Iran Part I


Saturday 3 April 2010

It is our first day in Iran but it started quite early. We landed in Tehran at 2 AM now it is 6 PM; we are waiting for our plane to Shiraz in the domestic terminal. In the Istanbul-Tehran plane, Iranian and Turkish women were determined not to cover their head and wear a coat until the last moment; including me. I didn't want to allow my freedom to be restricted until the plane parked at the terminal. After that, I didn't have a choice. Legally, I had to wear the headscarf and the coat. It has no use other than additional stress in hot weather. Men do not have to change their lifestyle. They can wear short sleeved t-shirts. But innocent women are restricted; even the ones who are not Iranian or Muslim. This has nothing to do with religion anyway, it is completely political. We learnt that our tour guides (the ones in Tehran) neither pray nor fast.

But even the Iranian women try to soften the rules. They casually put their scarf on their head. Their hair is visible.

Old Car in Sadeybadah Palace

Their make-up is heavy. They wear blue jeans and sneakers. They wear tight cloths and walk around without buttoning up their coats. Even then their freedom is pitifully restricted. They can reach information only through illegal means. They watch the TV channels and listen to the music of their choice through illegal means. Is this life? What's the point in making your women and even your entire people live in hell whilst here on Earth? Isn't this anything but hypocrisy when especially they don't even follow the rules of the religion?

The woman in a black burqa who controlled my passport asked for my first and last name in Turkish with a Farsi accent; extending the last syllable of each word. I guess they learn Turkish from Turkish channels, tourists, businessmen and the Turks who live here.

We passed the night in the supposedly 5 star hotel called Laleh Hotel. Like all Teheran, this hotel also has frozen in time in the 1970s. I only knew that the revolution changed the lifestyle. I didn't know that it also stopped the time completely for Iran. In this 5 star hotel, the tiles are broken, the towels have turned brown, the toilet is rusty and there is hair on top of the table.

Teheran is a city of only 200 years. As our guides told us as well, it is a new city. It is not as historical as the old capitals, Shiraz and Isfahan. It is a 20 million culmination of grey concrete. It is surrounded by mountains, dry and soulless. I know that my first day impressions when I am new anywhere are usually negative. I think that I need about two days to get used that place, so I shouldn't be unfair.

Yes, the time has frozen in 1970s but Iran is a country, which manufactures its own car. It is self-sufficient even though it is making life for its people a hell. By the way, the Iranians are really beautiful people. The handsome men are really handsome, the beautiful women are graceful and glamorous. It appears that here they care more about being a Shiite than a Muslim. Their Shiite imams and Ayatollah are important. Though our guides told us that the current President Ahmedinejad and the Ayatollah are not really supported by the public and only 20% of the population are religious fundamentalists who want women to be covered, it is hard to tell the reality.

But one thing is for sure that instead of the Shah that they brought down, now the Ayatollah lives like a king and runs the country like an ancient style kingdom under his hegemony. The current Ayatollah and his family now live in a palace located in a large complex. They are completely isolated from the outside world. They live the life of a Shah with the taxes paid by Iranians who find it difficult to make ends meet. So, what was this revolution for then? I am feeling this angry because I am obliged to do something outside my will (having to cover my head and wear a coat in this heat). I cannot stand my wishes, freedoms, and free will to be restricted. Now that I put this scarf on my head, what happened? I am still me, my thoughts are the same. My anger magnifies by thinking that my country Turkey is being tried to become this way and by not being able to find a solution and strength. I cannot stand the hypocrisy. I have to say that the assumption that a woman would feel freer by not having men stare through wearing a headscarf is another lie invented by men. As my mom said yesterday when we met at Istanbul Airport, instead of covering women's hair, men should cover their eyes, since they are bothered so much...In the meantime, all men should be sent to therapy.

We went to the Sabeydabad Palace, which is the place of the last Pahlavi kingdom, so the last two Shahs. The palace is situated in the north, in the mountains (it is cooler) - by the way, even though the city is melting in the heat, it is still possible to see snow on mountain peaks - , in the expensive neighbourhoods of the city. Its garden is nice and big.

Gardens of Sabeydabad Palace
Inside Sabaydabad Palace

There are small palaces for each member of the Shah family in this wood. They are nothing special. Most furniture is either from or inspired by France, England and other European countries. After all, they are 20th century palaces. They are not very impressive.

Dining Room in Sabaydabad Palace

Bedroom in Sabaydabad Palace

Then we had lunch on the mountains.

Lunch in Tehran

I had chicken shish. To be honest, I didn't like it very much. Maybe the food in Shiraz and Isfahan will have better taste. Then we went to the Mellat (People's) Park. The park is on a very large area.

Mellat Park

It is very green. It is full with colourful and a big variety of flowers (including tulips).

Mellat Park

There are animals like rabbits, dears and peacocks. It is really a nice park. But even this large green area could not add any soul to Teheran, which has no closeness to a lake, river or sea. Grey concrete has taken over the city.

On our way to this airport, we passed by the Azad Square. We saw the Azad monument, which is also shown in the news.

Azad Monument

For some reason, due to my antipathy for this revolution, I am not interested in this sort of monuments. What really interests me are the old Islamic artworks and the magnificent sites of the ancient Persian Empire.

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Now we are in Shiraz. We settled in our hotel. Thankfully this 5 star hotel is closer to 5 star standards. It is more like 4 stars. I thought that perhaps because Shiraz is more touristy, they know better how a good standard hotel should be but according to F. due to the government and state pressures and watching in Teheran, nothing can develop and the standards don't improve. He could be right, who knows?

By the way, the day before yesterday, April 1st was the last day of Nevruz. Nevruz means New Year for Iran and for the people of this region. Their calendar starts in April. Spring means the beginning of the New Year. They go on holidays for 2 weeks. Families and relatives visit each other every day. For example, Eid al-Fitr (end of Ramadan) is not as important as Nevruz for Shiites. They celebrate "Nature Day" on the 13th day of Nevruz. On the Nature Day, everyone goes to parks and forests for picnic. This is to enjoy spring but also to get rid of the bad luck that number 13 brings. Every society has superstitions but this side of the Iranians and the fact that they see their imams like a pope makes me think that the Shiite belief and views are pretty similar to Christianity.

Let's see how our day will be in Shiraz tomorrow. It will of course be warmer because we are more in the south. Besides, the population of this city is only 1.5 million. It seems to be quieter and more orderly. Let's see...

Tehran Airport

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