Iran. – Lets talk about Iran. Or I should say, let’s talk about the Islamic State of Iran.
‘Islam’, such a sensitive word to talk about these days. It’s funny how whenever I talk about Iran, some people would immediately associate this country with terrorism, war, Islamic State…whatever stereotypes you could think of.
‘…the Persian Empire, which is considered one of the greatest ancient empires (more so than Roman Empire) in history.’
Now let me ‘reveal’ something to you, as I’m aware that many people don’t know this fact – most Muslims are of two denominations: Sunni and Shia, whereby Shia is the minority, as it is estimated that only 10-20% of the world’s Muslims are Shia. And here’s the thing: Iran is one of the few Shia majority countries, and when people think about Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), it’s easy to assume (and generalize) that Iran are part of this Jihadism because ISIS has emerged from radical Sunni jihadists in Iraq, a predominantly Shia country.
So what does that say about Iran?
And yes, I’m pointing this out just to show how unnecessary it is to doubt a country when you don’t even know the individuals who live there. Individuals don’t represent the government. The government itself is following their interpretation of Islam, but Iranians are not religious, just as much as you want to think they are. Many people don’t go to the mosque and neither do they fast in Ramadan. I ask Iranians about their view on homosexuality, and they all told me they have nothing against it; one guy even told me he ‘would like to try it someday’. Of course, this is unique to Iran as it has a lot to do with the legacy of the Persian Empire, which is considered one of the greatest ancient empires (more so than Roman Empire) in history. Iranians still hold tightly onto the Persian root and culture that they take pride in. Unlike people from other Muslim countries, Islam is not ‘in their blood’ and once you interact with the locals you could feel that something is missing between the way they identify with the religion and what the government claims they are.
Speaking of interacting with the locals, let’s go back to travel matter and talk about the question I’ve been getting a lot : Why Iran? To divert the question a little bit, I think the more interesting part is HOW I got to Iran. When I say how, I’m not even talking about the flight or visa, I’m referring to the actual how – how did I convince my parents that I’m going to travel solo in Iran.
I’m not gonna lie, it was tricky. But I was also lucky. Obviously there’s no way I could stop them from worrying, just as much nothing can stop me from going. But I still went out of my way to prove to my parents that this trip would be just as safe as I knew it would be. A friend of mine who lives in Dubai is a specialist in giving private travel security advice, and he was kind enough to support my craziness and send a travel advice statement to my parents (true story) that indicates Iran as a low risk travel destination, and Hong Kong has the SAME travel risk rating. So yeah, my parents can’t really say anything against a professional advice. Besides my unexplainable wanderlust, another reason why I chose Iran was simply a practical one – the flight tickets were cheap. It was my first time taking Aeroflot (I realised everyone knows how cheap this airline is except me), and I have to say the food and movie options were nice. Pretty ironic because I missed my return flight (I swear it wasn’t on purpose) and ended up spending the same amount of money I spent on the return ticket on a one-way ticket, but it was so worth it.
I didn’t know ANYONE in Iran when I first arrived in Tehran. I didn’t know what to expect from this country because while I don’t trust the portrayal of Iran by Western media, my friends’ and family’s concerns made me confused as well. As I always say, I only believe what I see and listening to comments based on stereotypes about Islam and the Middle East and getting worried for no reason is not helping.
This vlog #1 shows my first 2 days in Tehran and I can’t help smiling while I was editing because it really brings me back to Iran. If you ask me, was traveling as a female difficult in Iran? My answer would be this video and I hope this vlog would provide, if anything, a different perspective, other than the ‘terrorist’, ‘war-torn’, twisted ‘Islamic State’ impression, to people who think negatively about Iran.
Vlog #2: From Tehran to Yazd
This time I’m traveling from Tehran to Yazd, and the change of scenery is surreal – from the bustling capital city to the desert, it’s definitely an adventure I’ll never forget! As always my solo travel is never ‘solo’ as I’m accompanied by other travelers and amazing local Iranians!
Photos (see album below) were taken in Tehran, Yazd, Shiraz, Marvdasht and Isfahan. A few messages I would like to deliver through these images:
- The daily life of Iranian (Persian) is no different from that of people in any country.
- Iran is not a country full of terrorists.
- The diversity of the landscape, transportation and architectures in this gifted country: desert, mountains, mosques, churches, Persepolis, bazaars, museums, metro – manifestations of the pride of Persian history, the country’s transition and the Persian lifestyle today.
About the blogger: Constantly shocking her family and friends with the most bizarre travel destinations, Pearl Yan finds no fun in staying in a shell and shines the most when she discovers the unknown. Based in Hong Kong, she documents her offbeat global adventures that aim to inspire (oh that time when she had a hyena massage), and you may (or may not) find them on her blog, Miss Traveling.