The first days in Iran. What I saw and felt.

Rules over rules: clothing regulations, restrictions on photography of official buildings, airports, military bases and demonstrations, ban on alcohol and no import of “dirty magazines” … Iran might not be the first choice of many travellers. Others however, including me, seem to be even more attracted to find out more about this closed country.

During the past 3 weeks, I have talked with many people and stayed in their homes. I was part of people’s regular lifes and thus learned a lot about their culture and habits. Today, I want to concentrate on my first days in Tehran. Because what is more critical than the first 72 hours in a new country?

✈   ✈   ✈

Teheran Tochal Korinna

I’m at the airport in Tehran, with my visa on arrival in the pocket. (I explained earlier how I got that!) A cousin of a friend picked me up from the airport. His car is old, with dents on the sides. When he winded down the window pane, the pane dropped into the window slot and disappeared. A hard thud indicated it hit the bottom of the door (never seen something like that before…). We stopped in the middle of the highway, he got out of the car, opened the cover of the internal side of the door and pushed the pane back upwards in its original position. “We don’t have the spare part for it here in Iran”, he explained.

Saipa - A typical old and dented car in Iran

A typical old and dented car in Iran

The car has become a key symbol for me. Due to sanctions, foreign cars are very expensive. The ones produced domestically are of inferior quality. One can choose between boxy Saipas and Iran Khodros (Iranian brands) as well as copies of old versions of Peugeot 206, Renault Megane and some chinese brands (produced domestically).

The traffic is very chaotic. Cars are driven with no regard to the lanes – you can often spot three cars next to each other on a two-lane road. Overtaking maneuvers are dangerous; often cars just pass a few centimeters away from each other. It reminded me of bumper cars at the funfair. I already saw the accidents happen in my mind’s eye, just I (luckily) never saw one happen in reality so far. Nonetheless, the death rate [in road traffic accidents] is the highest of any country in the world“.

Khamenei plakat

Iran’s supreme leader Khameini on a big poster

In the middle of the night, we reached my home for the next days: the family of an Iranian friend from Germany. His mother opened the door to me. For this purpose, she had wrapped a large cloth around her that covered her body and hair. I noticed it must be because of my male companion. As soon as the cousin said goodbye and the apartment door fell shut behind me, the cloak had disappeared.

korinna mit sangak

One of the famous breads of Iran: Sangak

The next morning, the mother already awaited me in the living room. Although she still seemed tired, she jumped out of her armchair and prepared breakfast: barbari (bread), feta cheese and tea. Amusingly they don’t seem to mix tea with sugar directly, but instead, nibble the sugar cube and drink the tea. The breakfast was really tasty. Over the next few days, the mother would either wait for me in her armchair or get up from bed immediately when she heard I was up.

After the breakfast, we went to see the old bazaar (a market). In Iran, men and women are seperated from each other in busses: men sit in the front, women at the back. The bus did not go as far as we wanted to go, so we took a shared taxi for the remainder.

A shared taxi

This typical way of commuting in Tehran goes the following way: Stand right next to the street, wait until a potential taxi driver honks the horn, point in the direction or say the district, in which you want to go, and if he goes in the same direction, he will stop and you can get in. Since many people share the taxi and cost this way of getting around is relatively cheap – and you can pretty much get in and out almost everywhere.

iran_street_scene

Women in chador. Source: Rigzone

In the streets I saw many women almost completely wrapped in a black chador (a crescent-shaped cloth). Only the face remained visible. I had read in a blog that especially women in Tehran like to play with the clothing regulations and dress very modernly (or attractively, according to our Western perception). That was not really my impression. I was mostly shocked. Still, what distinguishes many Iranian women are faces with heavy make-up and dyed hair. And nose jobs. For some reason, small “snub noses”, which reminded me of Michael Jackson, are very popular.

I felt uncomfortable under my headscarf. Somehow I felt imprisoned, stuck into something I am not too keen about. The population should be allowed to decide for themselves how they dress up. Before the revolution, in the era of the king, the hijab – for example – was forbidden, now it is obligatory. Many think like that in Iran, but demonstrations are cursed with prison.

After all, I surprisingly spotted some couples holding hands. Kissing in public is prohibited. At one point, the mother told me that her husband has never told her that he loves her. At least this seemed to have changed for better in the new generation. Love marriages and arranged marriages are equally common nowadays.

We reached the old bazaar. Similar to other old buildings, it was richly adorned with mosaics which I adore so much about Iran. It was fabulous to look at and gave the place a joyful touch next to the monotonous brown building facades and black garments.

museum tehran Iran

Golestan Palace, Tehran

I have to admit that during my first days in Iran, I was scared to go out on my own or to take the subway on my own, mainly because the family in their caring nature always looked for someone whom could take me out. When the father heard I planned to travel on my own through whole Iran, he got very worried. However, when I reached in Tehran for the second time, being all on my own, it didn’t feel like I needed to be scared, I took the subway on my own, people were helpful and everything was alright. You have to take your usual precautions as a solo female traveller as in every other country, that’s all.

