Mar 31, 2011

Iran - Generalities

Iran is not a country that leaves indifferent and our families were more than scared to know that we would visit this country. From our side, we knew before coming in Iran that the country would be nothing like the images of fanatism spread on Occidental media. But reality has been even further than what we could have imagined. To summarize, we could say that Iran is a country of contrats and with this post we just want to share our two-weeks-trip-in-Iran experience. Because Iran is not only about Persian carpets! ;)

Vakil Bazar in Shiraz

There we lived our most memorable counchsurfing period. We notably spent a few days in two Iranian family : siblings composed of two girls and three boys, and a couple with their daughter. Both of them have been extremely generous and kind with us, in their hospitality and in their sharing Iranian traditions. Our host in Esfahan also introduced us with the best of Iranian culture like the traditional ice-cream.. taste "rose water and saffran"! Delicious! ;)) And we can say that the Iranians we met during our trip were generally benevolent and helpful, when for example we asked for direction in the street.

THE ice cream

After a neighbour offered Luis some food in the street

We felt Iran as a very safe country. Not once we have been scared by what was happening around us, even when we were carrying large amount of money with us. In fact, for political reasons, neither Visa, Mastercard nor American Express work in Iran. So every foreigner has to bring with him to Iran the whole budget he will need during his stay, in euros or in dollars for example, and change it for local currency in the country.

Our first two posts about Iran in this blog testify clearly our appreciation of what we visited and saw of the Persian culture. Iran has many cities and sights really worth visiting, rich in beauty and History!

Nevertheless, one can not totally forget that he is traveling in a radical theocracy and some specificities of our travel in Iran made us feel uneasy. First of all, the way women are considerated. The veil is compulsory in Iran for every woman, to hide all hair from men' sight except brother(s), father and husband.

Before coming, we did not know exactly what Axelle was supposed to wear so we bought in Syria a long black dress. We then realized that fashion evolves and a lot of Iranian girls actually wear colorful skin-tight tunics or manteaux (overcoat) as they call it. We saw also a somehow relaxed way of wearing the veil which only covered the back of the head and/or the bun. Still a branch of the police dedicates all its time to check if women respect the local dress code.. The main idea remains to hide hair, cleavage and ass! Any source of excitement is PROHIBITED!! We met an Iranian who even told us his impressions, that "everything which could bring joy is forbidden in Iran. The governement wants us sad and depressed... We live like Europe during Inquisition."

Former US Embassy palisade (today called "US Den of Espionage"), covered with some expressive paintings..

Anyway sex segregation appears clearly during the daily life. For example, we took many buses in the country and were surprised that usually the women are seated in the front of the bus. It seemed totally inconceivable that a woman would be seated next to a man she did not know. And it was mainly the women who refused the vicinity of a man. This was a source of some amazement for us, for example when in the middle of a six-hour bus ride, the bossy driver stopped and relocated women to the front of the bus before letting a group of men coming in. For a moment we just did not understand what was happening and what the driver was doing standing in the corridor, shouting and poiting some ladies.

We also learned in a strange way that riding bicycle is forbidden to women. We went for a bicycle ride in a parc in Esfahan. At one point, a policeman stopped Luis and asked him questions in Farsi.. Luckily, we were accompagnied by our Iranian host who explained us that the policeman had tooken Luis for an Iranian and accordingly asked him why his wife was riding a bicycle... As tourists, we are not constraint to respect this local law.

Conversely one thing we do have to compose with in Iran is the local money!! The official currency in Iran is called rial. One euro is worth around 14.000 rials. If the banknots and coins are labelled in rials, everyone speaks and tells the prize in toman.. quite confusing! In fact to have the price in rials, you just have to multiply the price in toman by ten. Well, a lot of zeros and reasons to mistake! Our way to deal with that situation was to think in dollars: one dollar is one thousand toman (ie ten thousand rials). We had to understand this subtility during our first Iranian taxi ride to go from the airport to the city centre of Shiraz. And the taxi driver did not speak one word of English!!

To say a few words about taxis in Iran, as we experienced also in Jordan and Syria, road code is not respected at all! You feel in a NASCAR circuit, but in city centers full of both-ways streets. Goes first the one who is less scared, the chicken game! And another thing, it is better to have small notes of small denomination with you, to avoid some scams with change.

Traffic in Tajrish square, Tehran

To conclude, we were relieved to leave the country and the long black dress that Axelle took off immediatly after entering in the plane to Nepal. And the dress did not go out of the plane with us! ;)

In Iran it was impossible to access our blog and many other websites and social media platform, for example: Facebook, CouchSurfing, Flickr, even Gmail sometimes... During those two weeks it was difficult to maintain contact with home and the logistical preparation of our trip really felt behind.


  1. Boas! Obrigadinho pelo "Inside view" do Irão. Presumo que a maior parte das pessoas não tenha essa visão do país.. apenas a que nos é imposta pelos media... bons festejos do campeonato de cricket na Índia! Abraço e beijo!

  2. Hello les globetrotters,
    Les photos sont toujours aussi belles et vos infos sympas...
    Mais pourquoi nous narguer avec des photos de victuailles que nous ne pouvons pas gouter ???
    Ca, c'est moins gentil...
    Mais bon, je ne vous en tiendrai pas rigueur...
    Gros bisous