Tag - shiraz

(Iran) Two months from north to south all the way along the desert.

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In Georgia, I met Filip who was from Montenegro, Eastern Europe and at that time we just greeted and said see you at the next country, Armenia if there was the chance. At Yerevan, the capital of Armenia we met again. From Yerevan, we had cycled together and we entered into Iran together.

 

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I had to wear the scarf because I was in Iran.

 

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Amazing beautiful scenery welcomed us first.

 

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After Iranian border, we met very special guy. Actually when I saw him from far, I thought it was local people picking garbage like plastic bottle for money. But actually he was traveler like me. He was 19 years old from Japan. Once he graduated from high school, he started traveling around the world. Recently he bought very cheap secondhand bicycle. He did not have any electronic gear such as a laptop, smartphone, and camera. I was so impressed by him because my dream was to travel without any electronic gear like him.

(Later we talked on online, he told me he was heading to nord cap, northeast part in North Europe with this cheap bicycle. Many people were touched by him that he got support as well. The most expensive tent company, Hillberg, gave him the tent for free. He was my inspiration.)

 

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In Iran, I enjoyed their new culture. This food was something special. We had to take soup to the ball and put some bread and crash with the silver stuff which looked like hammer.

 

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Actually I found most of foods from the restaurant were the same that there was only one kind of food, Kebab. When I got tired of kebab, I ate some fast food like falafe or other kinds of hamburger. But when I was invited by people, there were different foods that I really enjoyed. In Iran, people ate herb leaf. I did not like much at the beginning, but Filip really liked it so much. So I was following eating too and later I enjoyed so much too. Every Iranian house had carpet at the floor and when they ate they put some plastic big paper on the floor like the picture. What a funny thing was that Filip and other western people were suffering every time because they were not used to sit on the floor. In Korea, although I watched television on the sofa and ate on the table, we had kind of floor culture so sometimes we sit on the floor. Even for Korean sit on the floor was not comfortable. The secret of sitting on the floor was to change the position often. What I found was that there was something we kept saying same word over and over to different local people. Filip and local people were always talking about sitting on the floor. When they did not mention, then even I brought that subject because it was kinda funny to see Filip’s reaction.

 

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We cycled from north to south on the central area in Iran. Usually scenery was similar that it was semi desert. Sometimes it was beautiful like the picture.

 

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Filip told me Tabriz’s street market is one of the biggest market in the world, so I expected lot. But actually it was not that much big. Actually street market in Georgia was bigger.
In Iran street market or farmer market was called Bazaar.

 

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When I saw the persimmon, I was so happy because it was typical Korean fruit for fall. I thought I have never seen that fruit over years since I left Korea, so I felt like finally I was close to my home. Pomegranate was really cheap in Iran that we ate sometimes.

 

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Before coming to Iran, I was nervous and scared because I thought people were so religious and the society was too close. But actually Iran had two different faces. This cafe was for young people that when they wanted to feel kinda freedom they came here. Young couple went to the corner and hold hands. This cafe was on the main street though.

 

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I met very nice host in Tabriz and we cycled to the hill together. Scenery was like ocean.

 

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There was common thing between Filip and me that we liked silly joke and silky thing. Like the picture, we could play.

 

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Usually the road was peaceful when we were out of the city.

 

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But once we were in the city, it was chaotic. Iranian traffic was the worst. It was difficult to understand because usually Iranian were kind, but when they were on a car, they became crazy. (When I was in China, foreigners complained that Chinese traffic was bad. But compared to Iranian traffic, Chinese traffic was heaven.) The car on the center of the picture, it was national Iranian car that most of people had this car. It seemed very cheap and easy to find parts if it was broken. It made everybody have car and the road was full of the car.

One time I made joke to Filip and he laughed.

“In Iran there is only law for Hijab, but never law for car traffic.”

 

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In Iran, I met very special girl. She loved cycling but she had worst car accident and her face was covered by the blood. But driver was angry at her. Although she had the hardest time, she never let her down and she kept cycling whatever. To cycle as a solo female was actually wrong thing in Iran as I felt. In Tabriz, big city, city bike was only rented to male that girl could not rent. I got very impressed by her spirit.

 

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We visited some old historic mosque.

One time we were invited by young married couple. Her husband was out of house, so she came out to take us to her house. When she saw me, she gave hug. But she was a bit cold to Filip and did not give hug to him. Once we came into her house, she apologized to Filip about coldness and she gave him hug. I realized at that time that people acted differently between outside and their home. The home is the place which had freedom.

Almost nine times out of ten I was told that I did not need to wear hijab when I was invited at local people’s house. So really the government law was not affected at people’s house. I was really happy every single time when local people told me “Please, you don’t need to wear hijab at our house.”

 

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Picture to congratulate 45,000km (28,125 mi)

One time young Iranian told me Iran was the country which had big paradox. Actually if I did not cycle in Iran, I must not know about the other side of paradox. For example, many Iranian were not Muslim, but at the street 100% all of them looked like Muslim.

Most of Iranian girl really didn’t like hijab. Even religious Muslim Iranian girls didn’t like it too. Usually I could see many Muslim girl wearing hijab on the country which was not Muslim area like Europe. But none of Iranian girl I’ve met out of Iran never wore hijab.

