By Duygu Başoğlu, SYI Facebook Group Member
visited iran twice, the first trip(2010) was with my then boyfriend and the second alone(2011). would like to plan a third trip around kermanshah-bisotun, better if i could manage it sometime around nawroz, but i have had that plan for years so lets see when i have the time:)
i’d say the most unexpected thing was how easy and pleasant it was to travel alone as a woman-considering the solo trip was on my way to pakistan overland, so it went like qom-kerman-bam-zahedan, crossing the problematic sistan-balochistan region.
the law being so strict is quite hard on locals i bet, but it is a highly deterring factor for anyone who could harm you. on the other hand, iranians have an incredibly strong tradition of hospitality-its almost competitive, like they take pride in being the one in their town who is the most helpful and kind to foreigners- and combined with the reluctancy against causing any inconvenience, it just feels easy and safe to communicate with anyone. locals would not approach me for anything other than offering their help, and anyone i approached was just amazing, respecting my space but showing genuine interest in a conversation. i remember it as one of the most comfortable-and beautiful!- trips i went on alone.
about the beauty thing -that fairy tale east with colourful domes and a labyrinth of dreamy streets unfolding before you, thats iran. thats iran architecturally and preservation wise. mughal architecture in india is elegant in mainly brick and marble, central asia has more earth colours matched with turquoise, buddhist and hindu structures are beautiful yet often modest or secluded. the archetypal image of explosions of color, elaborate decorations used unsparingly, curved geometries and dense inner cities with arched passages that come to mind when you think of eastern magic are typical to today’s iran-ranging to iraq and afghanistan as well, but sadly iran is in a more intact state. isfahan, specifically, is THAT city in *insert fairy tale here*.
i have heard from other european travellers that they felt awkward about drawing so much attention- i can’t assure you would be left alone whenever you’d prefer, i can just say it was so for me. although i remember my ex boyfriend drew more attention for being blonde, like people would like to come and have photos taken with him:) (even though iranians have very diverse looks..)
we were quite fond of the attention though, since we wanted to meet people and talk anyway. i remember isfahan on friday, everything closed at noon, -prayer time for some muslims, not sure about the shia- although everyone seemed to be in the parks with their picnic sets instead. we wanted to sit down for some tea but couldn’t find a nearby place open. we figured the best thing to do was to just *be* near some locals and look touristy, so we just sat down on the lawn of the park around chehel sotoun palace and bam, in less than 5 minutes we were offered tea and candy by a little girl, followed by her family upon our acceptance of their kind gesture, talking about iran and turkey and stuff. it’s pretty much impossible to be left out when you’d like to be with people:)
Read more in See You in Iran facebook group