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Iran - love with hard beginning

Posted by Towee Towel on
Írán - láska s těžkými začátky

Last fall I went to Iran with my boyfriend Peter. Partially because I heard only praise from my friends about this country but mainly because I found a cheap tickets, and I said to myself "why not" and with my impatience I bought them right away.

It wasn't until I bought my tickets that I started to find out more: from visa processes, through all sorts of restrictions, to rules for women.

In short:

  • the visa process requires a lot of paperwork, 50 EUR and about 7 days,
  • you can't use a regular Mastercard or VISA payment card in Iran,
  • cannot travel after visiting Iran to the USA for ESTA , which will make a visit to the United States quite complicated and expensive,
  • I don't have beer or any other alcohol there,
  • and as a woman I must wear hijab all the time.

But the reward for these obstacles, as I later found out, was 2 weeks of diverse nature, heartfelt people, cultural outlook, and delicious tea.

Tehran taboo and how to avoid them

In the night, we flew to Tehran International Airport, where we exchanged euros for local rials for a better exchange rate than Google! In Iran it is true they have ( minimal ) double exchange rate. You can buy it about 3-4 times cheaper from locals than one that was listed on the market - and that's exactly what we did on the first day. For these expensive rials, we bought we even got a more expensive taxi driver. Then we were taken to the hotel for which took a little over an hour.

Next day we got local credit card . The way it worked was that the founder of this Iranian fintech startup came to see us at the hotel reception, took from us cash and loaded it for us on the card. We had no choice but to trust him - and it paid off, the money really was on credit card and even at a fair local rate!

Full of energy and with a full card of money, we went to Tehran to discover the beauty of markets and mosques. Markets - and especially fresh pomegranate juice - delicious, but so many people everywhere! We took a metro to get back to hotel and we couldn’t even get inside the train. We had to wait for several trains. At the end, the subway is always so full that unwanted physical contact can easily occur. Which also happened - that's why I recommend girls always ride in a separate wagon for women, even if you travel with a partner, you will feel safer. We were unpleased with this Tehran experience and Peter was already looking for earlier tickets to get back to Prague. But then we said to ourselves that we could not judge this huge country by one bad experience from the capital (which is big like the Czechia and Slovakia together), so instead of a buying fly ticket back home, we bought bus tickets to Kashan.

Iranian Hospitality

It seems to me that Iran just wants to test us at first because since then we were surprised with something pleasant every day.

Kashan was wonderful, probably mainly because we came across Hamida, a scholar of Islam, who patiently answered all our omnipotent and controversial questions in the mosque. After 3 hours of sipping tea in the mosque, he even invited us to his home, where our deep debates continued for a long time. Next day he took us on a ride through the city. Also a trip with an overnight stay in the Maranjab desert was unforgettable. Our Ali driver said it well when he told us: "Desert is freedom!" and he added that I could take off my hijab and join the hookah (smoking, just like cycling or riding a motorcycle, is not for women otherwise). And of course, I didn't hesitate!

But the biggest experience for us was renting a car and traveling north to the Caspian Sea. In this case, it is 100% true that the path is the destination. There is not much in the town of Chalus, where we arrived. Along the way, we decided to spend the night in the mountains in a car, which is nonsense, but it has earned us a friendly connection for life. As we were slowly falling asleep in the front seats, a car with sirens stopped next to us, and gentlemen in uniforms with flashlights and raised voices demanded to know what we thought we were doing. That’s what I think as they didn't know a word of English. However, the tone of their Persian language and strong gestures indicated that they did not like our way of accommodation at all and ordered us to follow them by car. We did not reach the police, but the fire station. And it turned out that they were not angry with us. They were just worried about us and offered us cigarettes and a halva, which they found in their pockets. We drank tea with a smile, and then they accommodated us at their friend's house on the ground, i.e., on a Persian carpet.

Especially, Fire Chief Abbos liked us and avoided the language barrier by dialing his sister on the phone at two in the morning, who was explaining and translating everything to both parties. From this conversation between 3 people came out an invitation to Abbo’s house for a family dinner. We arrived at the ‘modest family dinner’ with backpacks and clothes with a considerable travel patina. We were expecting a family of four or five, but we were surprised when twelve people showed up with well-prepared feast. They were all dressed up so nicely. At Iran family Klárka on route

There was kebabs, a pile of rice, dining on the ground, laughter and even singing. We spent another day with this family (the children were excused from school, so they could stay with us) and we were lucky enough to get to know them, listen to their stories, world views, and above all to watch their family relationships. From their constantly loving behavior, it was impossible to tell who the mother or aunt was, who the brother or cousin was - they all cared for each other as their own, as well as for us.