In Iran, to drink alcohol was forbidden. But many of travelers had experience to drink alcohol after being invited by local people. Some other traveler told me he had amazing luxury party at Tehran and none of girl wearing hijab but actually wearing short clothes like other countries and people were drunk with alcohol. It was said that if you knew right person in Tehran, you could have amazing party every week. As I guessed, the leader of Iran must know about it, but he just let them have freedom under the table. I thought the way Iranian government had deal was like if it was behind like private place, it was okay. But if it was on the public, then never forgiven.

I’ve been some countries which blocked the website like Facebook and YouTube. But Iran was the hardest place that they blocked most of websites I wanted to use that even they blocked Korean biggest searching website. But according to young Iranian guy, there was a big paradox. Iranian government had Facebook page in the past while blocking Facebook.

 

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There was everywhere the picture of the first and second leader. First leader was Khomeini and the second leader was Khamenei who governs now. All the time I was confused with chicken and kitchen, so it was never possible to remember their name correctly, who was the first leader.

It was the law that shops must put the leader’s picture. At the beginning I felt weird about it. But after visiting Dubai (Arab Emirate) and Oman, I realized it was very common in some Muslim country. While traveling two months in Iran, I must see them every day and I felt so friendly to them later.

 

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I had a paradox sometimes on my trip in Iran. Although I did not like hijab, my favorite city was Qom which was the second holy city in Iran. Qom had different atmosphere that most of girl wore chador which covered their all body from feet to the head with a large piece of cloth on the street. When I arrived there, they had a big ceremony.

Later in other city, I said to some young Iranians that I loved Qom because it was holy city. But they did not agree with it and said they really did not like Qom because it was covered up too much religiously. Actually I had similar experience. In Valencia, someone showed me the city and the view was very beautiful in the night. But local people hated it because it was connected to dirty money. In Korea, there was some place most of cyclist went and I really hated that place because it was built to cover up corruption.

 

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To visit Mosque (shrine) was first time in Iran. After Qom, I had a few times more to visit Mosque and I realized the rule. Usually I must wear Chador like the picture. The entrances for boys and girls were separated. At girl entrance, there were women workers checking clothes and make up. If make up was too much, they asked to erase. They rented Chador for free. And tourist like me must wait the free tour English speaking guide. Although I had been so many religious countries like Christian, Islam, and others, Iran was the only country I could get a guide for free every time. Thanks to a guide, I had learnt many things about Islam history.

Qom’s guide treated us very special way that they invited one of nicest building and offered tea and cookies while explaining about Qom.

 

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Qom is the second holy city in Iran. The reason is Qom has the tomb of Fatima. Fatima was sister of Reza who was the eighth Imam. When I visited Mosque (or shrine), the word I heard often was Imam. There were two meanings. First meaning is priest who has speech in front of other people for pray. The other meaning is messenger, the one who were chosen by God to be perfect examples for faithful and to lead all humanity in all aspects of life.

So who is Muhammad? He is the one who created Islam. He was born 1,400 years ago. When he was in cave, he said he was visited by Gabriel and he received his first revelation from God. After Muhammad died, his cousin became first Imam. Imam is the most important person after Muhammad.

From the first Imam to the eleventh Imam was poisoned or killed. So Allah decided to hide the twelfth Imam. When the twelfth Imam was five years old, he was disappeared. Later he came out and said something like this “I would be the last Imam who will come to save at the last of the day.” and disappear again. I was interested of the story of the twelfth Imam.

When we were travel, it was the month of grief for one of Imam. It was forbidden to have a happy event such as marriage. At Mosque, many people were crying like just someone died. They cried for Imam who died hundreds ago.

 

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When someone died, they walked around Mosque with dead body.

I am not a religious person, so I don’t know about it much. But as I know, it is about how much people believe. In Christianity, there are many denominations. In Islam, there were two main denominations. Sunni Muslims are about 90% of all Muslims and Shia Muslims are about 10%. Most of Shia is in Iran and Iraq and all Iran is Shia while Iraq has 65% Shia of the population. So, what makes difference between Sunni and Shia? Mohammad died without choosing successor (khalifa). There were 4 khalifas after Mohammed died. They were chosen by election with democracy way. Shia did not agree from the first to third khalifa because they did not have blood relation. Shia said only fourth khalifa is the true one and they called him, first Imam. Sunni said they should accept all four Khalifas. That is a big difference between Shia and Sunni.

The holiest place in the world for Muslim is Mecca because it was the place Mohammad was born and got a message from a god. The biggest dream for Muslim is to visit Mecca. Other holy place is the tomb of Imam. There were four tombs of Imam in Saudi Arabia, six tombs in Iraq, and one tomb in Iran

Mashhad is the holiest place in Iran because they have tomb of Imam Reza. Imam Reza’s sister is Fatima and Fatima’s tomb is in Qom. That’s why Qom is the second holy place.
Mashhad is the second biggest city after Tehran that it is important place with many reasons to Iran.

 

(I researched lot to make sure it is right information. I am sorry if some info is wrong. You can search on online if you want to know more about it.)

 

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At Qom, we stayed at some local people’s house. They showed the beautiful night view.

 

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In Iran, I could see this kind of terrain often.

 

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He asked to hike there that we cycled into. I usually didn’t care much the place to go because I was just happy to be on the road. But he had some specific place he wanted go and checked. So usually I followed where he wanted to go that we didn’t have any conflict for the route.

