Thursday, January 01, 2015

50 Random Things about Iran

Happy New Year to all you lovely people!!

2015 is here, but I still have a lot of stories from 2014 to share with you. Iran was my last destination in 2014 and what a destination it was. I spent 27 days traveling across its mountains, deserts and cities. During these 27 days, I visited the capital of Tehran, the desert cities of Kashan, Isfahan, Na’in and Yazd, the ancient Persian kingdom at Shiraz, the sand dunes of Verzaneh, Abyaneh – a scenic mountain village that used to follow Zorastrianism and stayed with a local family at Darya Kenar by the Caspian Sea. While I was exploring these various places across Iran, I came to understand various facets of this country. Some of them blew my mind away. Some of them are very interesting and some are extremely handy to know for people who are planning a holiday to Iran. Below are these so called 50 random things from the land of Persia.

Pink Mosque of Shiraz
1) Iran is a very safe country.

2) 4 litres of gasoline costs 1 US Dollar. A year back, the fuel price was 10% of this number.

3) Road infrastructure across Iran is very impressive.

4) It is very difficult to survive as a vegetarian in Iran. Even most of their vegetable dishes contain meat sauces and their sweets, desserts and fats contain animal fats.

5) The women of Iran are drop dead gorgeous.

Abandoned desert city of Kharanaq
6) There is a tad bit of racism towards Indian citizens in Iran.

7) The Chador (full body veil) that the women wear is not like a dress, but like a wrap around.

8) The people of Iran are incredibly friendly towards the tourists. Most of them do this to practice their foreign language skills, while some of them are genuinely interested in talking to foreign nationals.

9) Most Iranian citizens will offer to pay for your bills (hotel, travel, food, gifts, etc.). This is called Tarouf and is sometimes taken to extreme levels.

10) A lot of Iranian women love to color their hair blonde, get a nose job done and sharpen their eye brows.

Shaking Minaret at Kharanaq

11) Even though many things are banned in Iran (access of internet, alcohol, satellite television, etc.), the locals have their own workarounds.

12) Iranians have insanely long lunch breaks.

13) As a city, Isfahan can compete with any top city around the world in terms of layout, organization, cleanliness and appeal.

14) Food portions are very large in Iran. This especially holds good for lunches.

Traditional designs on the mosques of Iran
15) Even though the official currency in Iran is Irani Rial, people make transactions in tomans where 1 toman equals 10 rials.

16) The VIP buses in Iran are super roomy and possibly the best in the world for tall people.

17) There are some parts of Iran where the women wear white or colorful Rusaris or Hijabs. These women originally belonged to Zoroastrianism, before they converted to Islam.
18) Bus ticket prices are much cheaper than the train ticket prices in Iran.

19) Locals say that they prefer to travel by road or rail than by plane. This is because air crashes are quite common in Iran.

The insanely friendly people of Iran
20) There are dense jungles with wildlife in the north of Iran.

21) The younger generation of Iran is very unhappy with the country’s restrictions and wants to emigrate to foreign countries.

22) Family bonding is very high in Iran. This can be seen every evening and especially on holidays when families gather together over a meal or at a nice location for a picnic lunch.

23) Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can be accessed through a VPN tunnel in Iran. By default, Skype, email, Instagram and Whatsapp work.

24) International credit cards and debit cards do not work in Iran. This applies to online transactions as well unless you change your IP Address.

The Rolling Sand dunes of Verzaneh
25) International debit cards cannot be used to withdraw money from ATMs in Iran.

26) Iran has one of the world’s largest supply of natural gas and crude oil, but has very few refining facilities.

27) Cars and motorbikes in Iran are many generations old.

28) There is an import duty in excess of 100% for foreign cars.

29) There are more luxury cars (like Maserati, Lamborghini, Porsche, BMW, Audi, Mercedes, etc.) in Tehran than on the Autobahn.

Beautiful paintings on the walls of Esfahan
30) The people of Iran love their poetry.

31) The people of Iran have a sweet tooth and love to consume lots of sweets and other desserts with their cup of tea.

32) A lot of people in Iran smoke. This includes the cigarette or the traditional hookah.

33) Iran is the nose job capital of the world. It is also famous for other cosmetic treatments, like lip jobs, hair transplantations, etc. And these are inexpensive too.

34) Many people of Iran live in the shadow of its rich and glorious past.

Iranians love this super long and elaborate lunches
35) Saffron in Iran is 4 times cheaper than the ones in India.

36) A lot of Iran is mountainous and most of these mountains see snow during the winter.

37) Most of the women in the smaller villages weave carpets to keep themselves occupied and to supplement the family’s income. Sometimes, they might work for many years just to weave a single carpet.

38) It is very difficult to get a large silk carpet out of Iran. In all probability, you will be stopped at customs in Iran.

39) It is just a 2 hour boat ride from the South of Iran (Bandar e-Abbas) to Sharjah.

Tea and Hookahs are a favorite evening past time of Iran
40) There is a lot of inflation in Iran.

41) During Moharram and other dates where important people of Iran died, people cry, beat themselves up and demonstrate all this in public.

42) Tourism is on the upswing in Iran. Lots of new hotel properties are being built to supply to this future demand.

43) Iran is extremely popular with motorcycling enthusiasts who tour this country during the summer months.

44) The people of Iran hold a bitter feeling towards the Arabs.

Nuts and sweets can be seen everywhere in the markets of Iran
45) Even though Iran is largely a Muslim country, it has some of the most beautiful churches in the world.

46) A lot of Iran’s younger generation are not religious and wish to emigrate to other parts of the world.

47) All the citizens of Iran get money towards fuel compensation every month. This money is transferred into the bank account of the head of the family.

48) Normal foreign exchange rates peg 1 USD as roughly 26000 Irani rial and 1 Euro as roughly 33000 Irani Rial, but when you are in the country, you will get a rate that is much superior to this externally quoted rate. As an example, I got 34,700 Irani Rial for 1 US Dollar and my traveler friends from Europe got 41,300 for their 1 Euro.

49) Irani Rial has no value outside of Iran.

50) Eating roasted sunflower seeds is a favorite past time of the people of Iran. Some might include pistachios and almonds too.

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