|Do yourself a favor
Visit Iran. You will come back recharged
January 8, 2003
An email sent to friends:
Alright here are some highlights (and lowlights) of my Iran trip.
Wonderful place. I wouldn't visit it in summer as it will be too hot and humid,
but this time of year it's ideal. Hotels are comparable to the best in the West,
and the price for us dollar-earners reasonable ($60/night) for a room in the best
hotel (Shayan Hotel) overlooking the sea.
Shopping centers are also modeled after American ones, and the prices are comparable
to those in the US, and in some cases higher. Lots of water-sports: water-skiing,
diving, jet-boats, jet-skis. We paid $30/person for 1/2 hour diving sessions. Not
bad for us, but steep for an average Iranian. The same is true about its restaurants.
There is very little presence by police. Pasdars and Basijis are essentially nonexistent.
When we went diving, the women took off their headscarves, and swam alongside us
in wetsuits. The water is clean and clear, and there are unpolluted beaches all around
In short, I highly recommend a visit, but you'll need to have a fair amount of money
If you haven't visited Iran in a while, you can pretty much forget what you remember
of it. I have a picture of Tehran in 1973. Compare that to a picture of today and
there is very little resemblance.
Traffic and air-pollution are horrific. A 20 km ride from Saltanatabad to Amirabad
once took me two hours, and my eyes were burning and I literally felt sick to my
stomach from the pollution and smog.
Most streets are jammed to a halt during rush hours, which for Tehran is almost 'round
I wished to walk up the tree-lined Pahlavi Street in snow during my visit. Three
days into my trip, my wish was granted. This, according to Tehranis, is the coldest
winter in the last 8-9 years, and it was freezing. It was mostly raining, snowing,
and windy during my stay. This helped clean the air a lot, which made it a joy to
walk on streets and drive around town.
The sight of Alborz mountains and Mount Damavand, white with snow, and the snow-covered
trees along Pahlavi were absolutely breathtaking. It's hard to describe it, but if
your heart beats for Iran as much as mine, these sights (and the memories they bring)
bring something indescribable to your senses.
You couldn't talk to a single person in Iran without the subject of politics
creeping into the conversation somehow, and the hatred of IRI is deep and widespread.
From the taxi-driver to the Bazaar merchant, from the Basiji who served 4 years during
the war to an army colonel, everyone complained about the corruption and lack of
economic opportunity, and to a lesser degree about lack of freedoms.
Yet, nothing in the way people live, nothing you visibly see in the
streets and businesses suggest an imminent collapse of the regime. People complain,
but seem indifferent and passive. This either means acceptance of fate by them or
it's the clam before the storm. Judging by the degree of mistrust of the IRI I witnessed,
I think it's the latter.
Frankly, I saw a more vibrant society on my last visit than this time. The theme
I heard repeatedly from people is that as long as there is not a united front with
a trustworthy leader, no one is going to make a move, and the consensus is that such
a leadership and united front is nonexistent today.
Most people trust that the IRI is going to self-destruct from within.
Forget what you remember from 25 years ago! If you go to Iran today, you'll find
that your amme o amu maybe as distant as a stranger. Relationships have been redefined
along economic and/or ideological lines.
hoqqeh baazi and kolaah bardaari are rampant. Reshveh o rebaa are the norm. No one
respects no one else's rights. It's the law of the jungle. Each person for their
own. While these changes are disappointing, you will still find Iranians kinder and
warmer than people in the West. You will still see the old marefat creep out on occasions.
in point, the 19-year-old jonub-shahri taxi driver who drove me around town, and
finding that I was visiting from the US, refused to charge me any fare, telling me
I was a guest and the fare was on him (no, he didn't ask for anything in return :-)
I have many other examples, but this one stood out in my mind.
I enjoyed this trip more than my last one three years ago. While there are a lot
of things wrong in our country, for me, there is still no place like it. If you haven't
visited in many years, you will really do yourself a favor to do so. You will come
back recharged. I can't explain it, but trust me, you will become a better person
afterwards. Even if Iran is a kharaabeh, beh qoleh shaaer, "man in viraaneh
sar raa dust daaram"!
Does this article have spelling or other mistakes? Tell
me to fix it.