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.
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 didnt 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 Ive 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 didnt 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 didnt 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.
Ive no words to describe how much hospitable and funny they were, thanks guys!
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
HOT: in winter time no problem. Temperatures and humidity where OK even in the south (Bandar-e-Abbass)
Iran is a Shiite islamic country, hence its religious rules are very severe and, it doesnt matter if you agree or not, you must observe them. Its also a matter of respect since you are a guest.
These rules are controlled by the Komitè (religious police) that is everywhere throughout the country. Some important Islamic rules that you must keep in mind are:
ü 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
ü If you are a woman you must always covers your body, aside from face and hands
ü If you are a man you cannot take off your shirt in public
ü Hugging and kissing is no allowed in public
ü 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?) its a sign of respect and appreciation for their culture and it
influences positively the attitude of locals towards you. Anyway its easy and funny
too, and itll make you feel less stranger.
-GREET AND EXCHANGE THE GREETINGS
To greet and exchange the greeting is more than appreciated; sometimes its almost a duty. Dont hesitate to do it, youll 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 its 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. Its 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 doesnt mean you must shut up, but its just a matter of common sense and respect.
I know to be trustful is always a risk, but its extremely important if you want to relate with people. At the begging I was sceptical to accept the invitation of just met people, but Ive always trusted and it worked. Of course it could happen to you to meet the wrong person, but anyway itll 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 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
its 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
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
Anywhere you gonna go in Iran, dont miss Esfahan!!!
Definitely Ive spent the most interesting and enjoying 5 days Ive 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
I went to Hamadan
mainly to visit the Alì 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
youll found in any corner elsewhere in Iran. Even more charming
than the caves I found the landscape on the way. Its 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 Ive
visited, in fact Ive met several English speaker, moreover the girls
seem less shy or scared to communicate.
PS: unfortunately I found someone who, unsuccessfully, tried to swindle me (read about the tips)
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 Ive never had problems breathing,
but in Teheran I got my throat inflamed.
In short Teheran isnt worth a dedicated long divert to visit it, nevertheless, since surely youll pass by it, dont miss a glance!