan – you cannot eat and DRINK WATER + you got a period… That was hell! On the other hand all those were worth to suffer for what I have seen, who I have met and how big hospitality I have experienced. As you see my feelings are a mixture, maybe that is why they are not so clear in the text. I recommend you the second article to read – how I barely survived my first day in Iran 🙂 http://timetravelbee.com/places/first-day-in-iran/

  • Stephanie Langlet

    I love this kind of articles so much!
    Discovering a culture very different from mine, even if I don’t agree with certain – “a lot of” here – rules I have to follow, is what I like the most. Try to feel comfortable despite adversity is a challenge I like. Try to understand why they act this way would be a fascinating task.
    What shocked me the most in your article is the “where is your owner?”. It perfectly demonstrates how women are perceived in Iran…
    And you also had to follow the same rules that the locals during Ramadan. That’s another incredible thing. Even in Myanmar at the worst time they imposed their religious rules to foreigners. I have travelled several times during Ramadan in different Muslim places, and nowhere they imposed people to follow the diet…

    • Time Travel Bee Post author

      I totally agree with you Stephanie, traveling in Iran is a challenge! I have to admit we were not obliged to follow Ramadan in Iran as tourists. But firstly nobody who fasts wants to see other people eating, so we were trying to be respectful. Secondly every place, which sells food was closed for the whole day so anyway we had to fast. We were surving eating cookies or other dry products we bought the last evening and of course we were hiding to eat them…

    • Time Travel Bee Post author

      Yes there is absolutly nothing to see in the residential areas apart from the walls. But as I mentioned we were staying with locals every night through CS, so we could see how different is life on the other part of the walls.

  • Chloe

    So cool that you went to Iran. I know it’s starting to get safer and becoming a more of a popular destination. I dunno if it’s somewhere that I want to go to asap but I’d love to visit at some point in my life!

  • Arnav

    Such an insightful post about a destination very rarely heard off because of the middle east crises.The locals be it anywhere are always welcoming in nature because its natural human tendancy. Every country has a different tradition and if adhered to while in the town, none of the locals create any issue.The quote “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” stands true to nations such as these .Glad that you had a nice time in Iran.

  • Marge

    Based on your experience, the gist is, even if it’s possible to go there, it is difficult to get around Iran. Their culture and policies seem to much for me. I will never understand how poorly they treat women that they are not even allowed to show their hair. I can understand their use of toilet a little bit because in my country we also wash our fanny using water, not with tissue. I still say you had a pretty unique experience that you were able to show us what it’s like in that part of the world. I remember reading another blog post about Iran and it was written by a man. He didn’t have a hard time that I was convinced to visit. Reading your post gave me so much perspective and it’s sad to realize that it’s not going to be easy with women, especially if men there think that women have owners.

    • Time Travel Bee Post author

      It is a different culture, indeed. However everything is changing and people start to be more open-minded. Public transport works well in Iran, it was just me who wanted to try hitch-hiking and it worked, took too long time though.