Due to bandwidth issues, I have yet to be able to post more pictures of my adventures in Iran via my blog. Until I get to Dubai or home, I wanted to share with you some general impressions of Iran. I have been told I am brave, and while this is so flattering, ultimately I feel like this is no different than visiting any other country, and ironically, much safer in many ways.
I have never felt as safe in any country as I have in Iran. Unlike in Turkey, men do not leer or harass you in the streets. There is very little crime as far as theft of tourists. The government has in fact done an excellent job of preventing such theft. I’m told that in Esfahan, there used to be unauthorized guides who would charge very high prices and would basically rip tourists off, a form of theft in itself. My guide said that after many reports of this, the government intervened and she hasn’t seen this in a while now. Certainly you should still be careful with your money, especially considering the banks are not yet accepting foreign credit cards and you can only use cash.
I had initially heard that many Iranians speak English, but this was an incorrect assumption. If you come to Iran alone, without a guide, you may find it difficult to communicate, especially with taxi drivers. Certainly it is not impossible, I met an Irish man traveling without a guide, but I suspect it is much more difficult without knowing at least some Farsi. The hardest part I think would be negotiating the taxi fee before the trip, which can be important so you don’t get charged too much. In the hotels it is easier to find people who speak a bit of English, and in many of the tourist shops this is true as well.
With that said, it seems that most Iranians know how to say 3 things: “hello,” “how are you,” and “I am fine.” Just walk down any street and somebody is sure to yell “hello!” They love it when you respond back!
Police and border checkpoints:
Driving from city to city, especially anywhere near border areas, you are sure to encounter police checkpoints. This can seem intimidating at first, but you quickly learn that they are not at all interested in you. In most places, they are looking for drugs brought across borders as well as illegal refugees coming from places such as Afghanistan. It is similar to going across any border from Mexico or Canada into the US, but it is between major cities.
Everybody I have met here has been extremely friendly and welcoming. They are often very excited to hear I am American, even those who appear to be very religious. They also flatter me daily, I have heard no less than six times that I am beautiful, they apparently love blonde hair and blue eyes. One young woman almost scared the heck out of me when she very excitedly approached me out of the blue to tell me I have beautiful eyes. Good for the self-esteem for certain! 🙂
Iranians are very proud of their history, and I think many of them would still prefer to be called Persians. Despite the objections of some hard liners, they still celebrate the Zoroastrian New Year, Nowruz which is coming up very soon. It is probably the biggest holiday here.
I’m sad to say that Iran is a very polluted country, at least the areas I have visited are. Tehran and the major cities have a big problem with air pollution, I think due to the low grade gasoline they use. There is also a lot of trash dotting the landscape, even miles outside of a city. I wonder if the releasing of sanctions and an increase in tourists will help the Government to start controlling the issue a bit more. For a country so proud of its history, it would be nice to see it also be proud of its beautiful environment.
Iranians are very happy with their current President, especially after the oppression brought on from the last. No longer do they need to worry about the Morality Police except in certain cities during certain times. And tourists need not worry about them much at all. They, and people from other countries that I met did want to talk much about the coming Presidential election in the US. It is easy to forget that when we vote, we are impacting the whole world. Rightly so, Iranians and others are very worried about Trump. More than anything, they worry about more war caused by politics. I also met people from France and Ireland who are watching us with astonishment. It seems like a big joke, but to them it is not. I wish Americans would take more seriously their role in the world, and stop acting like children. Honestly, it is embarrassing to be an American sometimes.
This is just a short and general bit of information, I would love to know what else you want to know about Iran. Please leave questions in the comments and I will reply as I am able!