IRAN: I feel like Ellen Degeneres without the Talent!
May 23, 2015
The headline says it all…If you want to travel to a place that offers the best ego boost… Iran is it. .You are put on a pedestal as if you are a celebrity! There is no other place that I have been to that made me feel so special. Before I left the US, I had various concerns about the dress…the men…the clerics…the politics…but NONE of it proved worth a concern.
The people of Iran are the stars and what I would consider its treasure. But I will admit, after 2 weeks + of constantly being stopped to take pictures with families and kids, asked for my email(which I created a special one for this trip-hotmail ), asked all sorts of questions…I finally hit my wall on one of the last mornings…I tried to sneak into breakfast and not be noticed…I sat in the back with my face toward the wall…BUT still people came up and welcomed me and wanted to talk…I finally get what celebrities say when all they want to do is have a quiet meal (-: But my 15 minutes will be over soon enough and the reality of no one caring who I am or want their picture taken with me will be in the past…but it certainly was fun while it lasted….
Now don’t get me wrong…there are plenty of issues here…and some of it we have seen…While in Yadz, the 2 backpacker hotels had a letter from the Ayatollah aimed mainly at the young western travelers…I read it and for the most part his request was quite reasonable…He asked the travelers to judge Iran on the reality and not the misinformation…he also asked for them to take the time to learn what Islam really was…and that it was not a religion of terrorism…I think we can all agree that was a valid request from a country that is definitely demonized in the west.
After watching their TV, the few times I have seen an English version of their Press TV(Iran’s State TV), I have seen their take on issues I am familiar with…and yes, they have a slant…but, then, so do we. They have their hardliners here who disagree with their President Rohouni for trying to negotiate with us just as we have our hardliners who disagree with Obama for the same…And both these groups of hardliners use very volatile rhetoric which flames the anger. It’s not just one sided.
When we look at other cultures, especially ones we have been conditioned to fear, it’s easy to judge wrongly…and feel we have the information…Now, I know, 16 days does not make me totally knowledgeable on Iran by any stretch of the imagination BUT I do feel it gives me stronger standing in understanding the people and culture and yes the religion. This tour was a Cultural immersion…and I worked quite hard to learn as much as I could about both Religion and culture…At times, it felt like a crash course in College…BUT I can attest that much of the information we get in the West and the US, in particular, is exaggerated(like they do here) and in many cases completely wrong…Also speaking with many, many European and Asian tourists here, I find that they have a much better understanding of this area of the world then we do…They tend to be far more knowledgeable and less judgmental than we are…and according to most of them, they did not find the sharp contrasts in the information they receive on their media and reality to be as stark a difference as I did. I do hope my little or rather long winded reports have helped open minds a bit more.
OK now that I have that out of the way let me continue on with some of the things I loved and did not!
First off, when I booked the tour it was just me and then they told me that there would be 2 Australian men joining me…I was happy for the company but a little sad not to have another woman…Usually I wouldn’t care but then I thought I would have someone to commiserate with about wearing all the clothes and the Hijab…But beware what you ask for…AND also the things you think will be an issue(ie the Hijab) rarely are and those you never consider become the real ones…
That brings me to the “drama”… let’s just say the OTHER American created such havoc for our guide that the Authorities intervened and many hours were spent talking to them…at one point, they asked our guide if she thought the woman was a Spy!!! Yep…they went there…When I heard this all I could do is laugh…except I, too, had to speak with the police. They were very respectful and nice…but Fatima was given strict instructions not to let her roam and try to get her to control her behavior…I have decided NOT to delve into the details here…But all I can say is the authorities were very nice with the situation…I was hoping they would toss her out of the country!
Now that the drama is out of the way, here are the things or thing I didn’t like about Iran:
They have few pets and find it dirty to touch Dogs and Cats! And this seems to be a fairly universal feeling…It’s funny that is one of the questions they asked us “Do you have pets”..I wonder what they think when those of us say yes! Haha
That’s it for the bad……Here are the things I loved:
THE PEOPLE…and that includes everyone from the everyday person on the street to the Officers in the Army who took time to smile and even take pictures with me…even though I was asked later to delete them… (-: THE PEOPLE THE PEOPLE THE PEOPLE!
The History is extraordinary and I marvel at how well things 1000+ years ago survive and we, with all our machines and technology can’t build something to last…I understand planned obsolescence but I am talking about beautiful buildings…I think of houses that are put up like cardboard boxes with little thought or Office Buildings that are created with little artistic attention…no meaning in planning and development…We tend to believe we are evolving but in truth I think we are going backwards…based on some of the amazing places that are still standing…the attention to detail is amazing and admirable.
