6 Things You Should Know Before Going to Iran

 

At the beginning of this year I have backpacked with a friend around Iran for a month. Not many people I know have been here and the fact is that I was so astounded by the potential this country has. Therefore I have promised myself that I will share my experience with all of you. Unfortunately, it is a fact that due to media, many people think that Iran is a country strongly linked with war, nuclear armament and terrorism. Besides, lots of polls show that the West and even most of the Middle Eastern countries look poorly at Tehran’s rights record. While the truth is always somewhere in the middle, my distrust of the media made me visit this country and I can only say one thing – can’t wait to go back!

Culture and People

  1. The People

The people here are simply astonishing – they are so congenial and amicable- up to the point where you get a bit suspicious! Actually, I have come to realize that they really mean it when they ask ‘Where are you from’ and do want to know about your whereabouts because they have an authentic curiosity about other countries. I can wholeheartedly say that Iran is one of the best countries I have been where you will experience local life in an easy, spontaneous and fun way, and you will rarely be surprised by a comment such as ‘please come to visit my shop’ – following an inviting answer.

  1. The History

Now if you do a bit of a research before you go to Iran you will be aware of the fact that the inhabitants of Iran are not Arabs – but Persians. It is a mistake that will make you look poorly informed and will also be disappointing for the people you are talking to. After all, the Persian Empire is a prehistoric one and many take pride on their ancestry. Another aspect is the religious one. Just because it is called the ‘Islamic Republic of Iran’ does not mean that everyone is Muslim (after all, the country was named this way only after the revolution in 1979). Zoroastrianism is the oldest monotheistic religion which was founded on the territory of ancient Iran. Other minority religions are the Baha’I Faith, Christianism and Judaism.

  1. The Customs

One of the most interesting cultural habits I have encountered in Iran is called – taarof (politeness) – which basically means that the local people will insist that you don’t have to pay or do something for them – therefore putting the other first. While it could be heavenly amazing to be invited for dinner always when you go out with a local, it is not always the case. So you will have to insist two or three times until they will accept your preposition/money. Another very important cultural aspect to keep in mind is shaking hands – while men shaking hands with men is perfectly fine – some (more conservative ones) prefer not to and they will place their hand on their heart to show respect and sincerity. A man will not shake hands with a woman unless she is the one that outstretches her hand first (it also depends on the company, situation, etc). My advice is that you simply bow and let the other person initiate a further handshake.

  1. The Dress code

I think it is not a secret that here the women have to cover anything than face, hands and feet (therefore the head too). I actually found that Iranian women use the scarf as a fashion statement (mainly in Tehran and big cities) therefore you will find it quite tempting to go shopping for some. The array of colors and designs is impressive and consequently you will find yourself wearing it with such pride! J In what is concerned the rest, it is generally acknowledged that the women should be wearing loose and long sleeved blouses & pants. However, while I was in Tehran I kept on being wondered on the fact that many women adopted much of the Western dress code and wear rather tight clothes. While this of course will change depending on the city and region – follow your common sense and pack more loose clothes (including lots of blazers and long sweaters) and avoid low-cut, see-through ones. Always remember it is better to look conservative. Men have nothing to be concerned of as short-sleeved shirts and t-shirts are acceptable. On the other hand, shorts and three-quarter length pants are only accepted on the beach.

Technicalities

  1. The Money

Well, continuing with the technicalities – the credit cards here do not work so my advice is to take enough cash with you. There is also the option of a travel card that you could order in advance and pick it up once you arrive in Tehran. This is mostly done through Facebook groups such as ‘See you in Iran’. When talking about money – the currency in Iran is a bit confusing. They have ‘toman’ – with one decimal less and ‘rial’ however they normally use tomans. For example when people say something like 18 – they actually mean 18000 tomans. It will take you a bit to get used to it and you will constantly have the impression that things are cheaper than you think!

  1. The Internet

Install VPN before you reach the country as here basically you will not be able to access YouTube, Facebook or even CouchSurfing without it. I was really worried before reaching the country as I wasn’t sure how was I to communicate with my friends and family. However, I soon found the solution – VPN it is. Also, keep in mind that in Iran Couchsurfing is illegal therefore in case you have a couch – do plan and make a fake hotel reservation for the officials will check it for your visa (the visa is on arrival – it cost me around $80 and lasts for a month). Other than that, you would want to buy a SIM card as the internet is much faster than the Wifi in the coffee shops.

Hope this helps and do not hesitate to message me in case you have questions or comments! Khodahafez 🙂

5 Must See Places in Alexandria, Egypt

 

There are few places that really make me want to come back to further explore and Alexandria and Egypt is one of them. I have completed a three month internship in Tanta and on this occasion have been travelling around. However, that wasn’t enough. Even if most of the weekends I would spend at the foot of the Mediterranean, Alexandria always made me want more. So- I had to come back! Ended up spending an extra month and a half and have to be honest – loved it that much that I had to tell the story…

Check out the rest of the article here:

5 Must See Places in Alexandria, Egypt

 

What is It that You Want?

‘If light is in your heart you will find your way home.’ (Rumi)

Every time I come back from a long vo-yage and I visit my grandma she always strikes me with the same question put into different words- ‘how am I not afraid to go to all these unknown places, conflictive and unsafe, where I will meet all these strangers – that could potentially harm me’ or God knows what else.

These questions have actually made me realize that every time I embarked on a new journey I have always left with faith in my heart that I would be back – I would even visualize myself – happy and with a bigger heart.

