Monday, March 11, 2013

I AM IN IRAN

I am sitting at the courtyard teahouse of my hotel in Shiraz, trying desperately to get the internet to work. Facebook, and Blogger are both blocked in Iran, but of course young people find ways around this, by using proxy servers and other sneaky methods (which really makes you wonder why the government bothers trying to control and censor things - people ALWAYS find a way. duh). The problem with using proxys is that it takes much longer to load pages and is painfully slow - thus making it impossible to inundate EVERYONE with incessant facebook posts and photos, which I very much want to do because I LOVE Iran so far!

The closest comparison I can make with another country that I have visited would be Syria - similarly somewhat cut-off from outside American influence (though even more so here), really awesome friendly people, a strong couchsurfing community and the rather otherwordly feeling that comes from being one of very few North American tourists. I have met a few other travelers though (including 2 Aussies both named Ben), but no other Canadians, and no other females at all. Us wanderers have all instantly stuck together and explored Shiraz, which is a very beautiful city - The city of Poets, Roses and, at one point, Wine. (Which I am determined to find!)

Last night my very cool Iranian couchsurfing artist friend Mohsen described Shiraz as being a very "sensual city" which made me laugh (I'm sure the mullahs and Imams here wouldnt appreciate such descriptions, bahahah), but I'd have to agree with him. Everything smells like rosewater, fruits, tea and sheesha, and there certainly is a haunting poetic feeling to the city, with its many gardens and beautiful tombs of famous poets (Hafez and Saadi included). The Eram Garden was especially beautiful, with its many orange trees, gorgeous plants, various flowers and cute teagarden serving sherbet. We met some hilarious young women there too, who kept complimenting me endlessly (which feels strange given how absurdly gorgeous Persian ladies are!) and kissing me on the cheek and taking many photos while shrieking gleefully. While the male travelers were certainly getting a sort of attention akin to some sort of Traveler-Beatle-mania, it seems I am even more of a draw - perhaps because they can publicly grab my hand and show affection, or maybe its some  playful amusement at my blue eyes hiding underneath my awkwardly draped leopard print hijab.

Besides the beautiful gardens and tombs and many sights, the people here are the real draw, and their friendliness and hospitality is somewhat surreal. Even people in the street who sometimes appear to be glaring at me - the second I say "hello" their faces soften and they repeat with enthusiasm, "Hello!!". Especially the younger men and women, who will go out of their way to sit and have tea with you, talk with, discuss anything and everything. The people i've met on couchsurfing all seem very cool too, eager to show us the beauty of Shiraz, and have even invited us to stay with them for Nowruz (the Iranian new year). I cannot even keep up with the amount ot couchsurfing messages I am getting - literally dozens of people all wanting to meet and show me their city! It is really quite clean and orderly here (after the chaos of Ethiopia, it seems I really appreciate clean and functional), very safe, and super easy to get around from city to city. Apparently the inter-city buses here are extremely luxurious and spacious and CHEAP - about 5 bucks for a 10 hr overnight journey. !! As well, tourists are treated really good, and I havent been ripped off once yet. Sweet.
After visiting Persepolis a few days ago (which was a m a z i n g), our taxi driver invited us to his house for dinner, and we ate delicious rice and chicken made by his mother, with him and his wife. It was amazing- I have never had a taxi driver invite me to his house before! I really can't say enough good things about Iran, seriously. It is such a shame that American media has created such a bad stigma for such a great country full of such nice people. The president of Iran, Ahmadinejad, no more accurately represents the people of Iran, than Stephen Harper represents me back in Canada. Everyone that I have spoken to here dislikes him greatly and views him with varying degrees of contempt.

I really wish I could upload some photos (I have SO many amazing photos, ahhhhhh), but that will have to wait until I (hopefully) find a better internet connection.

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