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Monday, March 30, 2015

Story of Iranian Door Knockers

One of the most interesting things in travel for me is to connect the dots with respect to religion, history, culture, traditions, languages and basically the very essence of why we are the way we are today. Iran is one of those countries with a rich past and its embargo with the outside world has ensured that it has kept its culture and traditions prevalent even to date.

When I was backpacking for a month through this gorgeous country, I saw door knockers such as in the below photograph at many locations across the country. Initially, I thought it was a design element, but when I kept seeing the same design on the main doors of houses across the country, I knew there had to some reason and that’s when I checked with the locals to find the answer. The answer lies in the religion of Iran, where men are not supposed to see the faces of the women other than his mother, wife, daughter or close family.



Outside their home, the women of Iran wear a Chador (gown to cover their body and face) and a Roosari (Scarf to cover their head) and hence have no problem in being in the same environment as the men. However, at home, they are in more comfortable conditions and hence are without their Chador and Roosari. In that case, if any guest comes to their house, the women need to get dressed again before greeting their guest. If it is a woman, the covering up becomes an overkill and if it is a man and if they are not covered, then it becomes a problem.

To solve this problem, the Iranians keep 2 different knockers on their doors. If a man comes, he knocks the door knocker that looks like a thick bar of metal. This knocker sends a sound into the household that tells the people inside the house that their visitor is a man. So, either the man in the house greets the male visitor or the woman gets dressed up and greets her visitor. In case, the visitor is a woman, she knocks on the knocker that is circular or heart shaped and that has a hole in the middle. Again, this knocker sends a different sound inside the house and the people know that it is a woman. So, the woman of the house does not worry about dressing up and comes out as is to greet her female visitor.

Both these knockers symbolize the male and female genitalia. In smaller towns and villages, you will see the more authentic and large knockers on the big wooden doors, but in the cities, some houses do not have it and if they do have it, they have smaller knockers on their main door.

It is such stories that make travel so much more intellectual for me. Do you agree? Do you like such unique cultures? Is there anything from your travels that stands out in your head?



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