www.albytravel.com

Iran

ABOUT THIS TRAVEL

IRAN   20 days - march  2000

Who? Me and my notebook

Why Iran? I was attracted by middle  east, I mean the islamic culture that seems so far from us. Which is  a representative country of this culture? Discarding the no-go countries as Afghanistan, Irak, Arabia, the only one left is Iran.

Preparation: visa is a real hassle and try to get it could discourage you. To me it took some months to find the way, apply and get it by internet (read how I managed). Anyway few days before leaving I received it and I flew to Teheran. As usual I travelled alone, I think it's the best way to know the people and blend in the country

 

The travel: I travelled from Teheran to Esfhan, dropping by Abyaneh (Kashan). Then I went to Shiraz, the wonderful Bam and I reached the cost (Bandar-e-Abbass), where I got by boat to the Geshm island. Some days later I flew to Hamadam and I reached the Caspian sea (Rasht and Masule') . Finally I "diverted" to Mashad, the holy city, before coming back Italy.

What I found? I knew a lot of people who invited me to drink a tea (chay, in farsi), to have a dinner and even to sleep in their houses, always without asking nothing or even giving me some gifts at my leaving (read the story). You'll discover that iranian people with their hospitality are the richness of this country. But you need to do a certain kind of travel that let you to come  into contact with them. I mean no organised tour, travelling as you are at the zoo. I found people interested in the western culture, and I had no particular problems staying with them, however respecting their habits. Nevertheless you'll crashed again the language barrier (read the tips). It's very important you know the laws concerning mainly the relation between male and female in public places if you don't want to get in troubles (read about them)

Conclusions: I come back with a positive and respectful image of Iran and his population. Further I still have with me the memory of the unforgettable five days spent in Esfahan, the most intense moments I've ever lived during my travels.

Alby   

 

Funny stories

  1. IN TEHERAN I FELT KIDNAPPED, BUT...

  2. ONCE I SLEPT IN THE STREET AND TWO IRANIANS...


 

IN TEHERAN I FELT KIDNAPPED, BUT...

 

It was my first day in Iran when in Teheran I started looking for the bus to reach  the bus-terminal. I got on a public bus and asked info (or better I tried), then the driver begin gesticulating that I was on the right bus, dropped off everybody else but me, and left. It was me and the driver on the bus nr 533 heading somewhere. I was quite sceptic, and I repeated several times my destination. The bus passed by some bus-stops where people asked to get on but he didn’t open the doors gesticulating them to take another one. I began to get scared  when I started asking  him to let me out. But he went on speaking in farsi and laughing. After ten minutes driving, he stopped the bus in the outskirt of Teheran and sat trying to speak with me about my country. Now I was really insisting to let me out. Since it was my first day of travel I had all the money and I was not confident at all. Then he started driving and stopped again after 5 minutes. He sat and rolled a cigarette when I rushed to the front of the bus pushed the button I saw before he used to close the doors and got out of the bus. He was surprised and tried to convince me staying on. Then he followed me driving by bus and calling me, but I walked quickly giving him the slip. At the beginning I did understand what he wanted, nevertheless after a while, I figured out that probably he was just eager to speak with a foreign... now I feel sorry but I cannot regret for the behaviour I’ve had.  

 

 

I SLEPT IN THE STREET IN BANDAR AND TWO IRANIANS...

 

When I got in the deep night in Bandar-e-Abbass I was travelling with Clara and Gabriel (one Spanish couple) who wanted to look for a very cheap accommodation. Hence we got a cab driven by two Iranians (Sharok and Hagma) and went to ask to several places, but none was cheap enough. So we decided to sleep in the street nearby the harbour, but the two Iranians guys didn’t let us staying alone saying it was to dangerous. One of them stayed just to guard us; he stood   all the night as a kind of guard dog, till the morning when the other, who carried on working with the cab, came and took us in his (very simple and poor) house with his family where he insisted to wash our clothes, prepared the breakfast. We stayed there for four days eating and sleeping (we bought the food, but they didn’t ask us to) and Sharok took us to visit the Geshm island, the village of Minab, to have a bath at the terme. I was surprised by the fact they were no wealthy at all, nevertheless open-minded. It was a pleasure to speak with them. At the end for our leaving they organised a kind of party with all their relatives and gave us some gifts.

I’ve no words to describe how much hospitable and funny they were, thanks guys!

 

Travel tips

 

  1. INTRODUCTION

  2. PREPARATION
      Documents
      Health
      Money
      Equipment

  3. GENERAL TIPS
      -Islamic rules
      -Learn to count and some farsi words
      -Greet and exchange greetings
      -Bring some small gifts
      -Be moderate telling about western world freedom
      -Trust people!!

