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Hairy Hijabs - we arrive in Shiraz, Iran

Written on: Monday April 21st, 2008

A journal entry from: Trails in 2008

We flew from Amman via Bahrain to Shiraz.  It was a very relaxed airport security check (not much liquid checking going on) and a quick hand wave in a private booth for woman.  Bahrain airport is all razzle dazzle, full of men in white dresses and red chequered headtowels and fully covered women in black floating around.
The pilot announced when we entered Iranian airspace, which was the cue for all women to don their headscarf (or hijab).  I had bought a trainer hijab in Jordan (a kind of headsock).  I noticed two versions of hijab.  Some wear a very loose scarf over their heads, well coiffed and highly sprayed hair quite visible.  I guess these are the people that would fling it off in a second if the law allowed, and others wear a type of veil which covers the hair, reminiscent of my catholic school days.  This is the Government-approved version, as it is what the woman on the tv wear.  A fellow passenger on the plane who like many Iranians, left after the 70's revolution, was really helpful with lots of tips on what to do and see in Iran.  She quietly suggested I show as much hair as possible, and if anyone tells me to cover up I shouldn't.  I love a show of solidarity, and pushed it right back.
We were told about the friendly people in Iran, and it is true.  By the second day in Shiraz we had a page of phone numbers from people who stopped to speak to us and offered help if we needed.  Our hotel reception is a lounge room for the local men, and we met Moodgie, who had lived in Auckland for 5 years but missed home too much.  He took us out to a good local restaurant and then to a tea house with a great view of Shiraz at night.  Because there are no pubs the young people have picnics out in the parks, along with families and young kids.  Just imagine, everyone out having a fun and sober time till the wee hours.
Friday is their Sunday, and the shops and streets are deserted.  Everyone spends time with their family and has picnics.  No good if you have to change your US dollars to Iranian rials so you can eat!  Just on cue we met Mehli (who had lived in Melbourne), and he guided us towards a local guy who changes money and then we sat down for a nice cup of chai to chat about Iran, and Australia.
We met Ann and Paul on Saturday, our travelling companions for the next two weeks.  Ann has diligently organised the next two weeks, which has been great.  Our first mission was to go shopping.  By law, the dress code for women is a chador (a big sheet held over the head and held with your hand under your chin) or a manteau (raincoat style that covers your bum) and hijab.  It is around 30 degrees, so we are sweltering in the jackets we bought in England.  You would think that with only a jacket and scarf for women to make their fashion statement, there would be a wide variety in the shops.  But no.  I spent hours looking in at least 30 shops all selling 20 varieties of the same thing!  Whilst not wanting to waste holiday time shopping for a 2 week wardrobe, I was also concious these holiday photos could haunt me forever!   Finally found a shop selling mid thigh kaftan type outfits which made the grade. 
Shiraz is a busy city, with crazy traffic.  We have learnt to 'shadow' the locals after struggling to cross the roads which are 3 lanes each way and have no traffic lights.  They cross like experts, meanwhile we are kind of yelping in fear as we follow their lead.  They are very proud of their poets and the mausoleums to honour them are shrine-like.  Most Iranians like to chat but will never harrass. Except for when Paul got physically picked up by one rather small and happy bloke and carried into the bazaar.  Wrestling is their national sport so he had this in mind when he didn't struggle!  We found this quite funny but when he didn't return we followed to find him firmly planted in a tea shop and not going anywhere!
More surprises, this is the last place we expected to see a funpark, but after dinner one night we walked through Valiasr Park to come across a ferris wheel and watched the hijabs flying on the swinging pirates boat.