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Posts Tagged ‘chador’

Times, they are a-changin’ in Iran and I have noticed from this visit that gradually the traditional shops which I love so much are giving way to more modern retailers.

On a more positive note and if you look closely however you will also notice that more than the local high street is changing. People’s attitudes and outward behaviour are changing and it is very noticeable to us after only a year away.

It is more noticeable to me as probably the only westerner in the town and being fair-skinned I have always been the subject of many stares. There is no malice or rudeness just curiosity. But this time, there is something more. We experience an openness not seen before, a more relaxed feeling on the street with the women wearing their brightly coloured hijab further away from the hairline atop false hair pieces and daring to wear much tighter fitting manteaus. Men and women are now openly holding hands as they walk along the street and a number of inquisitive Iranians have stopped to talk to me as I walk along and in the restaurant/ tea house.

They want to know where I am from, what do I do and all welcome me to Iran/Esfahan. They love foreign visitors to their country and if I accepted their kind offers of tea I would be doing nothing else but visiting until we leave. I spoke to a young couple who stopped us in the Bazaar and found out that the husband works for the Iranian Inland Revenue. I explained that my first job was with HMRC and we laughed that as expected, Tax Inspectors are universally disliked.

A woman with her two sons stopped me further down the street to welcome me to Iran. “It is very nice to see you here” she says as her eldest son keeps repeating “Hello, how are you?” He is learning English at school and determined to make the most of his opportunity to practise. A girl started a conversation whilst in the tea house and during lunch, a girl studying English at Esfahan University came over and asked if she could sit with us and and ask some questions which I gladly answered.

Visiting the Fin Gardens in Kashan I was inundated with requests for photographs from a group of schoolgirls and one by one they stood with me as their friends took the photos. I was there for a good 20 minutes whilst they made sure that everyone had a photo of me on their phone but I got my own back when I asked to take a photo of their group and they were so excited to agree!

This direct approach from strangers has never happened on previous visits although you could see that they wanted to. Something has changed so that people feel willing and able to open dialogue between us.

This can only be good for everyone and I welcome it.

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“Driving”?Well, no English dictionary definition of “driving” bears any semblance to what occurs on Iranian roads. All I can say is that driving in Iran has to be seen to be believed.  At roundabouts for instance, there is no give way rule that I could identify. Instead, it’s first come, first served and it took me a while to catch on that instead of slowing down at roundabouts and junctions, drivers actually accelerate just in case someone beats them to it. Once we had performed a few of these sprints without incident I felt a little more comfortable and it became quite exciting. I guess a bit like a day at Alton Towers without the upside-down-feeling-sick-moments.

Some of the funniest sights were the motorcycles and their often curious-looking passengers and cargo. Even though it is compulsory, the majority of riders and their passengers don’t wear crash helmets, only wearing them in winter to keep warm. Cargo included baskets of washing, boxes of grapes and water melons carried precariously under one arm whilst steering with the other. Very skilful. The most I saw on one bike was four adults but I am assured that it is quite common to see six. As one motorcycle approached I saw that the rider had clearly been to fetch fresh bread from the bakery and was driving home with the bread piled up on the petrol tank in front of him. He was tearing pieces off to eat as he drove along one handed swerving to avoid the potholes, pedestrians and other vehicles. I also worry about the women perched on the pillion with Chadors flowing behind-I remember reading about Isadora Duncan when quite young and the thought of a chador getting caught in the spokes of the motorbike wheels fills me with horror. It never seems to happen so they must know what they are doing and are quite happy to hitch a lift behind their man!

Quietly strolling down pavements on a balmy evening taking in the local sights can be alarming. Motorcycles treat pavements as their “hard-shoulder” and speed along “honking” you out of the way should you dare to wander down the middle of the pedestrian wayfare. Cars, bikes and buses often drive both ways down a one-way street. This can be very disconcerting when trying to cross the road and you certainly cannot rely on a zebra crossing for safety. Our taxi driver drove the wrong way down a one-way street because “it was the quickest way into town”!

Indicators are an optional extra and rear seat belts are only just becoming compulsory (April 2012).

Drive in Iran? You must be joking. Don’t do it!

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