     -Watch out fake policemen.It happened to me that..


 

INTRODUCTION

Mine has been a low budget independent travel, without renting any kind of private mean of transport, but just using the public ones and without any support of tourist agencies. If you gonna do another kind of travel (medium/high budget travel by agency) you could have wholly different experiences, or my impression could sound you strange
Finally consider this travel took place in march of 2000; everything changes, things better or worsen, so check it out!

 

PREPARATION

Documents:
Italian citizens need a visa issued by the Iranian consulate in Milan. Get the visa is   tough and it  depends strongly on the country from which you apply for it. I contacted an agency in Teheran by internet and got the visa number that was comunicated to the consulate in Milan. I paid it $ 60  with one  night in a medium range hotel in Teheran included...good luck!

Health:
Frankly I didn't do anykind of vaccination. I don't think Iran has any serious health risks, at warse (or, for sure) some intestinal troubles.

Money:
The currency is the RIAL.
At the time of travelling (march 2000) there was no difference between the black change rate (in the streets) and the official one. What I perfectly remember is that, when I immediately changed $50, I got so many notes I didn't know where to place in my bag hence   they gave me a personal  note to be signed when used. It took two weeks to change it.

Equipment:
MOSQUITO: I did this travel in winter hence I had no problem with mosquito; I don't know about summer time, but in winter time, even if you sleep outdoor, as it happened to me, leave moquito-net and repellent at home.

 

HOT: in winter time no problem. Temperatures and humidity where OK even in the south (Bandar-e-Abbass)


-a good knife... to eat I mean ;-)
-in the north is rainy in the winter time: take an umbrella

 

GENERAL TIPS

-ISLAMIC RULES

Iran is a Shiite  islamic country, hence its religious rules are very severe and, it doesn’t matter if you agree or not, you must observe them. It’s also a matter of respect since you are a guest.

These rules are controlled by the Komit (religious police) that is everywhere throughout the country. Some important Islamic rules that you must keep in mind are:

      You cannot seat near a woman in public places (in a public bench, on a bus, train) unless she is you mother, sister, daughter or a relative

      If you are a woman you must always covers your body, aside from face and hands

      If you are a man you cannot take off your shirt in public

      Hugging and kissing is no allowed in public

      A foreign man speaking with an Iranian woman can both have problems

 

-LEARN TO COUNT AND SOME FARSI WORDS

Learn to count is extremely important, particularly to know the Arabic numbers will facilitate your life, especially to bargain. The greeting are also fundamental, since exchange the greetings is, unlike in the western world, a duty.

In every country try to learn some short sentences in the local language (e.g. “how are you?”, “how is your family?” “how much is?”) it’s a sign of respect and appreciation for their culture and it influences positively the attitude of locals towards you. Anyway it’s easy and funny too, and it’ll make you feel less stranger.
You can find a short vocabulary at the end of the Lonely Planet guide.
Strive a little bit!!

 

-GREET AND EXCHANGE THE GREETINGS

To greet and exchange the greeting is more than appreciated; sometimes it’s almost a duty. Don’t hesitate to do it, you’ll see how locals will really smile and got helpful towards you. You can find the greeting at the end of the Lonely Planet guide

 

-BRING SOME SMALL GIFTS

Since it’s probably to be hosted in Iranian house for free, some small gifts (as a pen of you country) could be a good sign before leaving

 

-BE MODERATE TELLING ABOUT WESTERN WORLD FREEDOM

Iranian social balance is delicate. It’s important you avoid telling everybody about the freedom in your country (especially concerning the sex) without thinking if you are saying the right thing to the right person with the right tone. You can really create frustration and sadness uselessly. This doesn’t mean you must shut up, but it’s just a matter of common sense and respect.

 

-TRUST PEOPLE

I know to be trustful is always a risk, but it’s extremely important if you want to relate with people. At the begging I was sceptical to accept the invitation of just met people, but I’ve always trusted and it worked. Of course it could happen to you to meet the wrong person, but anyway it’ll be worth for all the other right ones (read what happened to me)

 

WATCH OUT FROM PEOPLE PRETENDING TO BE POLICEMAN

In Hamadan on a taxi I met a man who pretended to be a policeman (showing me a badge) and wanted my passport and my money to check if they were fake.

Of course I said my passport was at the hotel and gave him the few money I had in the pocket. He started yelling, I took them back and I replayed yelling louder (very louder) to stop the car. The car stopped and I rushed out.

