The first week in Iran
Erzurum (Turkey) to Hamadan (Iran), Jun-22-07 / Jul-02-07
Now we are really on the way. We left the first couple of litres of sweat: we are in Iran (more detailed: in the minibus from Kermanshah to Hamadan). When we look outside we see rolling hills and huge grain fields. Sometimes we see a group of nomadic people, on the way with their donkeys, goats and many sheep. It is a beautiful landscape.

We ended the last web log in the bus from Istanbul to Erzurum. The bus drive took 19 hours, but was not as bad as we expected in the first place. The guy with the stinking feet had to wash them before praying, and that was lucky for us. After visiting Erzurum we went to Dogubayazit where we crossed the border with Iran and stayed a couple of days in Tabriz to relax (See also the article: Crossing from Turkey to Iran). Last week, we travelled to the central western part of Iran (Kurdish Iran). During that whole week we didn’t meet any western travellers. This has to do with the fact that the western part of Iran is off the beaten track. Also the increasing tensions (on political level) between the western countries and Iran have probably impact on the number of foreign travellers. However, the Iranian people on the street are still very hospitable. The political tensions do not have any impact on how they treat you as a foreigner. That makes the Iranian people so special.

The meat section of the Trabiz Bazaar.
Travelling in Iran has many highlights. The biggest highlight of them all is the hospitality of the people (as it was during our previous visit in 1998). It is amazing how welcome you are in their country. They invite you in their houses, they walk with you if you try to find an address and they just start asking you if there is anything that they can do for you. After our trip through the Howraman Valley, the driver of the taxi we hired arranged a place to sleep for us in the house of one of his family members (see also the article: The spectacular Howraman Valley). And it is not just sleeping, they show you around in the village, prepare meals for you, and are very amusing hosts during your stay at their house. That is a big compliment for the Iranian people. Sometimes we ask ourselves if we would do the same when we meet foreigners in our home country. I think we wouldn’t, and that’s a shame. Hospitality is something that is in the genes of the Iranians. They don’t think about it, they just do it.

When we were in Iran in 1998, we noticed that there were more people interested in a trip to Iran, but that the dress code for women was their main argument not to go. A lot changed in this matter last years. Ivonne bought in Istanbul some conservative dresses, but they were so conservative, that they were striking in Iran. Especially young women wear trousers in stead of skirts and shaped trench coats (manteau) in stead of long formless coats. Also the headscarf is changed. In 1998 you would seldom see some hair coming from underneath the headscarf. Nowadays you often see that these young women wear their headscarf in a way that a lot of their hair is visible. The main colour is by the way still black. The Iranian women look quit fashionable nowadays. When Ivonne noticed the “new” dress code for women, we immediately went to the bazaar to buy an outfit that is in conformance with the dress style of today. Also Ivonne is fashionable again. Edwin sometimes gets the question if he is married with an Iranian woman.

As a western woman you still have to adapt yourself, but it is much easier today than it was nine years ago. The dress code is no reason anymore to stay away from Iran. However, you still need some perseverance to travel in black cloths in a very hot country! Another disadvantage is that in most hostels (mosaferkhunehs) where we stay, you have to make use of shared facilities, like toilet and bathroom. That means that you have to dress yourself completely (with headscarf) for every visit to one of these facilities. It is not possible to go to the toilet in your pyjamas. The fact that most toilets in Iran are squat toilets without toilet paper makes it even worse. As you probably know, you have to clean your butt with some water from a hose, or jug.

A beautiful old man in Kandovan.
We are still in the minibus and the temperature is increasing to more than thirty degrees Celsius. This is hot, especially when you know that we are still on an altitude of 1500 metres. We do not want to think about the temperature yet, when we are in cities like Esfahan or Shiraz who are famous for their high temperatures. However, we knew beforehand that this is not the best time to visit Iran, so you won’t hear us complain. But it is still hot! The local people make use of a siesta to avoid the heat during the hottest hours of the day. In Kermanshah for example, the siesta was from 12.30 till 16.30 hours. During these hours, the streets are completely desolated. We try to use these hours to have a lunch, or bring a visit to an internet café.

We know from our previous visits that the Iranian kitchen (as they make it at home) is delicious. However, if you need to make use of the restaurants, the choice is often very limited. Most restaurants serve only (or a combination of) kebabs, pizza’s, hamburgers or sandwiches. This is not the right food to b sure that you get all the necessary vitamins. But lucky for us, in Iran you will find many shops that sell fruit and vegetables drinks, like carrot juice with ice-cream. We know, it sounds terrible, but in practice it’s quite good. Next week we know for sure that we will get some good Iranian food. This is because we are invited again to visit an Iranian family that we met during our 1998 visit to Iran. We really look forward to meet this family again, and we know for sure that eating will be an important part of our visit (at least it was in 1998). We are also very curious to see if “things” have changed in the little village since than.

We are almost in Hamadan, which means that our search for a hotel starts again. Finding a hotel in Iran is more difficult than in most other countries; because all signs are in the Farsi language (you can compare it with the Arabian language). But with the kind help of the Iranians we know for sure that we will find a nice place to sleep again for tonight.

© copyright - / 2007