By Selina B.
Let me tell you a nice story, it’s been a while.
A while ago, my parents decided to spend Easter break in Iran. This is when I realized how many misconceptions regarding the culture, traditions and people in Muslim countries there are. Rumors, that circulate in our society, states that Muslim and conservative places such as Persia, are unsafe and the fact that the traditions are different to those in Europe, make people feel uncomfortable. What I was told and what I heard from the TV, the Internet and my environment in general before the trip, triggered a sense of fear in me. I heard a lot of people telling me to be very careful since girls have to dress up in a very conservative way, cannot make eye contact with men, are forbidden to talk in public and always have to walk behind their male supervisor. I was of the opinion that Persians despised tourists, especially those of a different religion, and that we were going to be judged. However, with this image in my head, a little apprehensive, we made our way to Iran for Easter.
What hit me immediately halfway through the plane ride was that women were already starting to adapt to the traditions I had heard about. We continuously observed them (who were dressed in a European way) go to the bathroom on the plane and come out with a veil and clothing covering all parts of their body. This was the moment I began to feel uncomfortable since it was now just us that stood out.
As soon as we reached the airport in Tehran, we met up with our guide, Shirin, who would tour us around the country for the 2 weeks. This was where my sister, my mum and I put on our veils as well. I remember Shirin saying that there was no need to wear it so that it covers all of your head, since the Persians don’t give much importance to the veil on tourists, that they are quite flexible. The journey continued this way, surprising us all the way through. I remember with much detail the people on the streets would come up to us and ask us where we were from, how we liked Iran, where we were going, if we needed any help and what was most surprising was that they ‘thanked’ us for visiting their country. Everyone we encountered was very open and interested in learning about our culture as well. This made me replay everything I had heard back home about their unfriendly character towards tourists, and how wrong I had interpreted the situation. The food for example, was not only traditional plates, unlike what we were told, Iran had pizzerias just as much as any other European country would have. The people were indeed dressed differently and in a conservative way, but they did not judge you for wearing the veil the wrong way or forgetting to put your jacket on again after coming out of your room.
All in all, in this particular stage in my life, one should never establish an opinion about something they have not encountered or have no knowledge about. ☺
Until next time! Xxx