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Published: December 23rd 2013
I am a millionaire! Sadly 2,500,000 Iranian Rial is only worth $100. Crazy inflation.
Salam dear readers, Salam.
And a merry Christmas to you all. I am sure you are all busy with various preparations, I hope you have a nice day.
This will be quite a long old entry with many pictures, think of it as my Christmas present to you, a special bumper addition!
This is one of those blog posts I find myself writing and rewriting to attempt to achieve a degree of balance, and to present this Country in its true light after only three weeks and limited knowledge. However here goes….Iran.
When I find myself describing Iran in my head I keep returning to one word. Civilized. I can hear you all cry in unison “of course it is civilized John, it’s the birth place of civilization, you crazy fool!”.
Well, yes it is, but there are many countries that can lay claim to early civilizations, but have since lost any civility and become dirty, troublesome places. Not Iran though, the city streets are clean, public spaces are maintained, there is a sense of order, much like any modern European Country.
But the concept of civility is much more than just tidy streets and
My beard was coming along beautifully. Until I met an Iranian lawyer in Turkey who suggested the bald headed bearded look might get me trouble. In hindsight I think he was joking.
a decent infrastructure, it extends to how people treat each other, and how they treat strangers. Iranians seem to understand the concept of personal space, they don’t hassle you, they help you. They seem to understand that if you want to buy something, you will buy it, if you want a taxi you will ask for one. I like this, I like this very much.
And they are very honest too. I can say hand on heart I have not been ripped off once since I have been here. Of course there is a bit of foreigner pricing I am sure, but it is so mild it really doesn’t hurt the wallet. They could exploit a lonely tourist like me relentlessly but they do not. Not having to second guess every financial transaction makes for a very pleasant travelling experience.
The feeling of safety helps too. I have never felt in any danger whatsoever, and that really is a first. In most countries, especially in places such as bus stations you are always watching your back, keeping an eye on the people, evaluating what their motives for hanging around are, but not here.
It seems most Iranians
But off it came.
are watching your back for you. I have started calling them my Iranian Guardian Angels, always making sure you are OK, that you get off at the right bus stop, that you get to your Hotel.
The famous Iranian hospitality is still going strong. The reports really are true. You will be welcomed with open arms, people will invite you to lunch, drive you around their city……and arrange to do it all again the next day. It becomes embarrassing to a Brit, not used to such open displays of kindness.
Other impressions of Iran and Iranians include a great sense of self reliance. And not in a way that people in countries such as Malawi develop self reliance. In Malawi people are self reliant because no one else will help them, mainly because their government is crap. In Iran it is a more organized, deep rooted cultural self reliance.
The attitude is “if you are not going to sell us cars, fine, I will build our own” or “don’t want to buy my oil? Not a problem I will find someone who will”. They do not feel the need to rely on the West, they will use
Not before I took a comical selfie. Sorry if this is scary, not comical. It was meant to be comical but now I realise I look a bit muderery.
the West if it meets their needs, but they will not pander to the West. They do not see why they should.
This is of course not to say that the current round of sanctions are not have an effect, they are, hence the recent Nuclear Talks.
So to the bad bits, all countries have bad bits….
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that Iran is some sort of utopian paradise, all the usual human ills still exist, they are just better hidden under strict public social protocols. It is hard to get any accurate crime statistics for Iran, but I am sure they have a problem with criminality just like any other country.
Iran suffers from one of the highest rates of Heroin addiction, and while this is not evident it proves that there is a darker underbelly lurking down the backstreets.
Now to the big one….this Regime.
I am not going to paper over the cracks, this Regime isn’t exactly lovely. In fact it is pretty nutty.
I have been told in all seriousness that if a woman decided to walk down the road with her head uncovered and
Trans Asia Express. It wasn't very express though, it took three days.....a long ol trip.
the police saw her, she would be arrested, and she would be sent to prison. This is a county that hangs people for being gay. The judiciary here seriously want to retain stoning as a punishment for adultery.
It is so utterly and unbelievably crazy if defies all logic. Loony bin stuff. But, I am assured all of the above is true.
It is a stark reminder that religion and politics do not mix. I think we have broadly got it right in the UK, or at least we strive to separate the Church and the State. Here Religion, the Law and Politics are completely intertwined.
However to give the impression that all Iranians are downtrodden people would also be wrong. You see much modernity and joviality and they have a real sense of fun, there is much laughter in the streets. I cannot highlight this enough, as I write there is a group of women in the corner clapping a birthday cake and blowing out candles.
This is what makes this such a difficult blog to write, what you see on the street, compared to what you read or are told.
Karl Pilkington is my new hero. It took me a while to get An Idiot Abroad but I now love it. He seems to nail the reality of traveling over the glossy travel book version. Much of the time you are hot, lost and hungry.
country is a complex one, where you build up small pieces of the puzzle from every conversation you have.
Other mild annoyances are…..
Iran is not exactly known for crazy nightlife….. I suspect that in the summer the evenings are much more lively so don’t let this put you off, however bargain buckets of booze are not on the agenda.
The guide books wax lyrical about the food and I am sure that there is a wonderful hidden layer to the cuisine here but as a tourist it is hard to find. It seems to be kebab, fast food, a bit of stew, kebabs and if you are lucky another kebab. It can become tiresome, and I never thought I would say that…loves a good kebab I do.
So, If you are busy planning a holiday in the New Year, and cannot decide between Mallorca, Disney Land or Iran, I would consider Iran if you want something a bit different.
As always, take some time to look at the pictures, they will show the reality of life here better than my ramblings.
So dear readers, I wish you a very happy Crimbo and a
The last beer for three weeks. My fellow travelers and I went a bit mental. Hangover on a train is not good.
lovely new year.
I will be in Sri Lanka for Christmas, hopefully on a beach...
All my love.
P.S As predicted the laughing birthday ladies have just come over with cake and an invite to join for tea, it really is that sort of place.
P.P.S I am in Sri Lanka now, didn't get a chance to send this before I left Iran.
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