I envisioned this because I would feel with all my heart that the purpose of my traveling is aligned with my life purpose so there was nothing that could have stopped me from doing it.When you have that much passion and sense of purpose for what you do – yes, you feel like your heart grows. So there I was – I have actually done a ‘law of attraction’ practice – which is to visualize and have positive thoughts for a great outcome – without even actually knowing it or planning on it. And so this was for me the most practical way to understand faith and the power of my thoughts.

What is the law of attraction?

It might be that for some of us this concept is so overrated – we have probably heard it, used it and overused it to the point that we either feel we grasped it (and ideally we actually put it into practice) or we eventually left it somewhere in the past as maybe a small notion to consider (and eventually forgot about it). One thing is for sure – the law of attraction is a universal law that many might have put aside just because of its popularity – however it is a given that everything that surrounds us was first created in our thoughts.

We must then understand that our thoughts are gold in terms of how we rule our life and how we progress in our life. This is not a ‘learn to be positive’ self-help, spiritual article that tries to put you in a better state of mind. This is a wake-up call for those that want a change in their life. that change comes from your thoughts. You should start by having a different mindset – and deeply embrace the fact that you are the creator of your own life and set of beliefs.

What is happiness?

Many of us actually answer to the question of ‘What do you want’ – in the simplest form – ‘I want to be happy’. Although yes, while this is the universal aspect of what humans want in general– to love and be loved, to construct a harmonious life and be accepted for who you are – it is not enough to state it – you must describe it in the most minute detail – with more details you give, better it is. Doing this you will reach a point where you can vividly envision your perspective on happiness.

In this process, you must, first of all, learn to let go of your past experiences and patterns of thought. Coming to peace with the others and with yourself, ask for forgiveness as well as forgive – and lastly be thankful for the life you are living now.

We should find happiness in every small thing that we are doing. For example think about washing the dishes. It always seems to be a dreadful activity until you actually experience it mindfully. To be in the moment while you do an action helps you appreciate the smallest details – hence you will start to live in harmony with yourself.

Definitely happiness should not be understood in terms of – ‘if only I would have this/be this/get here- I would be happy’ – because in this way we will go on a misery carousel where we condition ourselves in terms of what we relate to – or what we wish for. Being happy is after all to understand deeply that failure and negative experiences are also part of the picture. We won’t know joy unless we know unhappiness. However, accepting it and converting it in life-lessons will help us get the drive for a new direction, a new beginning.

Personally, I think that happiness is that moment when we manage to turn our wounds, pain and suffering into wisdom. The one that laughs and has a joyous heart in the face of adversity will experience life at a totally different level compared to someone that always had whatever he/she pleased and whose world collapses at the slightest disappointment. It is very important what are we doing with this wisdom – to find our own truth and try to bring it to the world. Learn how to make it a more peaceful, joyful and loving one.

What is love?

– this is not a metaphysical monologue either, but what I see as a practical way to see love – in terms of my own experience. This is in fact an invitation to introspection – what is love for you? I have come to experience that when I do not love myself I cannot bring love to the world. It comes in the form of low energy, pessimism and a systematic auto-sabotage of who you are and what you want. You seem as if you have lost your compass and somehow you feel like you were just dropped here and can’t seem to understand what is the way forward?

In times of adversity and when we struggle to keep our heads above water we sometimes forget to look inside and give ourselves time. We need this time to ground and to find what it is that is not working or that is lacking. So once we find that we can change perspective and let things flow, try to find some humour in it and try to learn the lesson

For example, I have found it difficult at times to be constant with my wishes. I kept on wanting and wanting more … while I would realize I was still unfulfilled. It was like a vicious circle and I was trapped. It was then that I have remembered the most magical words ever – thank you. And so, at times when you find it difficult to give meaning to your life, gratitude will change the way you see things, and slowly will help eliminate your negative thoughts and pessimism.

I learned to be grateful systematically by keeping a gratitude journal. Expressing in details why I was grateful – in terms of body, mind, spirit, relationships and money really helped.  I was astounded as it was actually working – I started to see my life from an another perspective.

Knowing and having a better understanding- about what you want will boost your high esteem and you will attract more and more joyous and beautiful people. Once your high-esteem is at a healthy level, you should work though on staying awake, on being present and of course on finding the truest expression of yourself.

Remember – you are the captain of your soul – and once you deeply embody that in your belief system – nothing can take you down.

Lastly – you lead the way as in how people should treat you or how you should be loved. We sometimes end up in poor relationships only because this is what we think it suits us and we deserve to be treated as such. Therefore, understand that first you have to be whole – to accept yourself and be responsible for what you create.

Ask – Believe – Receive

Learn to discover through introspection what you really want. Be grateful for what you have, for this earth, for the sky, for the rain and for the sun, for the birds and for the trees, for the fact that you are breathing! These are some of the few things we take for granted. This way you will allow novelty and miracles to come into your life. Select your direction in life and believe in it with all your being. What you focus on expands and so learn to live with faith for it will always help to keep your sense of purpose. We need a sense of purpose, of meaning in life.

Once you believe you see that each day will be another chance to get better, to achieve what you longed for and to align your personality with the real reason why you are here. Then the outcome- what you receive- will be accordingly.

Further than that, your experiences, encounters with people and situations – they all speak to you. Learn to see them and to focus always on that which is constructive, which elevates your spirit. Learn to see toxic relationships, negative environments and strive to get surrounded more by positive people and generally people that you could learn from.

Life is an act of faith and the fruits of your actions whether they good or bad should teach you to see behind appearances. Your peace of mind and harmonious life depend on this – on being aware that everything is a phase, all is changing and everything is a projection of your mind.

Therefore, educate your mind, invest in a healthy mindset and embrace the harmony with gratitude and humbleness.