The Iranian Adventure continues
May 12, 2015
I want to start off this blog to let you know that everything I thought I knew based on what I have seen on TV and read about how the Iranians are is so wrong. First off, they are amazingly hospitable and will go to great lengths to be sure you are comfortable and happy. They take pride in their country and hope you will enjoy it as well.
This is a sentiment felt by ALL tourists that I have spoken with regardless of where they are from…
As an American, they are especially curious. They ask many questions…but most are if we like them…if we think their country is nice…what America is like…a young man I met yesterday at Percepolis, who we let join our little group, asked if we had the same types of places in the US…I laughed and said we are a very young nation and don’t have these types of artifacts other than those related to Native Americans…I told him we have beautiful natural parks like the Grand Canyon and wonderful National Parks…When I came out of the bathroom, he was waiting for me to ask me for my email and facebook address. He was a sweet 19 year old English Literature major at the University of Tehran so interested in all things US
Another misconception I had was about how men treated women and women’s power. I think the dress restrictions allowed for me to have some confusion…But women here have the same power in their relationships as we do…The men are actually quite friendly and take being chivalrous very seriously. Last night as I was coming back from getting a take out dinner, I was crossing one of their double(6 lanes) roads…and the saying “taking your life into your own hands” is an understatement here…while making the final cross, I dropped a couple of condiments…a man on the street in a business suit gestured that I had dropped something…I had no idea what I had dropped but before I could figure it out, he darted into the street, risking life and limb and got those 2 packets! I was stunned.
When we got back to the hotel, Pamela & I snuck into the empty dining room to eat…We were being very careful not to make a mess…As we were finishing, one of the workers came in. Immediately I thought “uh, oh” since the place was closed but the man turned around and came back with a table cloth, water and place settings for us…we tried and tried to explain we were done but he just kept setting the table and saying, “welcome welcome”. Once he understood that we were done he brought us more water…I could only finish ½ my meal and offered it to him…He kept saying “merci merci”(which, believe it or not is a way of saying Thank you here…a little French)
Speaking of giving food away, when you order food in a restaurant they bring you enough for an army…and it’s quite inexpensive…Fatemeh(our guide) keeps telling us that the worth of a dollar is 3 times more in Iran…We have taken to ordering a couple of entrees and sharing…and even with that we leave food.
There are so many western and American products here..John Deere is the tractor of choice…coke and Pepsi are all over the country…and I have seen several Disney toys etc…Basically the stores are not lacking…They are struggling too…but like we are…you see plenty to buy, but the question is who can afford it. So many Iranians buy from the local bazaars & markets…they have everything they need.
We left Tehran for Shiraz by plane…Flew Air Iran…Quite comfortable…a 1 hour flight and they fed us! As we landed, we saw this gorgeous “Pink Lake”…It’s a huge salt lake…We arrived and navigated our way out for our day of touring in Shiraz. Gary, from Australia, joined us just before we left Tehran…seems his flight was delayed quite a bit by a fire in Rome’s Airport…I give him a lot of credit…he made it through a long long day and evening without sleep.
Our hotel was full of locals…no tourists…it seems to mainly serve their Medical tourism industry…yes they have one…a huge one at that…many from Oman and other Middles Eastern Countries come here because they have excellent doctors…funny, while walking down the street you see women with bandages on their noses…seems nose jobs are really big here…Also Fatemeh wears white gloves while in the sun…I said aren’t you hot? And she said that she wanted to get white like me…Fatemeh has the most beautiful olive skin and I told her so…but I guess we all want what we are not.
After checking in, we headed over to the Zand complex which included a castle, Gardens and a Mosque. We also made it to the local bazaar…Once the day was done, Fatemeh, who is from Shiraz and 1 month married had planned to eat with her husband but generously said she would take us to a fun local restaurant with music. And she had her husband meet us. The restaurant was in an area that reminded me of Los Angeles…on a hilltop with a view of the city lights…so pretty…The food was good but, once again, too much. Thank goodness Fatemeh lives in Shiraz because she was able to take home the leftovers.
After dinner, Fatemeh, took us for a nice walk to see the Quran Gate…As we were walking, there were families picnicking throughout the park, enjoying to cool night air…It gets quite warn in the day but cools down at night…But just stepping into the shade during the day offers an amazing respite from the heat and usually offers a cool breeze.
By the time we got back to the hotel it was 11PM at night and the streets of Shiraz were in full swing…it seemed everyone was out & about, even the kids, enjoying the cool nightlife.
The next day, we set off for Percepolis and Necropolis. Percepolis was built by Kings Darius and Xerxes as the ceremonial capitol of the Achemenid Empire It is from 518 BC and added to by subsequent Kings…They spent over 150 years building and adding on to it….listed as one the World Heritage sites…The columns are all white now but back then they were covered in beautiful colors and jewels. Alexander the Great destroyed it by fire as he plundered it of all it’s treasures….the ruins of Percepolis were discovered during an excavation in the 1930’s. I must say this place is incredible…and amazing…I was awestruck by it’s beauty and artistic detail.