After 14 days in Iran, we didn't want to go home. The locals have shown us that if the state fails, the family helps. When you go to Iran, you are very likely to meet your own Hamid, Ali and Abbos's family. So please go, don't spend too much time in Tehran, meet the local people and be inspired by their kindness and love!

Author: Klára Gajová

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Last fall I went to Iran with my boyfriend Peter. Partially because I heard only praise from my friends about this country but mainly because I found a cheap tickets, and I said to myself "why not" and with my impatience I bought them right away.

It wasn't until I bought my tickets that I started to find out more: from visa processes, through all sorts of restrictions, to rules for women.

In short:

But the reward for these obstacles, as I later found out, was 2 weeks of diverse nature, heartfelt people, cultural outlook, and delicious tea.

Tehran taboo and how to avoid them

In the night, we flew to Tehran International Airport, where we exchanged euros for local rials for a better exchange rate than Google! In Iran it is true they have ( minimal ) double exchange rate. You can buy it about 3-4 times cheaper from locals than one that was listed on the market - and that's exactly what we did on the first day. For these expensive rials, we bought we even got a more expensive taxi driver. Then we were taken to the hotel for which took a little over an hour.

Next day we got local credit card . The way it worked was that the founder of this Iranian fintech startup came to see us at the hotel reception, took from us cash and loaded it for us on the card. We had no choice but to trust him - and it paid off, the money really was on credit card and even at a fair local rate!

Full of energy and with a full card of money, we went to Tehran to discover the beauty of markets and mosques. Markets - and especially fresh pomegranate juice - delicious, but so many people everywhere! We took a metro to get back to hotel and we couldn’t even get inside the train. We had to wait for several trains. At the end, the subway is always so full that unwanted physical contact can easily occur. Which also happened - that's why I recommend girls always ride in a separate wagon for women, even if you travel with a partner, you will feel safer. We were unpleased with this Tehran experience and Peter was already looking for earlier tickets to get back to Prague. But then we said to ourselves that we could not judge this huge country by one bad experience from the capital (which is big like the Czechia and Slovakia together), so instead of a buying fly ticket back home, we bought bus tickets to Kashan.

Iranian Hospitality

It seems to me that Iran just wants to test us at first because since then we were surprised with something pleasant every day.

Kashan was wonderful, probably mainly because we came across Hamida, a scholar of Islam, who patiently answered all our omnipotent and controversial questions in the mosque. After 3 hours of sipping tea in the mosque, he even invited us to his home, where our deep debates continued for a long time. Next day he took us on a ride through the city. Also a trip with an overnight stay in the Maranjab desert was unforgettable. Our Ali driver said it well when he told us: "Desert is freedom!" and he added that I could take off my hijab and join the hookah (smoking, just like cycling or riding a motorcycle, is not for women otherwise). And of course, I didn't hesitate!

But the biggest experience for us was renting a car and traveling north to the Caspian Sea. In this case, it is 100% true that the path is the destination. There is not much in the town of Chalus, where we arrived. Along the way, we decided to spend the night in the mountains in a car, which is nonsense, but it has earned us a friendly connection for life. As we were slowly falling asleep in the front seats, a car with sirens stopped next to us, and gentlemen in uniforms with flashlights and raised voices demanded to know what we thought we were doing. That’s what I think as they didn't know a word of English. However, the tone of their Persian language and strong gestures indicated that they did not like our way of accommodation at all and ordered us to follow them by car. We did not reach the police, but the fire station. And it turned out that they were not angry with us. They were just worried about us and offered us cigarettes and a halva, which they found in their pockets. We drank tea with a smile, and then they accommodated us at their friend's house on the ground, i.e., on a Persian carpet.

Especially, Fire Chief Abbos liked us and avoided the language barrier by dialing his sister on the phone at two in the morning, who was explaining and translating everything to both parties. From this conversation between 3 people came out an invitation to Abbo’s house for a family dinner. We arrived at the ‘modest family dinner’ with backpacks and clothes with a considerable travel patina. We were expecting a family of four or five, but we were surprised when twelve people showed up with well-prepared feast. They were all dressed up so nicely. At Iran family Klárka on route

There was kebabs, a pile of rice, dining on the ground, laughter and even singing. We spent another day with this family (the children were excused from school, so they could stay with us) and we were lucky enough to get to know them, listen to their stories, world views, and above all to watch their family relationships. From their constantly loving behavior, it was impossible to tell who the mother or aunt was, who the brother or cousin was - they all cared for each other as their own, as well as for us.

After 14 days in Iran, we didn't want to go home. The locals have shown us that if the state fails, the family helps. When you go to Iran, you are very likely to meet your own Hamid, Ali and Abbos's family. So please go, don't spend too much time in Tehran, meet the local people and be inspired by their kindness and love!

Author: Klára Gajová