Just we had small argue sometimes for simple thing

He : Let’s eat after hour
Me : NO!!! I am extremely hungry, I must eat now.

This kind of issue was more serious than where to go and which route we would take. He was on third place at triathlon in his country that he had very strong physical condition, so he didn’t need eat as soon as hungry. But I was different that if I am hungry I didn’t have any energy to keep going. Because of this problem, I bought small bag which I could hang behind handle bar and I put lots of snacks there. Then I learned how to eat while cycling. Even I had learnt how to take the picture on a bicycle. Over four years, I must stop to take the picture. But after meeting him, I just took the picture while pedaling to catch him up. Should I thank to him or kick him?

 

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We cycled until where we could not keep going forward. We just left bicycle behind and hiked. After just ten minutes walking, we saw amazing landscape.

 

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We went Kashan after Qom. There were a few touristic places to visit. But it was a bit expensive to visit all and it was actually all similar. So we chose two of them to see. The above picture was about Bathhouse.

 

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Mosque at Kashan was very colorful.

 

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Ladies were having lunch near Mosque. Filip wanted to take the picture of them but he thought it would be not good to ask to take the picture of females as male in Iran. So he asked me to take this picture.

In Iran, people loved the picnic like the picture. Wherever they went, they always brought some mats and plastic things to put the foods on the ground. When they went long drive, they usually stopped at the middle of the road and enjoyed picnic with their family and friends.

 

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At this time, he wanted to see the desert because he said he never saw it. Although I saw the desert several times, I agreed what he suggested because I did not mind any route. It was not on our route that actually we had to cycle back to the main road after a few days.

 

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There was unexpected thing, to see camels ;)

 

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We arrived in Caravan after one day. Caravan was the place where travelers on camels could stay at the middle of the desert in old time. It was still running. We just ate lunch here and decided to do wild camping. The only thing we could eat was again kebab. We bought some water and vegetable which they had. After getting necessaries, we headed to the desert.

 

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This area was famous for salt desert as well. But it was totally different from the picture which was on the internet. On the internet, it was similar to salt desert in Bolivia which was incredibly beautiful. But here was just covered like little bit snow.

 

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Local people told that there was more salt, but now they were taking for industrial salt that there were less left.

 

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It was long time no see the desert sand that I really liked it.

 

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The desert was one of the most beautiful place in the world that everybody should see at least one time in their life.

 

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I was not only slow at cycling, but also slow at everything like preparing and eating. He got bored to wait me in the morning and started playing guitar. He was interested of music instrument that he even carried a small guitar. But I’ve never seen he played some song to the end. He just played some chords he made.

 

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I found similar place like salt desert in Bolivia and took the picture. It was muddy that I took off my shoes. My feet were so smart that I regretted to walk here.

 

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It was interesting to see camels that I tried to walk to them slowly and I succeeded to touch them. They didn’t run away but let me take the picture with them.

 

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We were back to Caravan at the next day and had same food which we had yesterday.

 

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White camel

 

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After back to Kashan, we walked around Bazaar, local market then we found this little small coffee shop. The smell of coffee and sunshine weather made my day. Actually it was my birthday. I was alone over four times on my birthday on the trip. But it was first time that finally I was with someone on my birthday. I wanted to make it a bit special. So I sent a message to Couchsurfing members like “Hey, today is my birthday. Would you like to have dinner together with us?”

 

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And one of them invited us to their house and made birthday party for me. I was so excited because I’ve never had birthday party on my trip over four years. The host had a bit different from other house that they had table at home. Filip was always having pain to sit on the ground to eat that he was happy to sit on chair for dinner.

I was not sure that Filip bought the cake with his money or our money which we were spending together. Anyway I thanked to him ;)

 

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There was one place where Filip wanted to go that I just followed him. But actually both of us were a bit disappointed because it was not that much special than our expectation. I felt that it was too well organized for a tourist.

 

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He was drawing on the paper. So I tried to draw for first time on my trip. I was too bad at the art that I always got very bad score at the school, which made me scare about all kind of art. But he gave me advice that there would be no one who would give me bad score that I didn’t need to worry.

I realized that to draw gave me very strong memory than taking a picture. Above the picture was the place what we saw for drawing.

 

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The way back after visiting site was downhill that we were very excited. I tried to cycle without holding handle bar. Then he thought it was challenge game. So he tried more crazy things. I took this picture while pedaling thank to learning how to take the picture on a bicycle.

 

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When we were near a main road, it was dark. We didn’t sleep at the tent often in Iran. People usually invited us on the road or we used couchsurfing or warmshower that we slept at local people’s house often. There were Red Crescents on the road between cities that we slept there a few times. But at this night, we were denied by Red Crescent.

A few times we slept at the mosque as well. One time we slept at a mosque in a small village. The first floor was for men praying and the second floor was for women praying. But they just let us use second floor together.

I thought that in Iran, man and woman must be separated all the time because of too conservative thing. But it was really not like that.

 

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When we got bored on the desert, then played like this.

 

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We arrived one of the most famous cities in Iran, Isfahan. Many Iranian recommended us to visit here that it was not only popular to tourists, but also to all Iranian. What I was surprised in Isfahan was couple were walking with holding their hands. By the law in Iran, it is strictly forbidden. But I realized that some young people walked with holding hands in big cities like Isfahan, Tehran, and Shiraz.

