Two years ago when we were planning our route, we decided to include Iran. The advice we got from our friends and family was to avoid the country. Such comments included: “It is too dangerous”, “Aren’t they at war?”, and “Is it safe?”
Ignoring their advices, on October 29th 2018 we entered the country. We will write about how normal a country Iran is from what we’ve learned. The news we heard back home are purely in relation to the government but the people are super friendly and hospitable.
#1 Hospitality 好客
You may think such a dangerous country would have a lot of scary and violent people. As it turns out, it is the opposite. Before we entered Iran, we met so many tour cyclists that had passed through. Everyone said the hospitality from the Iranians is at another level. A phenomenal level of hospitality.
We got invited into the bakery, watched them make bread and drink tea.
On our first day in Iran, we were looking for bread in the town of Sarakhs. A local man also buying bread came to talk to us. We couldn’t understand very well, but later on he strongly insisted on paying for our bread. The random generosity of the Iranian people is astounding.
#2 Picnic 野餐
The Iranian people really enjoy picnicking. They picnic as we do in New Zealand: everyone sitting in a circle on a big spread out mat. They even bring out a tent with them, not for sleeping overnight though.
People prefer to eat on the ground, so it is uncommon to find picnic tables. You’re more likely to find a firepit which is used to cook kebabs. And sadly, rubbish is always left behind.
We camped at a picnic park and there were rubbish everywhere
#3 Sculptures 雕像
Sometimes a commissioned work for a sculpture can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Here they keep cost low by producing the most normal sculpture imaginable.
We only started taking photos after noticing a trend. Everyday normal objects are made into sculptures 100+ times their size. The most well done one we saw was of a zipper!
#4 Inflation 飙升
One New Zealand dollar can get you almost 100,000 rials. With the American sanctions, the rial has devalued at least 40%. Because of the big number problem, Iranian use another unit of currency called toman. One toman equals 10 rials.
This sign states the price and “toman”
A fresh bread from the bakery costs “500”. We always assume it is in toman and hand over a large numbered note. It is very confusing handling 10,000, 50,000, and 100,000 notes. You just have to trust the correct change is given.
#5 Laundry 洗衣
We have stayed at several homes in Iran and they all have one thing in common. The washing machine is in the kitchen along with other kitchen appliances. It was a bit weird for us at first because laundry doesn’t relate to food at all.
In fact, putting the washing machine in the kitchen means one less place that needs plumbing.
#6 Religion 宗教
Iran’s official name is “Islamic Republic of Iran”. The current ruling government is very religious. Although we can’t go into too much detail, it is very clear why any government should be separate from religion. We have been advised that one should not speak about religion or politics on the streets as there are secret police around.
It is mandatory in school to practice religion. Praying at school is required, and during prayer times (sunrise, noon and sunset) all television channels are interrupted and broadcast religious content instead during prayer time.
Mosques can be found everywhere
Due to this, there are many restrictions on the life of ordinary Iranians and predominantly women. See “#8 Women”
#7 Sides 双方
In the Western world, we see one side of Iran. That is the government of Iran that is portrayed in the news. We always hear about nuclear deals, sanctions, and proxy wars.
The unheard side of Iran is the Iranian people. They don’t want sanctions and they don’t hate America. Many people actually apply for the Green Card lottery (permanent residency in USA) for a chance at a better life. It is only when you visit a place that you can understand and see what the people are like. The reason we’ve written this Post was to share how similar the Iranian people are.
#8 Women 女生
Iran is one of the countries where women are required to wear a full body cover. The face can be shown. Everything else is covered by a cloth. Black is the main colour used so women don’t attract attention. In religious areas of the city, you’ll see more women in full black cover, whereas in other area more colours can we seen.
Thankfully women can drive. They can go to work, but only if the husband gives permission. We met a women who spoke great English, but after she got married, her husband forbid her to continue studying English. We didn’t ask “why” as it wasn’t our business, however we could feel the wife did miss going to study English.
#9 Rubbish 垃圾
A very sad problem in Iran is rubbish. We assume there is no education about managing rubbish. In fact, plenty of bins are provided in the parks and picnic areas. One time we burned all of the rubbish around our tent. In the night it got windy and by morning, more rubbish got blown to our camping spot.
Beautiful waterfall… with litters (🎥 Instagram)
Part of the problem is the excess use of single-use plastic. They range from straws, sauce pottles and table covers.
#10 Dog 狗
There are many stray dogs in Iran. The Islamic government considers them “dirty” and forbids having pet dogs. Taking your dog out for a walk is also outlawed, but less strictly enforced. Due to this, people protect their dog by keeping it a secret.
The stray dogs are so neglected and abused they have become very afraid of people. They shyly walk around us sifting through rubbish and looking at us with their head held low. There are no organisations like SPCA to take care of stray animals.
A friend in Mashhad told us this and we didn’t want to believe it…
To control the population of stray dogs, occasionally a police or military personnel would go around and shoot them.
One morning in our tent we heard it happen first-hand. We were eating breakfast in our tent on a quiet field when suddenly we heard shots being fired “pow pow”. Followed immediately by the cries of dogs. This happened several times, with the same horrific cries from the dogs. We stayed in the tent because we didn’t want to see what was happening. Later on we got up and packed our stuff. A man in uniform with a gun hanging on his shoulder walked by us. We greet him and his sighting confirmed exactly what we feared.
As we plan to spend the winter in Iran, we’ll learn more about the culture and its people. So far we’re very happy to be here, and by no mean worried about any danger at all.