 

Bam

  1. ABOUT BAM

  2. PHOTOS

 

ABOUT BAM

Bam is a kind of big oasis at the bottom of one of the two iranian desert. The highlight is the arg-e-Bam (the old town of Bam), a formed citadel built just by mud on the border between the oasis and the desert. Now it’s a kinda of big labyrinth where I spent hours just hanging out through the narrow streets. From the top of the tower set at the centre of the citadel you can enjoy the view of the desert northward and of the palm trees southward. You can drink a tea in the tea house inside the citadel and meet Iranian people eager to speak with you!
Beside this citadel, Bam is a nice town to be visited, where I met very nice people and hanged out with other travellers exchanging travelogues.

On the opposite, one spooky experience regarding Bam has been to reach it by a night bus trip from Shiraz….uhm….awful. I promise you, just the African bus trips in Mali has been worse!

 

Thanks to Gabriel and Clara (two Spanish travellers)    for their company during our adventures in Bam and Bandar-e-Abbass

 

Esfahan

  1. ABOUT ESFAHAN

  2. PHOTOS

 

ABOUT ESFAHAN

Anywhere you gonna go in Iran, don’t miss Esfahan!!!

Definitely I’ve spent the most interesting and enjoying 5 days I’ve ever spent travelling. First of all the town is so beautiful: in particular its huge square (the third one biggest in the world), the five km bazaar that skirts it, the awesome mosques, the bridges….

Furthermore the inhabitants are so hospitable: I were in a cab when a man invited me in his house for dinner (and I went, obviously), another one stopped me in the street offering me a breakfast, two guys, eager to speak to a foreign, invited me in their houses for a tea with their family, other guys I met in the square invited me to a lunch with their friends….
It has been  simply amazing!
Besides I was surprised by the kind of traveller I met here. In fact Esfahan, thanks to his geographical position, unlike Teheran, is an obliged crossing point for everybody travelling from Turkey to Pakistan (or viceversa). Consequently I met people who were travelling for months from Asia to Europe around the world. I remember a small cute Japanese girl who had been travelling for 4 months alone in Egypt, Siria, Israel, Turkey, Iran, heading eastward, or an English girl biking alone from India through the Iranian desert, heading back to England. So interesting people whose meeting made my stay in Esfhan worthwhile.

  
Thanks to Micheal (an Austrian guy) for his company in Esfahan

 

 

Hamadan

  1. ABOUT HAMADAN

  2. PHOTOS

 

ABOUT HAMADAN

I went to Hamadan mainly to visit the Al Sadr caves  (100 km  northward). Hamadan is not a tourist highlight since there are no very interesting attractions. Nevertheless I advice you to visit it: first of all for the caves that are very nice and I found out funny the trip in the darkness with the pedal boat; anyway it is something different than the mosques with the minarets that you’ll found in any corner elsewhere in Iran. Even more charming than the caves I found the landscape on the way. It’s a 100 km ride in a desert with some snowed spots on a tiny minibus (in February), where I experienced the severity of the islamic rules (read the funny story). Further more Hamdan belongs to the west part of Iran that is so different from the rest of the country: the environment is greener and the temperature is definitely colder. The town is more lively but also colourless. The cultural level seems higher and more open-minded compared to the other towns I’ve visited, in fact I’ve met several English speaker, moreover the girls seem less shy or scared to communicate.
In short it’s another face of Iran, a piece of the puzzle of this country to be completed in your mind.

PS: unfortunately I found someone who, unsuccessfully,  tried to swindle me (read about the tips)

 

Teheran

  1. ABOUT TEHERAN

  2. PHOTOS

 

ABOUT TEHERAN

Definitely the Iranian capital is not the most beautiful one in the world, on the opposite  it could seem one of the ugliest: traffic and pollution are the main ingredients of this twelve million inhabitants city. In Santiago, B. Aires, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dakar I’ve never had problems breathing, but in Teheran I got my throat inflamed.
In the city it’s quite tough orienting, since there’s no centre but just long large streets run along by “dangerous unfenced dirty deep spooky” channels. Crossing the streets, if you’ll be able to jump the channel probably you’ll knocked down by some crazy driver.
After having discouraged you enough visiting Teheran, I can report you some its positive features: first of all the Elburz mountains are the background of the city that you’ll enjoy from every its corner. Moreover it’s very representative of the Iranian development (or undevelopment according to the point of view), thus, it’s the place freest from the most severe Islamic restrictions; you can write a email or buy  something particular that you don’t find elsewhere in Iran. Besides it’s very near to some ski slopes you can enjoy in a daytrip.
I had no problems walking alone through the town in the evening, as , anyway, everywhere else in Iran. Frankly here I had  a funny, and somehow scaring, meeting with a public bus driver whose behaviour I wholly misunderstood since I was just arrived in Iran and I wasn’t enough trustful of the people: read the funny story about it!

In short Teheran isn’t worth a dedicated long divert to visit it, nevertheless, since surely you’ll pass by it, don’t miss a glance!