Here, the family is the centerpiece of the community…oh, and Islam. Islam is not so scary once you actually learn what they teach…and no, it is not teaching to kill…Killing is prohibited like in all religions(I know some of you will cite some obscure thing in the Koran but I could Cite the same in the Bible…it all evolves)… It is an unfortunate reality of humanity that people use various religions at various times in history to benefit their own power & land grabs…Now is the time that many crazy power grabbing people have hijacked Islam…
Another thing you start to really see clearly when looking back a few thousand years is that Humans are constantly at war…constantly trying to claim more land and spread their philosophies…This is not new…We just seem to have a misconception that there was ever a time of peace in the world…Never worldwide…some countries get it for short periods but then another fight appears…The Persians…Byzantines, the Ottomans Hittites…Romans…Greeks…etc just in this part of the world….and then there are 1000’s more in the rest…So that is another thing I have learned…although I really already knew it but really going back and seeing it is a reminder…the good ol days are today by tomorrows standards!
Iran is far more modern then I thought…And more middle Class…they have very similar economic issues that we do…but they also have a strong consumer society…and is actually influenced a lot by Western Consumerism…Watching TV, I see many similarities in their Commercials…similar graphics, music etc
They have funny sitcoms and it looks like pretty dramatic Soap Operas too…They have a couple of odd but interesting game shows…One is a Koran Game show…it’s about knowing certain verses…using a Jeopardy type format…and lots of bells and laughing…they also have very messy game shows ala Nickelodeon…and a TV show all about driving safety…this one captivated me because they would show someone driving wrong(which they all do) and then BAM! And then they seem to go through the right way to have handled it…it can get graphic…
Traffic is crazy…there are no lanes that I can decipher…And crossing can be hazardous to your health…and life for that matter. But I am so used to it now, I barely notice that I am walking right in front of a fast moving car…they don’t stop…they just adjust their bearings…and you better hope your timing is spot on!
I was walking out of a Mosque and saw what I thought was a statue…and she caught my eye because she was staring at me…when my eyes adjusted, I realized she was a woman openly breast feeding…Now that was an interesting juxtaposition…In a society that requires incredible modesty from women, they are all about breastfeeding in public…and here we are in the States still battling over it. (-:
No alcohol or Facebook or Youtube BUT you can find flasks and cork screws etc in stores…and, of course, they make Shiraz Wine in Shiraz…also every young person has Facebook and watches youtube and tweets…They have special black market software…
They are far more aware of us in the US then we are of them…and THEY are the ones living in a closed society…I laughed when many would come up and tell me about things they knew in the US…Again, it’s perspective…and as much as we like to believe we live in this open nirvana, we, too, are being manipulated by our media etc….Other tourists have actually told me they are shocked and disappointed on how little Americans know about Europe and the Middle East or Asia…As they point out, that is what will hurt us as we globalize…
Not a lot of smoking here…There are tons of the Hookah pipes…but they don’t really put off a lot of smoke that irritates my lungs…I had really expected much more…Although I am told in Turkey, it is everywhere.
I actually like the Hijab…I never have to worry about my hair…now, having said that, I am fairly certain I would not like it permanently…and it does get a bit warm in long sleeves BUT I love the tunic style…you all may see me in them next fall…But then I have always liked that style, it covers my ever widening hips!
The women here are amazingly fashionable…they definitely take pride in their dress…I feel so dowdy compared to most here…
Internet has been trying…and sometimes they let me into a site but then this particular page in Farsi pops up…I am guessing it is telling me “no go”
But I have been able to access NBC a little…and CNN and MSN…And a few others…but for the most part, I have chosen to be news free…a little break is nice…But the locals don’t seem to have the same issues…they seem to have Internet everywhere…including deep in the desert…Gary & I joked there was more coverage in Iran than where we live…and Fatima says no dropped calls!
As for tourism…Iran is in it’s infant stages…but don’t be fooled, they have some pretty spectacular 5 star places and some pretty nice 2nd tier…Now we ended up more in the 3rd tier level…which didn’t bother me as much a Gary and especially Pam…But then we went through a local group and paid 1000+ less…Other than some broken toilet seats(I was happy all the hotels had western toilets)…The squat toilets are standard…and they are great for strengthening the thighs but as Fatima says, they are hard on someone with knee and back problems.
Speaking of knee issues…ALL and I mean all of the sites have stairs and they built them, minimally, 2′-21/2′ each…these people back in the very old days must have had amazing quads and strong knees to do all the climbing with such wide height…
It can get very, very hot in the South but as soon as you step into some shade, it feels quite cool.
But I must return to my original plus: The People…I highly recommend a trip to Iran…It will offer some culture shock to those who are not used to not having all the Western conveniences but I promise, you will forget any issue because the people make up for the other stuff.
I hope to return one day and I hope I have inspired a few of you to venture here as well.