What comes to your mind when you hear the name of “Iran”? Maybe desert, nuclear power, unsafety, third World country, weapons and God knows what. Well that is definitely what I imagined.
Iran was not in my list of countries that I wanted to visit during the world trip, actually it wasn’t in none of the lists of the rest of my family. How much do we know about Iran? I only knew what I sporadically heard on the international news, which is certainly very little. When I told my friends I was going to cross Iran I said it was something we did because we had no choice, we didn’t have another way to get to Europe as fast as this one, but that we would be careful and that we would definitely be fast.
When I write this on my way to the Turkish border I laugh at my own thoughts. What was I scared about? I was scared of something I didn’t even know. I think that is the problem most of us have. It is a huge problem.
What comes to my mind know that I have crossed the whole country? People, very friendly and hospitable people, rich history, interesting culture, tasty food and yes, some desert.
One of the many mosques
We have met some of the most hospitable and helpful people of our trip. That’s probably because they are not tired of tourists, they would give anything to have more visits from foreigners and proof that their country is not as “bad” as they say it is… They are proud of their country but they are also very interested on the image their country has abroad… and what can we say?
Mona and Caro in desert homestay
Truth is that tourism has decreased very much since 2001 with the 9/11, and as always, we tend to put everything in packages and we relate Taliban’s and Afghanistan’s problems with Iran, when there is 0% of talibanism in Iran. We actually hear a lot of people saying that they love foreigners and other countries, it is just their government that doesn’t. What I have learned on this trip is that the country is made if its people, but not of those three that rule it.
Having lunch with locals
I have to say that crossing the border from Pakistan and arriving to Iran was like arriving to civilization, we felt more like in Europe, we felt we were on our way home. We have a lot in common with Iranians. I think it is one of the countries we have visited that has more on common with Spain, the food, the way they interact and the way the live life. Walking around Tabriz (the last big city we visited in Iran), I could transport myself to Barcelona, if I ignored all the women dressed from head to toes in the black chadors off course. Does it sound strange? Physically a lot of people could be from the south of Europe too, either Italians, Portuguese or Spanish… and this makes me realize again how similar we all are, but how distant we can become if we turn our face around and are ignorant.
Finally, I want to comment on the role of the women in the Iranian society. Coming from Pakistan, when we entered Iran I started to see more women in the streets and women working in their little businesses, so the presence of women outside their houses is definitely bigger than in Pakistan… but are they really present and fully appreciated if they are all covered up in black? Yes, you can calm your thoughts when you think they are being faithful to their religion, but Iran is actually the only country in the world today that imposes by law the woman to cover up. It is clear that Iran is still a male dominant society, even if the role of the woman is bigger than in Pakistan, they still have a long way to go.
Me in the ladies’ section of a Muslim celebration
It is very moving when talking to an educated young lady, graduated from Teheran University, she tells us that she wants to leave Iran and migrate to Canada, where there is freedom for women. She was telling me that in Iran she can’t dress how she would like to… and that is quite shocking to hear in the 21st century.
Little girl all covered up
It is also quite ironic to see women wrapped in clothes when it is so hot outside, while men pass by wearing the most figure hugging clothes for men I have seen in my life. Why can men wear whatever they feel like and women can’t? Is it fair? As long as I know women also have feelings and temptations, and as much as a man would be unfaithful to a woman, in my world at least, a woman would too.
Hospitality of Iranians
After all, stereotypes have proofed me wrong again and I have realized another time the importance of traveling and erasing those images that the media injects in our brain and make us so scared, so paralyzed, so ignorant, and so disinterested in getting to know our own planet.