Iran: Leave Your Misconceptions at Home!!!

Trip Start Dec 12, 2010
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Trip End Dec 16, 2012


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Flag of Iran  ,
Wednesday, April 17, 2013

We live on a very interesting planet. A big, wide world, full of so many different cultures, religions, ideals and beliefs. We live in a world full of love, and hate, a world of politics, and media lead misconceptions. So when we ventured to the taboo country of Iran, we were ready to leave our misconceptions at home.

Iran is one of those countries that is in the media for all the wrong reasons. Being from a Western country, we only hear about Iran being a Western hating country, a country which may have nuclear weapons, a fanatical Islamic country. Well, these 'misconceptions' is exactly what we had to ignore, as we journeyed across Iran and saw what this country is really like.

Iran, an Islamic republic, is portrayed as a fanatical Islamic country in the media. Yes, Islam is important in Iran, and there is a lot of religious history there. It doesn’t stop with Islam though, as there are also many important Zoroastrian sites. Iran has many beautiful mosques, and has a national rule that all women must wear long clothes and a head scarf when in public. The women do wear the long black robes by choice though, unlike what we hear and see reported in Western media. We had expected the dress code, but what we didn’t expect is that the women of Iran are stylish.

In our country you would never hear the words Iran and stylish in the same sentence. But as we walked around the streets of Tehran and other cities, we watched stylish Iranian women wearing hip clothing (of course that covered from head to toe), but they wore head dresses that only just covered the very back part of their head. These women were all about the hairstyle, the high pony tails, dyed hair, and the head scarf that was just there to be seen as ‘following the rules’. The style of Iranian women didn’t just stop there. Many women packed on makeup. But what was very typical of Iranian women was that many choose to get a nose job. Yes, we saw many people (men and women) who wore the bandages of this plastic surgery. It has also been noted that in Iran, just wearing a bandage on your nose to pretend to have had a nose job is fashionable. Well, in terms of fashion and style, we had to leave our misconceptions of Iranians at home.

Iran is an Islamic country, but as we delved deeper into its culture, subcultures, and religion, we soon realized that Iran is a Shiite Islamic country. Unlike its Islamic neighbours, Iran mainly practises a different sect of Islam. Prayer schedules are less strict (three times a day), compared to the Sunni’s five times a day schedule. The mosques are slightly different as they contain a prayer ditch. Iranians also don’t see themselves as Arabs, or Middle Eastern, just simply friendly, hospitable Persians. So, there you go, Iranians are Shiite, and are not Arabs or Middle Easterners. Yet another misconception we had to leave at home.

Although we hear about Iran in the news, we really didn’t know what to expect of it in terms of a developing nation. If one were to think of it as a Middle Eastern nation, things such as disgusting squat toilets, dirty streets, dusty cities and a developing society may spring to mind. However, we were impressed to discover the advances in development which are evident throughout Iran. Not one squat toilet made us want to vomit, the streets were really quite clean, even in Tehran, and beautiful snow-capped mountain landscapes could be seen in the distance from every location we visited. Wi- fi was found in most hotels, the local airlines were of high quality, the coaches travelling from city to city were very comfortable with heaps of leg room, and the overnight train was far more superior to the ones we had travelled on in Russia and Eastern Europe. We found Iran to be a forward thinking, clean, and developed country. Misconceptions really do need to be left at home.

During our time in Iran, we often had to wonder why many people in the Western world are scared of Iran, and see it as a dangerous place to travel. We weren’t scared, and we soon realised how safe and friendly Iran actually is. We were overwhelmed by the enthusiastic locals who just wanted to say hello, have a chat in English, and wanted to invite us to drink tea. Iranians are amazing people. And it was in Yazd that we experienced their amazing hospitality. When wandering the streets of Yazd, we got a bit lost. This resulted in us being invited to drink tea and have cake with some locals who couldn’t speak English. With a lot of body language and a smartphone translator, they gave us directions of how to get to the sight we were trying to find. From there we proceeded to look for this sight. We then stumbled upon yet another friendly local, who this time could speak English. He then invited us into this humble home where we spent a couple of hours sharing cultures with him and his family. We were given tea and traditional Yazd sweets, we got to see his family photo album, and we chatted about many things. All in all, this was our highlight of our trip in Iran, as we were spoilt with the amazing friendliness and hospitality of the Iranian people. This was an amazing experience, but something that wasn’t unusual in Iran. We were often asked in the street if we needed help. We were also given food that the locals wanted to share with us, and of course we were asked if we wanted to sit down with some locals and smoke some qalyan (water pipe). These are true reasons to why we had to leave misconceptions at home.

So there you have it. Iran is an amazing country. Yes, the media may portray it as an ‘Arab’ country, full of Islamic extremists, or a country ready to bring out the nuclear weapons in the fight against the West. But they are so very wrong about the everyday Iranian. We encourage anyone who views Iran like this to travel to Iran yourself. And if you do, you will find that Iran is a developed country, with great transport, fashionable people, a country populated by peace loving Shiite Muslims, and a lot more modern than you would expect. But overall, you will find that Iran is a country home to some of the most amazingly friendly and hospitable people in the world. And finally, you will find yourself leaving your misconceptions of Iran at home!
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