Iran is truly amazing. The minimal and distorted information often presented about this place does not do it justice. It has the friendly and beautiful people, great climate (at this time of year), mind-boggling history and monuments, and it’s cheap. During on bus ride, I had a daydream about this place being subject to an unjust and destructive war, and felt incredibly distraught. If you paid attention to certain media or commentators, you would think it was justified. Although war is rarely (never?) justifiable, the thought of these people and places being invaded in a manner similar to Iraq has been made me feel very scared, sad and ill (about both the reality of Iraq and potential for Iran).
My entry to Iran is described in another post [LINK]. Awaking in Tehran, the deserted streets from the previous night were absolutely clogged with traffic, and the air and sky filled with a smoky haze. I really enjoyed the crazy traffic where faith in God and reciprocity trump road rules as the guiding principle for decision-making. The people were also unfailingly friendly and curious and not necessarily interested in selling you things. In fact, many of the (beautiful) women of this place were the most openly curious and chatty. Perhaps their openness to conversation is because tourists were rare – the only other tourists you saw were the ones from the same hotel! Another factor to layer on top of their inherent hospitality may be the fact that it is very hard for any of them to travel anywhere else outside their own country for political and financial reasons.
My time in Tehran included a visit to a youth art exhibition that reflected the talent but also fear and cynicism of Iranian youth.
The perspective in this art echoed the massive murals on the walls of the former US embassy, expressing through words and blood and death-filled images their thoughts about the ideaology and behaviour of the superpower. Although these murals are listed as something to see (but not take photos of due to likelihood of arrest), I actually found the nearby shop full of martyr’s speeches, photos and paraphenalia more interesting.
Other highlights of Tehran for me included the grouping of seemingly unrelated products into shopping streets. By this I mean there was a whole streets that hosted strange pairings of shops adjacent to each other: linoleum, and guns and knives; stickers and crockery; and mobile phones and bicycles.
Tehran was also the place where the industry of actually making stuff started to become more visible to me. There were people in the side streets cutting metal, packing cardboard, and banging, welding and finishing actual products, and making bread. This is just not something I have seen so much of in my life, except in historical recreation towns like ‘Pioneer World’ outside Perth.
The final highlight of the city itself was happening across some fantastic exercise equipment. In a park adjacent to perhaps the busiest intersection in the city was a collection of at least 20 pieces of red and yellow of exercise equipment that all used your own body weight to generate resistance. I am a huge fan, and hope they appear everywhere..
Next stop, Esfahan