My First Day in Tehran!

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Since the Consulate of Kazakhstan in Urumqi did not accept my visa application because I did not meet the necessary requirements, we could not continue our way as we had planned to get to Germany by land. It was there when we decided to take a flight from Urumqi (Chinese city bordering Kazakstan) to Iran… the ancient Persian Empire!.

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Once we arrived in the Tehran airport we had to spend two hours in obtaining visas to enter the Islamic Republic of Iran, although we had already got researched that Venezuelan citizens did not need visas for this Nation. However, we ended up paying €60 for mine and €20 for Hanaffan{s visa as a German citizen. Aside from that, it was obligatory to buy a health insurance valued at €5 to be allowed to transit in the Iranian territory. Certainly, paying this extra money took us by surprise, but the positive side was that we could already travel the country as tourists and were also insured in case of needing any medical assistance… So, all was good!

 

While we were at the airport waiting for the issuance of visas, I noticed many advertisements with messages and photographs that showed the modesty that Iranian women should show in their way of fashion and which foreign visitors had to carefully copy.

I was aware that I should cover my hair, arms and wear long skirts or dresses. I look at myself and I thought I was properly dress… Although because of the 38°C, I was avoiding to wear leggings under my skirt…. who could notice it anyway?

When leaving the airport, we took a taxi to go straight Downtown. The first thing we did was to try to find an Internet caffee to check our accounts in Couchsurfing.com to find a local host that could tell us about the city and the life in Tehran. We should have seemed disoriented, because in less than 3 minutes someone approached us to ask if we needed help. Hanaffan explained through signs that we needed a computer with internet, and soon we were led to a building where a business man opened the doors of his office and we were kindly invited to make use of his laptop.

 

His name was Amir Husseim and once in his office he served us tea and cookies and try to keep a conversation despiting the language barrier. He was very friendly and as we didn’t get any answer from any host that could allow us to stay with them, then our new friend recommended us a cheap hotel in a central area and also arranged a taxi with a fixed rate for us. So we moved on really appreciating all his help. We had just started to discover that the kindness and friendliness of this people is incredible!

 

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The hotel greeted us without problems, the room was a small place with two long, narrow beds and a bathroom with toilet. We accepted and got ready to rest a while before continuing our journey.

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Within few minutes, somebody knocked the door of our room. It was the man in charge of the hotel calling Hanaffan out to talk in the office.
When Hanaffan returned to the room he told me that the hotel had asked us to leave its facilities next day, since we were not married and we were breaking the law. Therefore, if the police came to check the hotel then, both the manager and we would be in serious trouble…
Concerned, we began to check our accounts of Couchsurfing.com to contact new hosts that could receive us in their homes. Luckily there was a local girl named Mahtab who invited us that evening to her house to drink tea and have a chat while she helped us get in touch with some hosts.
I hurried to take a warm shower and I got ready to go to visit her. I covered my hair and arms, and wore g a dress that I bought in the Muslim market in Urumqi in China and which I believed that  was appropriate for the place.
For unknown reasons, Muslim women in Urumqi make sure to cover their hair and arms but use dresses a bit shorter than in the Islamic countries. In addition, due to the high temperatures in the city, I thought should stay fresh and again did not wear the leggings under my dress. I felt my clothes were proper and I went out of the hotel wearing this…

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The curious and suspicious looks soon arrived. I was observed everywhere; women with faces of disapproval and men grimacing with their mouths or their eyebrows. Almost as one criticizes in silent. I felt as if I was walking naked down the street… Everything indicated that I was giving the impression of being a “street girl”, a rebel, or perhaps an ignorant tourist. So, so great was the pressure I felt from all these eyes looking to my ankles, that before arriving to the house of Mahtab I entered into the first store of accessories for women that I saw and asked  desperately for “any pair of leggings available“… by showing my craving,  the saleswoman came up with the highest prices she could offer, and I ended up paying €20 for a pair of leggings! Just the same as we were paying for the hotel!. No way! Hanaffan did not like much the purchase, but I think it was a matter of urgency.
The rest of the afternoon was relaxed, very informative, interesting, and divine beside Mahtab… but I leave  this story for another publication.

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For now, I just want this post be informative, so all women who travel to Iran be aware to pay special attention to the dress code, since it can be inconvenient and even be fined by the police responsible for enforcing laws concerning Iranian fashion.
Another important reminder is addressed to all those couples who travel to Iran without being married. Our Iranian friends advised us to introduce ourselves as a marriage to maintain the honour of the woman in an acceptable place and avoid trouble. In hotels, it is advisable to explain your marital situation and negotiate your stay for one or two days.
Later, I will tell you more about the wonders of Iran, its great people and delicious food.
See you soon!

 

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