My visit to Iran wasn’t just a breeze! And it definitely wasn’t all about beautiful architecture and poetic nights inspired by the country’s great poets! Don’t get alarmed by what you may hear in the news! It was nothing major really… Just some first world drama…
Here are 8 examples that show how certain things were less glamorous than I had expected them to be…
1. The bathroom slippers in every hotel
Forget the plain white slippers you’ll find in many hotels, especially in Asia. The ones offered in the hotels in Iran are made of rubber and are primarily to be used inside the bathrooms, so you don’t face the risk of slipping! Smart! Yet a bit not so stylish… Unless you’re my grandpa… 40 years ago… 😀
2. The taxi scam
I don’t like to generalise, but one of the most usual ways to get scammed as a tourist around the world is to get overcharged by a taxi driver. It was in my mind from the moment I stepped my foot out of the Shiraz airport upon arriving in Iran till only a few days later. Then I simply forgot about it, since all the drivers we used in the country not only did they not try to take advantage of us, but some of them were extremely helpful, too.
So, on our last day, when we were in a rush to return to our hotel in Tehran and before heading to the airport, it happened: The driver quoted an unreasonable price for the short route we had just completed! And he insisted even by raising his voice after our first inhibitions. But I (the supposed seasoned traveller! 😀) was sure that this was normal and that there’s no way someone from Iran would lie to us and try to make profit out of our ignorance! So sure was I, that I would just give him the money and get on with it. But Maria was adamant! It’s an obvious scam she insisted! Open the door NOW! she yelled! And so I did, both with doubt and fear, as the driver was moving his vehicle to our direction and following us! He had dropped us at a different hotel (due to the language barrier), but luckily pretty close to ours! We escaped quickly! Looking back at it, it was a clear attempt for a rip off.
Bottom line: Nowadays I’m proud to say that I’ve avoided many travel related scams. But no matter how much you travel, you will always fall for one fraud or the other. At the end of the day, they make some of the best travel stories! And I plan on writing about a few of them in due course!
3. The glamorous outfits
As a man, I was able to get away with anything I wanted to wear, as long as I avoided shorts. Ok… There was, also, this time in Yazd, where I wanted to wear my brand new off-white smart t-shirt, but I didn’t because it was more revealing than I thought! There were some see through details that weren’t very appropriate to wear in the morning! Especially in a conservative country! Before you judge me, I hadn’t worn it before to know what it looks like exactly! 😀
Even Maria was fine. She found a very nice dress in a local market in Shiraz and she looked conservative but pretty. She’ll even wear it after the holiday. Dressing up as a woman while visiting Iran is not as challenging as it may sound.
But we had a plot twist in Shiraz! Entering the holy site of Shah Cheragh, we found out that women are required to wear a chador. Which she didn’t have… Luckily, they have a few chadors available for visitors who are not prepared. But those were essentially floral sheets, the kind your grandma would adore. Not a stylish piece of clothing by any means! And having to wear this on top of the original outfit plus a backpack, Maria (like anyone in her shoes) ended up looking like the Hunchback of Shah Cheragh! 😀
4. The unsuccessful attempt to blend in
I have this thing when I visit new places: I love to blend in! The superficial way some (including me!) may say! In other words, I love dressing up like a local! In Iran I did it on day 1!
It was a bit challenging trying to conceal my colourful socks by adjusting the way I was sitting, but I think I did pretty well! And those things looking like hotel slippers from a distance are actual traditional shoes! Hmmm… This might explain a lot! I’m kidding! They looked nicer in reality!
5. The smelly side of things
But you can imagine… When you have to move your face close to a carpet that many people have walked barefoot on, there is a high probability of a certain foot odour release!
Well, there’s no need to be so diplomatic at this point! We had to breathe in a few stinky feet while attempting to take these photos! No regrets though! Anything for the sake of art! 😀
6. The photo bombers
I think it’s happened to everyone! You find the perfect background (the Golestan Palace in my case), the perfect spot (e.g. a very photogenic reflection), you’ve practised your poses and you’re ready to break the internet! 😀 But one stranger decides to be part of your photo, either by accident or because they impatiently want to have a similar photo there and then!
But has it ever happened to you that this one stranger just stays there to stare at you (in a sort of an admiring way admittedly!) and won’t go away whatsoever? That’s what this lady did during my visit to the Golestan Palace:
It was funny, but I never got to break the internet! 😀 I only got away with this compromising photo (taken with a mobile phone unfortunately):
7. The renovation of some sights
Visiting Isfahan was my #1 reason for visiting Iran altogether. Eventually getting there and realising that its main structure and islamic architecture masterpiece, the Shah Mosque, is under renovation was a bit of a let down. It was still accessible and everything, but the amount of scaffolding was quite overwhelming. Not to mention non photogenic!
It still looked gorgeous though and it’s not permanent obviously, so, hopefully, it will look even better afterwards.
8. The worst hotel ever!
And I saved the best for last! Let me say at this point that booking a hotel in Iran is not an easy thing and we pretty much had someone else do it for us for every stop of our journey in Iran! But it’s mainly us to blame when we decided to visit Yazd during a long weekend and at peak season! Our driver was on the phone for 2 hours trying hard to find us a place to stay and minutes after we had reached Yazd, he managed to make sure we would spend the night under a roof! We were eternally grateful! Our expectations weren’t high anyway and it looked decent.
Did I say breakfast was included? That’s right. And we were informed that breakfast starts at 7:30. So, the next morning someone knocked our door at 7:30! We were so tired we could not respond. So they knocked again! And again! And again! I got worried and opened the door to see one of the hotel employees handing me 2 trays like this one:
Yes! That was all! I wasn’t expecting a full breakfast buffet, but I’d never force myself to wake up so early just for that!
Be grateful! I hear you say! At least you had 4 walls and a ceiling to stay in! you carry on saying while looking down on me and my spoilt ways! Well, this is another story altogether! Can you imagine our surprise and desperate/awkward burst of laughter when we got in the room and looked up to see this? ↓
There are a couple of layers of ceiling missing and it was dripping as well! When we called the lady at the reception to come have a look at it, she had the fakest reaction of surprise we’ve ever seen and we’re laughing at it to this day! It’s ok! It’s easy for someone to not notice a missing ceiling! 😀
What was making it even more surreal was that for our communication with the hotel staff we had to rely exclusively on the audio option of Google Translate! Priceless moments!
Would a missing ceiling and a few smelly carpets prevent you from enjoying a unique travel experience?