German people for some reason are very popular in Iran, and each tourist is labeled to be German at first. The time an Iranian man noticed I was talking in German, he freaked out. He had taught himself German to almost native speaker level and was currently looking for a job in Germany. Very proudly he explained in German:

„Forget everything you have ever heared about Iran. It’s exactly the opposite. Everything is positive!“

People are extremely welcoming, enjoy taking pictures and having conversations with foreigners. Nevertheless, Iran stays a country in which people’s lifes are happening behind closed doors. For many, emigrating seems to be the only solution. Yet, a number of natives seem to enjoy their “freedom”, to be able to do anything they want as long as it stays behind those aforementioned closed doors.

ceramics, persian, tehran, iran, flower pattern

Ceramics in Persian patterns

✈   ✈   ✈

Could you relate to this article? Did you maybe travel yourself to Iran? Let me know your thoughts below in the comments.

Grußwort

 

PS: Did you already subscribe to my newsletter? If you want to learn more about Iran, get to know more constraints and cultural customs, then I invite you to stay in touch for the next articles coming up. Let’s experience together what happens next as I embark on my adventure to travel alone through the country. 

Learn what you need to know before travelling to Iran.

 
  

 

… because sharing is caring!
My first 72 hours in Iran: a story of old cars, headscarfs and motherly care. My feelings and emotions.

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

Merken

You Might Also Like...

15 Comments

  • Reply
    Sandy N Vyjay
    22 March 2017 at 05:21

    I can very well understand how it feels when you set foot on a new land and come face to face with a different culture. The fear of the unknown may haunt you. However time ensures that one settles in and understands the culture and the new ways of the land.

    • Reply
      keza
      30 March 2017 at 16:39

      That’s very true, Sandy and Vyjay. One learns eventually. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Reply
    Neha Verma
    22 March 2017 at 06:45

    Iran has never been high on my bucket list. For obvious reasons like the ones you mentioned above. But I am glad to learn that things are slowly changing with the new generation. Hope things become more and more easy for travelers.

    • Reply
      Alexander
      24 March 2017 at 14:28

      Hi there ,
      As a person , who visit Iran and India! You never find better than Iranian hospitality in the word ! I’m from Russia and already been to 41 countries.
      Don’t waste your time on media !

  • Reply
    Linda
    22 March 2017 at 11:20

    I really want to visit Iran soon! I’ve seen so many beautiful photos and stories about this stunning country. Do you travel solo there? Is it safe?

    • Reply
      keza
      22 March 2017 at 12:18

      Yes, I travelled completely on my own. I used VIP long-distance busses (mostly overnight) and couchsurfing. I always was alerted something could happen, but when you do a good research and don’t take unnecessary risks, you won’t have any problems.

  • Reply
    chikonahoka
    22 March 2017 at 14:18

    It sounds like a very private country. I wonder what it must be like in reverse, to be used to discretion, but then coming to a new country where almost nothing is private?

    • Reply
      keza
      30 March 2017 at 16:37

      That’s a really interesting thought, Nuraini. I think most people today know about Hollywood though and already have some sort of imagination about the Western world.

  • Reply
    Gina Bear
    23 March 2017 at 05:52

    The first thing I noticed was all the bans in the country to help keep it safe. I admire Iran for doing so because alcohol causes so many public health problems. What I was most shocked about was the high mortality rate for the cars. I like how they want to support their own country with domestically produced cars, but I think they should make more laws on safety regulations.

    • Reply
      keza
      30 March 2017 at 12:04

      Hey Gina,
      your point with the safety regulations should include so many more countries than only Iran. Did you know that in Pakistan for example most cars do not have an airbag? I’m sure this goes for many other Asian countries as well. There are a lot of small car crashs happening and the airbags might inflate too easily… Then there is the thing with fasting the seatbelt that most countries don’t follow. I believe it’s such small things that could already help.

  • Reply
    HI Tehran Hostel
    24 March 2017 at 08:27

    Hello
    Iran is the country of paradoxes, in politics, religion and people’s life. But, From your blog, I think you stayed in southern part of Tehran, you know because As you move toward north in Tehran, people become more progressive and dress more fashionable,
    Happy travel

    • Reply
      keza
      24 March 2017 at 10:13

      Wow, thank you for those insights. I actually stayed close to the University of Tehran (Faculty of Physical Education and Sport Sciences), but I might have visited more attractions in the South.

  • Reply
    Mel
    30 March 2017 at 06:45

    Loved the insights and observations, got a clear picture of what to expect in Tehran as a solo female traveler. 🙂

    • Reply
      keza
      30 March 2017 at 16:40

      Goal achieved, hahaha. Thanks for your comment, Mel 🌸

  • Reply
    Iran: Visa on Arrival für deutsche Staatsbürger [DE] | Explorer on a budget
    3 May 2017 at 16:12

    […] The first days in Iran. What I saw and felt. […]

Leave a Reply