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My musings on Iran

Written on: Tuesday May 6th, 2008

A journal entry from: Trails in 2008

Now our tr?p to Iran ?s over, just a general post on Iran - its such a place of contradictions and the general perception that its a dangerous place to visit couldn't be more wrong!    Here are my observations should anyone want them.
The people part?cularly l?ked us because we were young and travell?ng ?ndependently (most of the tour?sts are older folk from France/Italy on tour buses).  They know that people ?n the West th?nk Iran ?s a dangerous place to travel, and we assured them we w?ll tell our fr?ends otherw?se - so here goes...
the things we liked: 
friendly!  we have had to add a few extra hours contingency in our day to allow for all the people that come up to talk to us, and of course to take photos w?th us.  this must be the friendliest country in the world. 
safe - people dozing under the shade of a tree with their babies beside them, l?ttle k?ds runn?ng around the parks at 11pm and parents not hav?ng to keep an eye on them, just like our good old days 
genu?ne - taxi drivers give you change -  somet?mes the shopkeeper just took the money he needed out of your wallet and ?t was OK!  There ?s a great system called Ta'arof - where ?f you are offered someth?ng the general rule ?s to decl?ne a few t?mes before accept?ng so that the person can save face ?n case they can't actually del?ver!  So ?n a tax? when you go to pay somet?mes the dr?ver w?ll shake h?s head l?ke he doesn't want any money.  Th?s has happened to us even ?n b?g c?t?es, but we played the game and shake a note at them 3 t?mes and then ?t then gets accepted!  However a taxi dr?ver ?n Tabr?z was shak?ng h?s head even more v?gorously than we were shak?ng the money, so we greatfully accepted a free r?de.  Where else would THAT happen ?n the world??!!
clean - there is no rubbish in the countryside, or on the city streets,  and no matter where you are, there WILL be soap in the bathrooms.  We have happ?ly been dr?nk?ng the tap water ?ts very safe (?n one town we later found out that the locals weren't dr?nk?ng ?t but we st?ll d?dn't get s?ck).
food - you will never get sick of eating in iranian restaurants, its not just a kebab and rice kind of country.  there are soups, stews, saffron rice with cranberries, honeyed crystalised sugar to stir in your black tea, saffron ice cream, rosewater and lots of little sweets and yummy baker?es (need i mention again, the delicious macaroons?!)
healthier - not many smokers, and free exercise equipment in the parks
loyal to their own - Iran has taken on the most refugees in the world - mainly from Afghanistan and Iraq.  (However employers are also disposed to getting these immigrants hooked on herion to keep them working harder, and then the country deports them)
what was not so likeable:
People are so happy and well natured that somet?mes ?ts easy to forget that l?v?ng here comes w?th ?ts own dark cloud.  The usual ?ssues when rel?g?on and state leaders are one and the same.
The women get ?t pretty tough:
G?rls have to wear the h?jab at 9 years old.  Although the dress code ?s for all musl?ms to wear loose and modest cloth?ng, the real?ty ?s that most men are walk?ng around ?n t?ght jeans and sl?cked ha?rdos wh?le women are covered from head to toe (usually in black).
Women aren't allowed to wear makeup and the pol?ce can take them to the pol?ce stat?on and phone the?r fam?ly for makeup or bad h?jab (although th?ngs are more relaxed than they ever have been, th?s st?ll happens)
Because of the?r cloth?ng, women cannot play sport or do any outdoor exerc?se (the s?ze of men and women ?s qu?te not?ceable!)
No swimming for women
Women occupy 60% of the places in university but still need permission from their family/husband to have a job.
women and men always apart - on the bus men at the front and women at the back.  They s?t seperately at university, and in cafes there are places for groups of men, women, and fam?l?es to s?t - you are guided to the appropriate place.
A womans life and word in court is worth half that of a mans (same goes for non-musl?m men and women). 
undemocratic - The elect?ons took place last week, a farc?cal exerc?se w?th the Mullah's hav?ng the ult?mate cho?ce for who w?ll be pres?dent (they stuck w?th Armed?nejad)
unfree -  You cannot change your religion, unless of course it is to Islam (which you can do in one easy sentence)
A musl?m ?s legally ent?tled to the ent?re ?nher?tance of the?r parents over non-musl?m s?bl?ngs
Mostly young guys ?n the?r 20's would approach us to talk about the pol?t?cal s?tuat?on and how the government and the people are not the same.  We kept very wary about what we sa?d to these people (?n case the walls have ears, we d?d want to make ?t out of Iran!)  but ?t was very ?nterest?ng and somet?mes a l?ttle gruesome to hear the?r stor?es about what happens when people object to the reg?me.
state controlled med?a - ? love a good newspaper but the newspapers are about 20 pages th?n... f?rst pages almost always about o?l and energy, next the act?ons of the ev?l satan and z?on?st reg?me of Amer?ca.  The tv ?s a good watch w?th frequent ?ntervals of nat?onal?st?c mus?c and fade ?ns of sold?ers tra?n?ng, women w?th guns and past martyrs from the Iran-Iraq war.  There are no music videos, and minimal western programmes.  Peak Pract?ce makes the grade, it has been dubbed ?nto Fars? for prime time v?ew?ng (I also categor?se th?s as a bad th?ng)
no alcohol - the sure f?re way to make you want ?t more than ever!
So, wh?le I can rave about Iran as a great place to be a tourist, I would probably have ended up ?n a dark cell by now ?f I had to l?ve there! 
Iran News, 7 May 2008
'Collapse of US Emp?re Imm?nent'
A sen?or m?l?tary commander says the world w?ll soon w?tness the sudden collapse of the emp?re created by the US. 
...The numerous domest?c and fore?gn ?ssues Wash?ngton ?s struggl?ng aga?nst have brought the US to ?ts knees.