Blog 2: INSTC Friendship Rally kicks off at Bandar Abbas, heading north through Iran
We are driving through Iran on the INSTC
Iran! I’ve been all over the world (without meaning to sound immodest) but I haven’t been as excited about driving through any country as I am now. Iran, Persia, is an ancient land steeped in history, not on the usual tourist radar, closed off due to various geo-political regions – and with my mother being Parsi – this is also the land of my ancestors. Zoroastrianism originated in Persia and even though this is now the Islamic Republic of Iran, old traditions, most notably Nawroze (Nowruz) [put link to Nowruz] that we know as the Parsi New Year, is still also the biggest celebration in Iran – the Persian New Year.
Before we head off to explore the city, Captain Khan, the naval attaché to the Indian embassy in Teheran who will be accompanying us on the drive, has a briefing for all INSTC participants. Travelling through Iran is not very complicated but it’s not that simple.
INSTC participants given travel tips on Iran
First and most important thing – do not shoot (as in pictures!) anything and everything. The Iranians are very sensitive to that. We know about all the tension with the USA and the issue could be some sensitive installation that has inadvertently crept up in the background of what we are shooting. Also the people don’t like pictures being taken of them so always ask for persmission.
Then there’s clothing. No shorts for men, though t-shirts are now acceptable. No exposed skin for the women and a scarf to cover their heads. It’s not a burkha – while many women are wearing black headgear, especially those in government jobs and the receptionists at our hotel, the Iranian women populace wear brightly coloured scarves and equally bright coats over – what I’m reliably told are very fashionable clothes. Clothes that are only shown within four walls.
I also observe that the men are very sharply dressed, Bandar Abbas is scorching hot but most of the men are wearing formal jackets over formal clothes. But no ties. Not even the pursers on Iran Air wear ties. I think ties are a visual symbol of the capitalist West, so a no-no.
Also no-no, alcohol. Strictly no alcohol. The Armenians have a club where liquor is served, and there’s also an Armenian church, but no alcohol for anybody else.
Don’t show displeasure in public. Apparently Iran has the most active and intricate network of informants and ears to the ground. And plus they’re very polite and expect the same level of politeness in return. Very polite as in polite to an extreme level. And that’s where this concept of Taarof comes in – the art of extreme politeness and civility.
Watch this hilarious video on Taarof
And here’s one more
So on the INSTC – be polite, be respectful and do not stop and take pictures wherever we feel like.