04.02.2008 - 08.02.2008
Gentlemanly behaviour does not come naturally to Iranian men; at least not towards women. This is a trait I experience on more than one occasion throughout Iran. They bend over backwards to help men though!
Women must remain covered at all times, even if answering their hotel room door, or nipping to the room nextdoor. It puts one off leaving the room a lot of the time for small things. Perhaps this is one of the reasons behind it (?). Whenever we (females) leave the hotel we must be accompanied by men. This is for our own protection, as Iranian men (thanks to Baywatch) do not have much respect for Western women. To be honest apart from the staring, leering, and attempted rubbing up against some members of the group the men are no worse than the Turkish men. It is more their disrespectful attitude towards us that is irksome. Never before have I felt what it must be like to be extremely visibly and yet ignored at the same time.
Tabriz is the first place we visit in Iran. Rotting meat and food in the gutter does not provide me with a good first impression of Iranian cities. Sleep doesn't come easily as they decide to commence roadworks and cutting of trees' branches from midnight onwards. The first major plus point for Iran is their Iranian versions of snacks at home. The Nani bar (like a lighter Mars bar) is a firm favourite with the group.
What disgusts me most about Iran is the way in which they treat women. Invariably women's toilets are far dirtier than the men's. Our female driver is repeatedly ignored, pointed at, and laughed at because of the sight of her driving. Despite this seemingly sweeping attitude towards us, I make friends with an Iranian girl who is very helpful towards us in Soltanayah. She is very careful answering my questions about Iranian 'culture' since the revolution took place. The headscarf and burka she expressed a huge disliking off, but stressed the trouble she would be in if she didn't conform to the laws regarding women. She was clearly nervous to be discussing religious matters with a foreigner, but did so in hush tones. After she asked me why my burka was so long, I resolved to shoirten mine that night. A large percentage of the younger, female, generation dress in more form-fitting burkas than the older generation. But they do receive criticism for doing so. The segregation of men and women, and women and foreign men is hammered home when she cannot accept a handshake from one of the guys in our group by means of saying thank you for her help.
Many of the girls in the group are 'married off' to the men in the group - this is to cut down on the hassle we may receive from Iranian men. The chivalry is brought out in every male.
The petrol in Iran is extremely cheap. In Vienna 500 litres had cost over 500 Euro for the bus, in Zanjan the same amount cost less than 6 Euro!
Arriving in the capital Tehran, the influence of 'western' culture is striking. The women wear heavy makeup, tight clothes, have their scarves pulled back to show highlighted hair, and travel alone.It feels far safer and friendlier than Tabriz.