To cover my head with scarf was difficult for me that my scarf covered full my head, which looked a bit weird. But in Isfahan, many young girls covered their head only half way that they looked coolest girl in the world to me. I was wondering how come they covered only half without dropping their scarf. I thought that they tied their hair back at the high point to prevent scarf slippery down.

After one month in Iran, I dreamed weird one. In the dream, I was the only girl wearing hijab on the street that other girl didn’t wear hijab. I was screaming “Yeah!!! Don’t I need to wear scarf anymore!???” But then I woke up from the dream. I was very depressed to realized it was just the dream that I must wear hijab again to go out. The more I wore hijab, the more the suppression was on my unconsciousness. It just suppressed my human right in the unconscious mind. I told other local young Iranian girl about my dream. She told me “I have never worn hijab at my dream in my life.” And the other girl next her said “I am too. Never ever hijab in my dream at least.”

One friend from Netherlands who drove his car in Iran told me about the paper which he should signed up when he entered at the immigration. He found one thing on the paper, if he kills the boy by car accident, he should pay around $15,000 and if he kills girl, then pay around $5,000 (I cannot remember exactly amount. But it was something like this that there was really big difference about killing girl and boy.) By the law, the girl is not more worth than the boy is.

 

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Isfahan square.

 

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In Iran, handicraft was popular like a silk carpet. This small silk carpet costed $10,000! You can see that it is shining that it is different from normal carpet. There was always carpet at local people’s house that I sit there all the time. But I really didn’t know that all carpet I was sitting down very expensive usually. Normal carpet started from $1,000. One time I was standing at some carpet and owner told me it was around $6,000!! I felt more comfortable to not know the price to stay on the carpet.

 

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Isfahan was my second favorite city in Iran. Specially I really like this bridge’s atmosphere. It looked beautiful and people were full around.

 

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People eating together, smoking sisha, or singing that it had very warm atmosphere.

 

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In Iran, there were many different kind of bread. I usually liked thin bread to taste more food than bread.

 

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If there was some mourning day for Islam, they usually gave free food on the street.

 

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Food was usually very cheap that we ate at the restaurant every day. Usually the table was like this that we had to take off our shoes and sit. The bread above the picture was my favorite because it was so thin that I could feel more food than bread when I ate all together food and bread. In the morning, usually egg and bread were common. My thumbs had bands because it was too dry that I had crack on my thumbs. Usually if it was dry area, I had some crack around my thumb, which was very painful that there were blood all the time.

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On the downhill, we saw very beautiful trees and bank that we just stopped. We must stop at this kind place and enjoy. We had lunch here.

 

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This tomb was known for very important place, but actually there were not much things to see.

 

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Many people imagined terrorist when they thought about Iran. But it was just propaganda from the media that Iran was safe to travel. (Recently Iran got terror, but it does not happen often really.) But there was thing media didn’t talk that the problem to travel Iran was sexual harassing.

I got sexually harassed two times in Iran. Sometimes Filip was far from me with different speed or other reason. I didn’t cycle alone many times, but sexual harassing was happened only when I was alone. First time was when I passed many students on my bicycle, then one of them grabbed my butt strongly and showed dirty smile. I stopped my bicycle with anger, shouted at him, and tried to catch him. But then he started to run and none of them who was standing at the next to him pretended they didn’t know about him.

The second time was happened by above the pictures’ car. I was cycling on the right park side because it had big space. And then car on the front passenger seat grabbed my butt while I was cycling. Again he showed me dirty smile. I called police each time. Usually people blamed me when I wanted to report “Do you have the picture of him? Do you have proof? How police can catch them? You think you can make change?” So I tried to make the picture like above and just called the police. I usually called the police when I got sexually harassed on my trip, but I have never changed anything. The reason I called the police was I wanted to let them know “You did wrong thing.”

I have cycled more than 60 countries and Iran was only country that I must say to solo female cyclist “Don’t cycle here alone. You must get sexually harassed. Not only one time… but many several times.” It was not from only my experience. I have talked to other travelers and all of solo female cyclists must have been sexually harassed in Iran. Even I heard a girl with a boyfriend just got sexually harassed in front of her boyfriend.

 

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I felt too bad around Shiraz because of sexual harassing. I didn’t get any physical attack, but it really ruined my soul and everything of me. It would be better just some stranger hit my head on the road than doing sexual harassing.

 

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When I was too down, one local family invited to their home for the night. I smoked shisha, talked to them, and had dinner. It made me relax little by little.

 

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The center, black one, was pomegranate sauce. Local people taught me how to eat together. I put meat, some pickles, and sauce on my favorite bread and ate all together.

 

At the next day, our host wanted to show us Persepolis. But it looked like restoring was not done yet. Frankly speaking Iranian ruins which I saw in Louvre Museum was better.

Iranian was descendants of the Persian empire. The ancient Persian civilization was one of the oldest one in the world. But compared to Egypt, there were only few relics to see. In Iranian city, usually the things to see were Mosque and Bazaar(Market). I wish I could find more history of ancient Persian.

But Iran had really big land that there were many different natures to see.

 

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After touring, we moved to Shiraz.

