What is it like to be in Iran?

At the turn of the year, the major news from the Middle East is the wave of demonstrations in Iran. We’re not sure how these have spread so rapidly and how things will develop. But I visited Iran shortly after the last major wave of protests organised by the Green Movement and indeed made contact with the Movement.

In my web site account of the trip, I wrote:

“The most striking feature of Iran is its people.

On the one hand, it is constantly apparent that one is in an Islamic republic because all the men are in long-sleeved shirts but no ties, while all the woman are completely covered in dark garb except for their face and hands. It is remarkable how striking the women’s faces appear in these circumstances. They start with the benefit of clear brown eyes, but all the young women apply mascara to their eyelashes and mould their eyebrows into impressive arches which makes their faces all the more appealling. One young woman told us that attempts to make the most of the one part of their body on show represented “a mascara revolution”.

On the buses, women have to sit at the back while the men sit at the front, an arrangement that Roger & Vee had only previously witnessed in Jerusalem. From time to time, we would see someone with a plaster on the nose. Apparently Tehran is the plastic surgery capital of the world and so many people pay a fortune for a nose job.

On the other hand, everyone was astonishingly friendly, more so that any other country that Roger & Vee had visited. We would greet passers-by with “Salam!” and they would unfailingly smile back. They would approach us constantly with combinations of the following phrases in broken English: “Hello. How are you? Where you from? How you like Iran?” They were so keen to meet us and talk with us and even to be photographed with us. They would explain that their Government told them that Westerns were enemies, but insisted that they were delighted that we were visiting Iran and always wished us a good trip.”

You can read the full account of my 2009 trip here.


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