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To set out for Iran
Teheran (Iran), August 4th 1998
The thrill of visiting Iran starts when deciding going there. Iran is officially called the Islamic Republic of Iran and its laws are based on the guidelines that the “true Islam” gives. For travellers the “hejāb” (the general term to describe the type of Islamic dress required for females in Iran) is most notable. All women and girls over the age of seven should cover themselves up in a way that the shape of the body doesn’t show. Moreover, they must cover their hair (e.g. with a scarf). Even when applying for a visa these were things to be remembered, as Women’s Passport photos accompanying the visa application form had to be with a headscarf.

Whether or not you like it, foreign women have to adapt to the hejāb and have to observe the rules. Iran is still not the place to make feminist statements. Before leaving to Iran, the travel outfit had to be arranged. To try to fit in as good as possible, I went to the parts of our local Dutch town where the Islamic population assembles. As a foretaste of Iranian hospitality, lots of tricks and tips regarding chādors (black head-to-toe tent-like dresses to cover you up at once) other kinds of dresses and tying up headscarves were given. Although we had visited quite some Islamic countries before, it’s always nice to have some good advice. After some orientation about the possibilities, I bought a wide black dress from shoulder to my ankles made from light cotton and a black kind of headscarf. This headscarf was quite ideal because I only had to pull it over my head, and put my face through a prefabricated hole. The border of this scarf was nicely finished with an unpretending piece of lace. So it was nice and easy, no tying up and it looked very decent.

Ivonne having a lunch in her Iranian style dress
At the fifth of July 1998 we could finely leave for Iran. We would fly with Iran Air, and on forehand it was told that Iranian conduct starts when entering the plane. When waiting at the gate, lots of Iranian emigrants who were flying from Amsterdam back to Teheran for a holiday were also there. I felt myself a little overdressed! Quite some Iranian women were there without headscarf, tight trousers and with striking make up. At the moment of boarding, I understood why. Before entering the plane, they all ran to the toilets to conform themselves to the social conducts of their home country. When entering the plane, no women body figures where noticeable anymore.

After landing in Teheran, and collecting our bags we had to make our way out of the airport. I will never forget the enormous masses waiting for their families to arrive. We have been stopped several times by people asking where we came from, to tell how nice the scarf looked and point out to the length of my husband who almost reached two metres. Only a few minutes on Iranian property and it was already clear that there was no sign of hostility to us westerners. We took a cab to the city centre, and while being amazed by the chaotic traffic we knew for sure that this would become a great trip. As one can read in the article “Iran and its legendary hospitality”, the little trouble of trying to fit in helped us to get in contact with some nice families to learn more about the every day life that most Iranians live.

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