 

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This was Iranian money. $1 was 34,000 Rial. $10 was 340,000 Rial. Fortunately,(?) they had bill of 500,000 Rial.

If I calculated by each bill, $0.14(5,000 Rial), $0.30 (10,000 Rial), $0.60(20,000 Rial), $1.5(50,000), $3(100,000 Rial), $14(500,000 Rial)

So actually from 50,000 Rial, it was worth than $1.

When I asked Iranian the price at the shop, they used Toman which meant 10 times multiply. So if it is 34,000 Rial ($1), they said 3400 Toman. At the beginning, I was really confused.

 

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It was the biggest Bazaar in Shiraz.

 

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On Bazaar, I could see different kind of shops. One of shops was selling pickles.

 

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Beautiful colorful scarfs

 

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Every country has different favorite one. Iranian favorite was birds as a pet. Many shops hung bird’s case and I felt like I was walking on the forest because of bird tweeting sometimes.

 

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We visited the biggest mosque and I had to wear Chador and had a free guide as the same as other mosque. Our guide was the lady. She told us she was volunteering for a guide while she was having PhD. She had two children that I got surprised by her high education as a mom in Iran.

In Iran, it was not equal between men and women. In a village, it was hardly to see girls working. But the big city like Shiraz was different that I could see girls driving and working sometimes.

 

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All Iranian had told me that Shiraz was the best city in Iran. But unlikely my expectation, it was just so so. To me, Isfahan was really interesting. Maybe because Isfahan had beautiful river. But I liked this mosque that in the morning I could see colorful lights by the window. This beautiful lights were only possible in the morning when sun was going up.

 

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My second drawing on the trip; It was really good that there was no teacher around me who would give me C or D. The test usually ruins creativity and confidence.

 

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We visited very famous garden in Shiraz. It would be so beautiful on April. But the time we were visiting was December. But still it was full of green that I really enjoyed to spend time there.

 

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Iranian government educated people to hate Israel and the U.S.A. The reason there were flags of two countries was to tell people “Stamp on them” One time we were staying at local people’s house and it was around the school. It was noisy in the morning from the school that we were awake. I asked local guy what it was going on. He told me teachers ordered students to say bad thing about those countries loudly. He swore lot about his government and went to sleep again.

 

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Photo for 46,000 km (28,750 mi)
As going to the south, I could see more palm tree. I just climbed up for fun, but actually it was very easy.

 

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Again Kebab for lunch with lots of herb.

 

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They were selling the top part of palm tree. They told us it was really good for health. We decided to buy for curiosity. Once we tried to pay it became more expensive. There was some kind of cheating. We must buy things which were already cut. We didn’t have choice, so we just paid. It was a bit sweet, watery, and crispy.

 

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As we passed small city, local people told us there was a cave. So we went there. It was not deep, but when the sun went down, light made cave very warm with beautiful red light.

 

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I was usually embarrassed when people surrounded me. I liked to have some distance with people, but it was almost impossible in Iran because they were too kind to give me privacy. Fortunately, I had Filip that he let people surround him.

In Iran, there were many religious days like Imam’s death. At that day, there were lots of free food on the street that we got lots of free lunch box.

Iranian were really too friendly that Filip enjoyed lot at the beginning. But later I could see he got tired of it because every day we stopped by people often. Sometimes we had to stop at every twenty minutes because local people wanted to talk to us. When we arrived in Shiraz at the night, both of us were very tired. One local guy came to us and asked Filip “Where are you from?” which had happened every day. But he was really tired at that day that he just said “I am from Korea.” Iranian didn’t doubt at all and told him “Welcome to Iran from Korea! Iran good?” We laughed after he went away because we didn’t expect that he would believe this.

The most common English word from Iran is “Iran Good? Iran Good? Iran Good?” I was really wondering why all Iranian asked same question. I guessed two things. One thing was because they learnt English like this in the school as I learnt “I am fine, thank you. And you?” when someone asked “How are you?” on the book. The other thing was maybe they were sad that the U.S.A said Iran is devil to all countries. So they wanted to make sure they are not devil by asking “Iran Good?”

 

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The other word Iranian kept telling me was “Jumong”. Jumong was Korean TV series. Nine out of ten Iranian shouted at me with big smiling “JUMONG!” when I said I am from South Korea. Jumong is South Korean historical period drama series and it was extremely popular in Iran more than in Korea. There were many Korean TV series in Iran, but I was really curious why only Jumong became extremely popular that all Iranian knew it.

 

Photo for 47,000 km (29,375)

At that night, it was too cold. But after that night, suddenly it became really hot.

 

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We were about to stay in Lar for one day, but we stayed two nights because local people were nice to us. Our host showed us around his small city. There was memorial ceremony for religion.

 

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After visiting mosque, we went to the top of the hill. The scenery was really beautiful. It was different from other city that house was made of sands and palm trees made town very special. Thanks to the scenery on the top, I really liked Lar. It was not touristic place at all so I didn’t expect that it would be interesting. Maybe because of no expectation, I liked more.

 

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As more going to the South, the scenery was being changed. We could see more often like that kind of building. But unfortunately there were lots of painting. I thought it was human instincts that people loved to write something on everywhere.

 

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We saw this kind of building often at the south, but we just passed because it was at the middle of bush far. But this time it was close to the road that we stopped and looked around. There were full of water on the ground and the top was tall.

