|Sunday April 12 Tehran airport
Well my very interesting 17 days in Iran are over and we are sitting at the airport trying to drink a disgusting coffee. Only because we are thirsty. Taxi to airport a bit scary, Jean Claude in the front seat was terrified as he couldn't see out the windscreen in the heavy rain - I could just see through the drivers side. Barely functioning wipers so he got a generous tip to get new ones. Our last day and a half in Tehran made us like this city a little more. Friday night we went to the Artists centre for dinner. It is a laid back place lots of trees and mostly young people congregating. The vegetarian meal was good for here. Yesterday brought some showers and cooler temperatures which was very welcome. Visited the Jewellery Museum which contains the incredible collection of jewels left behind after the Shah fled at the time of the 1979 revolution. Most of the pieces were quite obscene in their opulence - even the swords used in battle heavily encrusted with emeralds, diamonds, rubies. Is it any wonder the ordinary people in situations like this stage revolutions!
So what to think of Iran? First of all the people are amazingly friendly. The ones we met mostly say they love Iran but are hoping for a relaxation of the rules imposed by the clerics who dominate the parliament and are hopeful that the sanctions will be relaxed if the current negotiations are successful.
A few more thoughts follow
Beautiful looking people
Nose jobs common costing $1000-2000
Traffic horrendous - rules ignored also pedestrian crossings
Lots of motor cycles
Petrol cheap - certain amount per month subsidised by Government and cheap after that. Think it is leaded
No-one wears helmets
Abortions relatively easy to get
Not many overweight people despite the amount of sugary drinks and sweets consumed
Woman often marry and bear children very early - 14
Dowry system - woman gets it
Schooling important - compulsory from 7-18 years. many go to uni and do masters and/or PHD's. Free but there are also private ones
Seems to be big difference between rich and poorI
Some women drive - women only taxis
Yzad and Isfahan appear more conservative than Tehran and Shiraz
Able to divorce
Free medical and dental but also private and insurance possible
Pension system mainly for government workers. Others can buy "super"
Excited about agreement to lift sanctions
Can travel provided other country will give visa
Very few beggars visible - charity boxes in the street
Date shakes - dates, milk, ice maybe banana
Tea, tea and more tea
Imitation beer - often fruit flavoured
Lots of mobile phones including iPhones
Blocked web sites
Men often have very modern hair styles
Few visible Tatts
Cities fairly clean but outside them rubbish everywhere . Huge plastic bag problem
Drains beside footpaths
Very dry atmosphere. Little rain
Despite the heat still some snow on mountain tops
Roads very good and extensive. Out of cities 3 lane and one way. Traffic horrendous in cities and towns. Drivers must be good the way they manoeuvre through traffic with centimetres to spare, u turns everywhere in the middle of traffic. Young teenagers riding motorbikes with a couple of toddlers on as well. No helmets although they are compulsory. Cars mostly old- some like Kia and Peugeot assembled here under licence. Mini buses we travelled in quite uncomfortable, seatbelts either not functioning or non existent as is the aircon and many windows don't open. The one public long haul coach we took was quite comfy. Taxis cheap and plentiful.
They have lots of holidays. 2 nuclear days, one apparently for when they completed the programme and one for when they told the rest of the world they had it. Today is Women's Day when not only mothers but all women in the family and friends are bought presents by the men.
The people we talk with seem keen but not optimistic for a freeing up of the many restrictions of daily life. Facebook, western films and media banned but as they say - where there's a will there's a way and the 17 year old son of last nights host family downloads American films and had recently watched The Imitation Game. Can get Facebook through an App called Opendoor .
Bathrooms can be interesting - very small and as someone has said youneed to have one foot in the toilet to have a shower. There is seldom a shower curtain. Massive use of plastic - towels and sometimes the top sheet - sealed in a plastic bag. Consequently plastic litters the roads except in cities where lots of sweeping happens.
Petrol 60 litres per month subsided at 50c litre after that less than 1$. Can save that part of unused 60litres. Diesel, unleaded but seems like mostly leaded fuel used
Women are the majority at uni
- at least 2/3's Schooling compulsory from 7 till 18. 2 years compulsory military service for boys 18
Plastic surgery popular with both men and women having nose jobs done.
Temporary marriage or pleasure marriage for as little as an hour - not widespread
Polygamy possible but rare
Official ban on pre marital sex and homosexuality
Marriage and family very important
State can provide funding for sex change operations - transsexuality seen
as a sickness and in need of medical help
More sex change ops than any country other than Thailand
Sherin Ebadi won Nobel peace prize 2003 - 1st female judge in 1970's - quite controversial award. Several women MP's - many more on municipal councils
Tehran cemetery massive with 800,000 of the 1.5 million killed in the Iran/Iraq war buried here. Families visit and have picnics at the grave. It's amazing where people picnic. Throw down a rug on the side of the road , a pathway, pitch a small tent on a path
And finally from a friends email today
I've just got back to the hotel after having a quick snack round the corner. I had a great conversation with a man who sat beside me, and thought you would be interested to hear his thoughts.
He's 71 and about to retire. He's a Civil Engineer Professor at the uni here. He traveled to conferences in Australia 30 years ago. He will continue with his own office after retirement. Most people who retire, sit at home with their wives.
He said Iran is in bad shape. 40%are living below the poverty line. The government must change, but it will take time. It was his generation that got rid of the Shah, but it was a mistake as it is far worse now. The young generation don't know what it was like then, so can't compare.
Most people like America....but don't like the communists to the north. ...Russia.
The lack of money to do anything was a recurring theme.
An interesting talk with another nice Iranian man.
And now to Dubai