But…Here is the first place I felt really hot…there is little shade but Fatemeh knows Percepolis like the back of her hand and knew every little area of shade. As she was imparting us on all the details of these beautiful ruins, she would be sure we were in the shadiest area she could find, which I appreciate since for some reason I forgot my sunscreen…but I did have my lovely Safari hat…oh how attractive I was…a walking monument to fashion! Most women here wear a visor over their scarves…
On a side note, I find wearing the Hijab(Head Scarf) actually quite easy and in some ways freeing…when I want a little extra sleep I can get up take a shower and not worry about my hair…no hair dryer etc…easy peasy,,,no one ever sees it anyway…although many girls have come up to me to tell me I have beautiful hair…not sure how they know other then seeing my bangs…But hey, I will definitely take a compliment (-: . My only problem has been that I brought 2 Infinity Scarves and they are of very light material so when it begins to slip, I never notice it…Fatemeh laughs and tells me not to worry…She will let me know when it needs to be pulled up. The hijab is certainly used as a fashion statement by some…there are some wonderful colors and patterns…The young here tend to push the limits a bit just like everywhere…
Back to our lovely tour….as I mentioned earlier, a young male student from Tehran asked if he could join us at Percepolis…I think he wanted to practice his English…He was so sweet and asked such wonderful questions…Fatemeh is a wonderful guide who loves Percepolis…she says this is her favorite place..
After a couple of hours we bid farewell to our young friend and headed off to lunch. Fatemeh took us to a wonderful garden restaurant….incredible lush atmosphere in the middle of the dry desert. The food was, as usual, wonderful…much of the time I am not sure what I am eating but hey I love new things…so far I have not tried anything that hasn’t been good.
After an enjoyable lunch we headed of to Necropolis, the City of the Dead…it is the area where King Darius among a few of his descendants are entombed in the side of a mountain…the scale is incredible…I always am so impressed by the artistic talent of those who lived 1000’s of years ago…To think that anything has survived Millennium of wars and the harsh sun…Nothing we make today will be around in 100 years, I am sure…and these people built without machines and technology…truly amazing…
After our day at Percepolis, Fatemeh took us to visit Hafez Tomb. Hafez was a great Poet who is revered here in Iran. According to Lonely Planet, “even in the poorest home you will find 2 books: the Quran and the poetry of Hafez”. The poetry of Hafez is from the 14th century and most Iranians can quote at least one passage.
Fatemeh was kind enough to let us go to their largest Botanical Gardens…Oh my they are huge and beautiful…and on a hot day there are many shady areas to just rest and relax…The locals come to enjoy a break and also picnic…picnicking is a big past time…As usual, the walk included many requests for pictures and waves of welcome from all that passed me…
Before I leave you after this very long travelogue, I wanted to also dispel a few other misunderstandings about Iranians…
First off, Iranians are Persians NOT Arabs. To call an Iranian an Arab is a huge insult…like calling a Canadian and American(just joking).
But seriously they are Persians and most have issues with Arabs…they say because of the Arabs treatment of women. Fatemeh and I were sitting in the lobby or our hotel and 2 men from Oman were there and talking with me. Then the older man spoke directly to Fatemeh and it sounded like he was scolding her but when I asked what he had said she told me he said something disgusting…he spoke of how pretty she was but in a rude manner. And she said that she didn’t appreciate his leering stares.
For those who know, I am fixated on various bathrooms around the world…here they use the standard squat toilet…so you have to be sure to bring tissue everywhere…but hey a great side effect is my thighs are getting strong! (-:
Their currency is so confusing…They use 2 types: the Rial & the Toman…but really it is the Toman…but all the currency is rial…so for example a 100,000 bill in Rial is actually 10,000 in Toman…you take the last zero off…oh and don’t ask me to translate that into dollars..it is impossible…the only ones I have mastered is the 500,000….that one is approximately 15.00 and the 100,000 is approx 3.00…but a 10,000 rial is 33 cents…And I thought Farsi would be the hard part!
Yes…they speak Farsi NOT Arabic…
Iran is Shite(98%) and No Isis and Al queda are NOT here…those 2 groups are Sunni and mainly come from Saudi…
When you greet someone, you put your hand on your heart and blow your head slightly and say Salaam…that is a polite greeting.
Facebook is technically illegal but there is a special software that everyone has and uses it…I don’t have it so no FB for me while I am here…But Thanks to my sister, I hope those on FB are seeing this along with some pictures. It’s funny because I saw a commercial with a FB contact.
And while I might not frequent fast food in the US, I really did enjoy my fast food dinner last night…
I apologize for how long this is…I think from now on, they should be shorter…I just wanted to give you some idea of Iran as a country and how the people are as well as the places…We have so many misconceptions…and just so you don’t think we are being given a sanitized tour, we have been able to wander on our own.
Other than Americans, Brits and Canadians, all others are free to go wherever without a guide…no restrictions…I, myself, love having Fatemeh…She is young and enthusiastic and open to all discussions and also is a great help making sure I eat things that won’t create havoc in my stomach…We have been taking local transport or hoofing it so I feel very unencumbered…Very different then I even expected…I wish we could offer the same hospitality to the Iranian people to come visit us. I know many many would love to see America.
Well I am on a long bus journey to Kerman and the ride is a bit bumpy…I will say, their cars don’t have the same shock absorbers as we do… And I think I have probably worn out my welcome with your time. I will write again toward the end of the week.