 

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Finally we reached to the bottom of Iran. We took the ferry to Queshm Island. It was extremely hot that to wear extra jacket to hide hips and wear scarf made me exhausted by the heat. I was so jealousy of Filip wearing short sleeve. The building was called Windtowers(Badgirs) on the picture. It had very unique building structure that it made house very cool without A.C.

Queshm Island was very special place that foreigners didn’t need visa to enter and it was tax free place. So many workers from Dubai visited here to enjoy a short vacation or weekend. So it was very expensive than other places in Iran.

This place was also different from mainland Iran that many people were Sunni. Sunni prayed five times a day and Shia prayed three times a day. I have visited some Muslim countries and Shia Iran had the quietest Muslim mosque. They usually didn’t use loudspeaker for praying. Shia is more opened mind.

One funny thing was that when I listened to praying from my other Muslim country’s video, I felt traveling there. It gave me traveling memory.

 

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On beautiful Queshm Island

 

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Journey in Iran was almost going to the end.

 

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Kids in front of the sea

When we bought sim card in Iran, we decided to buy 10 Gb for the internet. But we could only use 100 mb for two people for one month because internet was too slow to use 10 gb.

 

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I really liked Qeshm Island because the nature was so beautiful. There was Mangrove. We met very nice people in Qeshm Island and he showed big island by his car.

 

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Canyon was so beautiful which local people showed us.

 

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The most interesting place was salt cave. Thank to local people, we had really amazing trip.

 

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There was another island around Qeshm. It was called Hormuz, which was famous for color.

 

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There was salt cave as well.

 

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It was another beautiful island as well.

 

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In Iran we cycled 2,820 km (1,752.66 mi) for two months. There were many good days and difficult days. Iran was difficult country to travel as woman, but it was worth to see different things. I would remember Iran as unique country.

 

 

Iran travel guide (Safety, Places to visit, Clothes for a girl, and other useful information)

Is it Safe to travel in Iran?

My answer is Yes and No

* It is much safer than Europe or the U.S about being attacked by a terrorist
– If you think Iran is dangerous because of the terrorist, it means that you are brainwashed by Western media. Iran is very safe country for traveling.
– There are many terrorists attacking in Europe and the U.S these days. But in Iran, there is no such a terrorist. Just do not go to a conflict area such as Iraq border which has nothing to see.

* There is a risk for solo female tourist because of sexual harassing. 
– There is a risk of physical sexual harassing if you are a girl and travel alone.
– I heard many girls got sexually harassed during traveling in Iran. If you are a backpacker, you might not get it. But if you are a girl on a bicycle alone, you would get it a 90% chance.
– I got sexually harassed two times on a bicycle.
(Even I had a male cycling partner in Iran, but when I was alone on a bicycle, it happened. I cannot imagine if I was cycling all the way for two months alone, how many times I would get sexually harassed. To cycle in Africa is safer than in Iran for a girl. )

* Men and couple should be careful as well about getting sexual harassing.
– Some male travelers told me they got sexually harassed as well. So even if you are a male, use common sense in Iran.
– Japanese cyclist couple and Swiss cyclist couple were attacked by local males and ran away from rape danger during wild camp at the mid night. So be careful in Iran for wild camp. 


Places to visit

Iran map

Iran Tourist Map (Red-Main touristic spot, Blue-touristic spot, Black-Not much things to see)


* Ispahan

(Two to three days is enough. I liked Ispahan more than Shiraz. Local people would say Shiraz is more beautiful, but many tourists like Ispahan more.)
Imam Square
Big square is surrounded by a big mosque building. You have to pay (a few dollars) to go into mosque

Khajou Bridge and Siosepol Bridge
It is beautiful in the night and peaceful at the day. There is no water in the summer and it does not look much beautiful then.

Vank Cathedral

A few Museums and Bazar


* Shiraz
Presepolis and Pasagad Tomb
It is 55 km far from the city. Ruins is not well restored but it is worth to visit. It would be the only place to see many old and big ruins. 

Shah-e-Cheragh Shrine (Mosque)
Built 700 years ago. Mirrors were build 200 years ago.
Free entrance.
The girl will get chador at the entrance for free.
You have to wait some minutes to have a guide for free (it is mandatory.)
To take the picture depends on the guide. Some tourist were not allowed to take the picture. But my guide lets me.
If you followed the guide to the office, you will get the candy, cookies, and tea.
The yard is very big and beautiful.

Nasir al-Mulk Mosque(colorful window)
Open Hours : Week day 7:30-11:30, 14:30-17:00, Holidays and Friday 8:00-11:00, 15:00-17:00
Entrance fee : 100,000 Rial ($2.7)
It is good at early morning because the sun would be at the middle of the colorful window.

Vakil Bazar
Big and some interesting stuff such as spicy, sweet thing, different kind of nuts and seed, hand craft

Eram Garden
Entrance fee : 150,000 Rial ($4.16)
Built during Saljughid Dynasty era(1037-1193 ac)
Big enough and beautiful. (Much beautiful and worth than Fin Garden in Kashan)
April would be the best time to visit.
I visited on Dec, but it was green anyway. But not flowers and fruits.

Arge Karim Khan fortress.
Entrance fee : 200,000 Rial ($5.5)
Some local people said nothing to see that I did not visit.

