An outsider’s impression of Iran

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 IRAN IS NOT the country one typically thinks of when choosing a holiday destination. And even when going there, most of the people don’t have many expectations.  Our contributor went to Tehran for a short holiday, and decided to go for short impressions, rather then attempt to settle for one thing.

 

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Manteau & Hijab

Upon receiving my passport sized photos – with me seriously and tightly wrapped up in a hijab – the visa granting official at Iran’s Embassy in Copenhagen smiled: “Lovely picture. You can keep one as a gift, as I’m sure your family and friends will love it.”

Despite escalating protests by feminists, manteau and hijab fulfills my every aesthetic desire for feminine beauty. Made of various textiles including linen, silk, cotton and wool, with all sorts of stylish cuttings and patterns, the costume is anything but dull.

Manteaus and hijab at very affordable prices are easily accessible in bazaars and roadside shops. It’s said there is also a whole “underground” world of indigenous manteau designers in Iran, who have their own great sense of style.

Surprisingly, wearing manteaux in summer is not as swelteringly hot as I had imagined, because the sunshine and heat are well sheltered. “I feel I’m wearing a portable air-conditioner.” I joked.

Mansions & Palaces

To view Tehran from the Milad Tower –  the world’s sixth tallest telecommunication tower – makes the city seem a painting: a mixture of white, gray and green watercolour. Its skyline is defined in a flat and smooth manner, with a few steepled towers, glittering mosques and giant concrete complexes scattered around.

Milad Tower

A number of halted construction projects along the roads in Tehran constantly remind me of Iran’s tough history. While looking up at these buildings, images of the country’s prosperity before the Islamic Revolution and western sanctions pass through my mind, leading to a deep sigh.

Time seems have stopped at a certain moment.

The Saadabad Palace surely represents the best of that time. Built by the Pahlavi dynasty of Iran between 1931 and 1936, it is a modern building filled with “a hodge-podge of extravagant furnishings, paintings and vast made-to-measure carpets”, as described by Lonely Planet. I was particularly amazed by a room in the Green Palace, as the first palace built in the complex, which embraces edgy and grand mirror marquetry as an interesting element of the Persian arts.

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Men & Women

Iranian people are the most hospitable I’ve encountered anywhere. Before the trip, my Iranian friend told me that one of her foreign friends traveled in Iran for one month without spending a single toman, since she was consistently accommodated by Iranians that she first met. People love to offer their best food, housing, love and care to guests.

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Gratefully I was recipient of the same. Throughout the tour, my gratitude to my friend, her family and friends were beyond words. Many strangers I met in Tehran have also showed me top-class hospitality. Being a foreign lady dressed in traditional Iranian costume, I enjoyed the curious looks of people, as the look is out of a pleasant kindness. Once I greeted people with “Salam” (hello), among the few Farsi expressions I know, they would turn very excited and reward me with long, incomprehensible paragraphs of kind words. Fortunately smiles can transcend language barriers.

Some romantic adventures also make the trip very special. Once I encountered an Iranian girl in a café. On our way home she enthusiastically called me her ”goddess of love”, because at the moment we met each other, her ex-boyfriend texted her saying “I still love you”. She believed this is due to the secret exotic power I had transferred to her. The story had a very happy ending: they got back together, and I used all my ‘magic power’ to wish her best of luck.

“Iran can be a typical case to study the distorted and simplified image produced by the media,”  I concluded on my Facebook. “Through the trip, I’ve been converted to a huge fan of the country.”

Citing from a poem by the Iranian poet Azita Ghahreman, I’lm delivering my heart-felt words to Tehran:

“I’ll let myself change my mind at the drop of a hat

but of your every move, I’ll keep a log.”

 ________________

 

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