As promised, another post from my wife about Iran, written while we were still there. She published it in Portuguese and I translated to English last weekend. This was in the end of August 2010.
Sao Paulo – Madrid – Istanbul – Tehran. At the airport in Istanbul, I felt that the experience had begun. Several women fully covered, men kneeling on the ground praying toward Mecca, the smell of people who did not enjoy much taking shower… and several people who looked like relatives of Saddam Hussein!
We arrived at the Ramtin Hotel and the first myth was exposed – nobody asked our marriage certificate. The hotel has excellent facilities, huge rooms, internet working very well, despite the blocked sites like facebook, globo.com. We went to know the first touristic spot, the e-Mellat Park, after a 4km walk. Although long, it was pretty fun, as we began to understand where we were. In general, Tehran is somehow similar to São Paulo. The city surprised us, is cute, clean, well maintained, with modern buildings. Very different from what I had in mind.
Of course everyone who comes to Iran or go to any other country, has a different experience from mine, but I want to relate here the discoveries I made in a country which I was totally inexperienced and believed it was just what I saw in TV news.
The best of Iran, no doubt, is its people. They are very nice, fun, friendly, honest, responsive and willing to help. Except for the “honest” they are very similar to Brazilians. While we were still planning the trip, we exchanged emails with some Iranian colleagues who we had never known personally. They not only gave us all the tips, as they did help us in finding a tourism agency in Tehran to negotiate the best prices. They invited us to dinner at their house, with typical food and drinks. Inside their homes, women can dress normally, with arms, legs and hair shown. Our guide gave us a CD of typical Persian music, and our other guide gave us a bunch of typical grapes (all in exchange for nothing). Taxi drivers loved to know where we came from, and like all men they loved football and knew a number of Brazilian football players. This was always the first subject we discussed in a taxi, with the help from our Persian phrasebook from Lonely Planet.
Iranian women are very beautiful. As they can only show their faces, they take great pride in showing their makeup and accessories. One curiosity is that Iran is the country with the largest number of women who do nose plastic surgeries and eyebrow tattoos. Regarding clothes, women who do not use the “chador”, they use a cloth which is called “manteau”, which is a dress to the knee, linen or denim, which can vary greatly on the model and color, but always with a pair of pants underneath. Women who choose to wear the chador are generally older, more conservative, or whose family is in that tradition. Users of “manteau” take great pride in the type of tissue they use, to differentiate themselves from others; it can be plain, colored or printed. This thing about the scarf is curious. To cover the hair is a rule imposed by the government and culturally accepted, but many women have sought a way of breaking the rule entirely. They make a loud and large coke head, and this causes the tissue to be half of the head backwards without falling, leaving the hair and fringes appearing. They can be very sensual.
Men are also super fashion, 80’s style. They dress shirt with short sleeves, plain or printed, basically tight to their bodies, and pants with slight opening legs. Another option is a tight pair of jeans, style John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever”.
The traffic is crazy! The bikes ride on the sidewalk, even in the opposite direction. The headlights do not have a reason to exist, because nobody respects. To reverse is also common. We took a taxi to the hotel to let us backed up to 50km per hour, 2 blocks, in a super busy city avenue. The guys all honking and he did not care… Wow! Again, we were in the car of a friend of ours when he stopped at an intersection when a motorcycle came, knocked on people, and still came out cursing. Another common thing that may seem alien to our customs is shared taxis. Do not be surprised if you are inside a taxi and a stranger enter for a ride in the same direction.
The national hobby in Iran is the picnic in parks or in any corner that has some green space. Unfortunately, because it is Ramadan, we had no opportunity to experience this.
Just like São Paulo, I do not think Tehran is the best place for sightseeing. It has some cool museums, towers, parks and bazaars (as is the 25 de Março Avenue in São Paulo, with the same blend of people, mess and dirt. There, people sell everything from cheese grater until camping tents and rugs at 15,000 dollars).
The impression I had, so far, is that the atomic program or stoning, are matters that are in the news anywhere in the world except here. The Iranians do not live it or care much about it, here is an immense calm, people are happy, in peace. The question that remains in my mind is: “-How far the information that reaches us in Brazil or elsewhere in the world is skewed or has an American political interest behind?”