Tomb of Hafez

cats


* Yazd
(It is very popular for old town like mud house. ) (Picture is from Flikr, which is allowed to use.)
Towers of silence, Old Town, Mosque


* Kashan
Bagh-e Fin Garden

Local people will say it is the most beautiful garden in the world. It is true only for them who live in the desert. It is not that much special actually to other tourist.

Old Town
(Tabatabei House, Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse, Borujerdi House,
Abbasian House, Ameriha House)
You can buy the ticket for a few house or pay separately. It is not that cheap if you visit every house, which you do not need.

Namak salt lake and desert
You have to find the taxi to go to the desert which is 50 km far from the city. It is unpaved road. There is Caravansary you can sleep with cheap price and you can have meal (Of course kebab). . Caravansary is not on the desert but close to.
Salt lake is at the left side and sand desert is at the right side 10 km after Caravansary.
Salt lake is not like the picture you see on online. There is no more enough salt. The sand desert is not like the picture as well. You have to get off from the car and walk a bit to go into the sand desert.
Although it is not like picture on online, it is worth to visit.
<For cyclist : It is unpaved road, but not bad. You can buy water at Caravansary. Also there is a restaurant.>


* Kerman
Shazdeh Garden and Gonbad-e Jabaliye (Old building)


* Mashhad
Imam Reza Holy Shrine
Mashhad is the most holy place in Iran because it is the only place they have Imam grave. The city is more conservative that you can see lots of girl wearing black chador on the street.
If you are a girl, you will get chador for free to enter Holy Shrine. Tourists have to wait for a guide for free. You will watch some video and then a guide will explain about Holy Shrine.


* Qesm Island
(It is more expensive than other cities in Iran.) (All place is far that you have to drive lot to vist all these places.)
Mangrove
You must go there at the right time when water comes so that you can see trees on the water. It is so pretty.

Chahkooh and Stars Valley
Beautiful canyon

Namakdan Salt Cave
There are a few salt caves. It is difficult to find alone. You need a guide or local people’s help. It is very beautiful.

Watching dolphin with the boat


*Hormoz Island
Salt Cave, Beautiful color mountain, and Sea
It is very colorful island because of different color sand on the mountain.
It is really beautiful place that you can go in the morning and come back at the afternoon from Qesm Island (And maybe from Bandar Abbas as well).
You can hire Tok-Tok three wheels taxi to look around. There is no transportation except it. 


* Kish Island
Good for relax at the resort


* Qom
It is the second holy place in Iran that you will see many women wearing black chador on the street. You can visit Mosque and have a guide look around for free.

* Tabriz
Not much things to see except Bazar, Mosque, and Poets Tomb (Maqbaratol Shoara)

* Teheran
Not much things to see except some museums. Worst traffic in Iran.
But it would be interesting to see young local people to compare from other city how they wear hijab and clothes and couple walking with holding hands. Good place for party if you can find.


How is traveling in Iran?

*About People
– Local people are very kind that they love to invite you for sleeping or a tea.
(Because of this reason, most of Western people love to travel in Iran.)

– If you are an Asian, you have to hear all the time “Nihao, China, Ching chang chong”
(Because of this reason, some of Asian (None-Chinese) do not feel comfortable to travel in Iran.)

– Sometimes local people are too friendly.
(Too many people wants to talk to you specially if you are on a bicycle. )

– Not many people speaking English.
(But it is not bad that you can find always people speaking English. )

*Food
– You will eat endlessly Kebab that there is no such a choice in the restaurant.
– If you eat at the normal restaurant on the street, it costs only $2~3.
– If you are invited by local people at their house, you can see many different foods. 

*Weather
– March and April is the best season to travel Iran
– Iran is huge that the temperature varies.
– South is warm even in the winter. It is too hot in the summer and South is hotter than other place.
– I cycled from north to south on Nov and Dec and it was a bit chilly at the day and cold in the night in northern and central Iran. Anyway it was fine to cycle. 

*Money
– There is no ATM for foreigners. You must bring USD or Euro. 
– The rate on the internet is too low.
On internet $1=30,000. But real rate is $1=36,000 in 2015
Go to Local market (Bazar) and see what is official rate.
– There is no black market that exchange rate is similar wherever you go
– $1-36,000 Rial in 2015.
– 10,000 Rial  = 1,000 Toman ($1-3600 Toman)
People usually use Toman more than Rial.
– Everything is very cheap that you can buy lots of things on the grocery with a few dollars. 

*Ruins and culture
– There is no ancient ruins to see except Persepolis
Mostly things you can see is Old town, Mosque and local market (Bazar)
– Iran is culturally rich
There are lots of Persian cultures you might be interested.
If you have a chance to stay with a local people through Couchsurfing.org or warmshowers.org or just being invited on the road, you can see beautiful Persian culture.

* Nature
– There are many beautiful places, sea, mountains, and desert.

* Transportation
– It is very cheap. 
In the city, usually you share the taxi with other people and pay only 50 cents for a few kilometers.
Tran is very good and cheap. There is a bed if it is a long distance.
Men and Women are separated at the bus and train except taxi. Make sure you stand at the right place at the public transportation. 

* Traffic
– Horrible
Iran is one of the worst place for driving that they drive like on the video game.
If you drive your car, be careful.
The road is always busy with too many cars.
– Girls can drive
If you go to bigger city, you will see more girls driving.
So even if you are a girl, you can drive without the problem in Iran.

* Internet
– Extremely slow like Africa except a few bigger cities
The speed is same as like in Africa except a big city like Mashhad and Qeshm island. (I have never been in Teheran, but I guess they would have better internet than other city. )
I bought 10 gb sim card for two person. We could only use 100 mb for one month that it was impossible to use internet at many big cities.
– Most of the websites are blocked that you must install VPN before going to Iran.
Facebook, Youtube, Skype, Whatsapp, and many other websites are blocked except Instagram. Even they block famous Korean websites which are like Google. When you research on google in Iran, you would see lots of websites which are blocked.
– Recommend Free VPN for your laptop and smart phone.
Hotspot Shield Free VPN (But lots of advertising), Betternet (Very simple. But it may not work. Just try and delete if it is not working.)

* Other useful info
– Iranian Sunday is Friday. On Friday, all things close. Their Sunday is weekday. 
– Shop(and Bazar) closes 1pm to 4 pm.
If you need something at the shop, try to go earlier or later.
– Alcohol is forbidden by the law.
– Toilet is Squat toilet and usually there is no toilet paper. So prepare all the time toilet paper.
At some place such as the hotel, maybe you can have other toilet.
– Girls talk only to girls and boys talk to boys (and girls sometimes)
Usually girls will not talk to a male that you (if male) will not have the chance to talk to a girl on the street.
– Iranian is not Arabs but Persian and they do not speak Arabic but Farsi.(But actually Farsi and Arabic are similar.)
To them, it is not Arabian Gulf, but Persian Gulf. 
If you say like this, they would feel offend “You speak Arabic? Right? you Arabs. I like Arabian Gulf.”
– Do not take the picture of the government building.
– Crossing border is quite easy. They did not check my bags at all over a few times.
Some Japanese tourist I met bought alcohol at the airport and brought to Iran and it was no problem. (Maybe she did not know alcohol is forbidden in Iran.) The thing is workers at the airport did not check her bag.

* Some fact
– Whenever you go, you will see the picture of Iranian Leader.
It is very common thing on some Muslim countries like in U.A.E (Dubai) and Oman
– Many people are actually not Muslim. 
Nobody knows how many population is Muslim.
– If you want to see serious religious Muslim culture, you should go to other country.
Such as in Sudan or Zanzibar, you can see people stop working or driving car to pray five times a day and most of them do fasting during Ramadan.
– Most of girl do not like hijab and even Muslim girl do not like hijab as well.
Hijab is only mandatory at the public place.
When you are invited at local people’s house, eight or nine of ten will say “You do not need wear hijab at my house. ”
But if the owner of the house did not say anything about hijab after inviting you, you have to wear it all the time.
Many girls post on online with wearing short clothes or without hijab like other countries.
-People are afraid of being investigated as spy.
Just try to understand their situation and respect their house rule if you are invited at their house. Some of them on couchsurfing might ask you “Please, do not leave reference on my profile.”
– If you go to Teheran and know right young guy, you can go to party and drink as much as you can.
You will see girl wearing mini skirt like in western country and of course none of girl wear hijab at the party.
Some of young guys are like in other countries. Party, Drink, and have fun.
Iran is paradox that you can see very conservative things on the public and very progressive things at the behind. One example is Facebook is blocked but Iranian government had Facebook page.


How is cycling in Iran?

* Mostly you will have shoulder and the road is well paved.
* Local People are very hospitable that they love to invite you.

* You can sleep at Red Crescent. A 80~90% chance they would let you sleep at the inside.
* You can sleep at mosque whatever you are a girl, boy, or couple.
At the gas station, it is 24 hours that it is no problem to sleep. But in the city, they close in the night that you have to ask.
* You can sleep at caravansary in the city for free after getting permit.
* A bottle of water is very cheap like 20~30 cents.
* There is a village and town every 10~30 km. Remember a grocery shop closes from 1pm to 4 pm.
* It is pretty safe from thief, kidnap, and terrorist.
* Many people want to talk to you that you might be asked to stop quite often on a bicycle.
* There is no high mountain at the central part that it is easy going.
* Many places are semi-desert that it has similar landscape except northern part and some southern part. 


 What to wear and some tip for a girl 

– Girl must wear hijab by the law.
Try to buy not slippery scarf. If it is slippery, you must put your hands to head to check all the time “Are you there?”
Be careful when you go to a toilet to not wet your scarf
You do not need hide all your hair. You will see many young girls only hide half head. You will learn once you go to Iran.
– How to wear
Fold one-third horizontally, Put it on your head, left side should be shorter and right is longer, take right side to your left shoulder. That’s all.
– Every girl hides their hips with long jacket or shirt. It is not the law, but you must do actually.
It can be really uncomfortable because it makes hotter during the day and also it is difficult for a squat toilet.
– Hide your skin with long pants and long sleeve
– Flip flob is okay actually


What to wear for a man

* You can wear short sleeve
* You must not wear shorts for your legs. 


For couple in the public place

* Do not kiss or hold hands on the public place.
But actually you will see brave young couple holding hands in a big city such as Shiraz or Tehran and then you can try to follow them. But just be smart. Don’t do all the time but only sometimes.

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