Iran has loads of history and history is still strong nowadays. From the old civilisation of Persepolis to Zoroastrian remains, to windcatchers in Yazd and mosques and towers that are still in use. Because of Islam mosques are part of everyday life in Iran. Most of the muslims in Iran are Shi’a. It was possible to visit some of the mosques, the most impressive being the Shrine of Imam Reza in the conservative city Mashhad where Susanne had to wear a Chador. The mosques can be very colourful and dominating the skyline. The call of the muezzin sounds daily and is really significant for traveling in Iran.
The political situation is extremely complex and while traveling in the country we have only barely scratched the surface of understanding. We have had many discussions with other cyclists who have met different people with different points of view. Yes, there are very progressive people in the country who would like to open up the country, be freed from the veil and to not live by the Sharia law. At the same time there is probably an equal amount that live conservatively, of which the women wear the chador, who strictly follow what the Sharia and the Ayatollah say.
Iranian currency is amazing, you will be a millionaire and one night in a hotel would be approx. 1.000.000 Real. And a meal could cost as little as 100.000 Real.
The cities are well designed and busy. Tehran was a unique city for us with a mix of traditional and modern and continuous contradictions everyday, which would actually continue during our whole trip in Iran. Cycling in Tehran is tough but there are some little bit smaller roads which avoid taking the highway. Roads in and around Tehran are dangerous with traffic. Especially motorbikes, and the blue and yellow pick-up trucks called Zamyad do not always pay attention to speed and other users of the road. On the road we have had a police surveillance twice. Of which once we were followed for 70 kilometres, by two different cars following up on each other to the edge of the district and then were waved off. This gave a bit of stress but we kept our head calm as much we could in the 35 degree heat. The police officers were friendly but we couldn’t really figure out why they were escorting us. Maybe they just didn’t have anything else to do. Luckily they were gone by the time we went looking for a place to camp, although they did make our riding day very effective with little stopping.
Cycling in Iran for females is possible. Still we had quite a bit of unwanted attention. Men on motorbikes hanging behind us making photos or videos, men in cars staring and giving creepy looks. According to Sharia law a headscarf is required and something covering the hips too. It really helps to dress conservative in Iran to avoid unwanted attention. As westerners we do get a bit of leeway considering ‘the rules’. Still if you want to make it pleasant for yourself as a woman while bicycle touring Iran it is easier to dress as unattractive as possible. Being a woman it is possible to befriend other women and have unique insights. While cycling as a couple Martin would always be the person spoken to (90% of the time by men) and very often Susanne would almost not be acknowledged. If there were questions people would always ask Martin, even though it was about Susanne. It is mentally quite straining for both: Martin ‘always’ being the talking side and Susanne ‘always’ being ignored in conversation. This was especially the case in public and a lot less in private spaces. Keep this in mind while cycling in Iran as a couple.
We really want to share our story, our journey with you. We have thought about this new dimension for a while. If you enjoy our story consider receiving one of our postcards from the road. We cycle through many small towns and cities with their own story and often there is a postcard to be found. This postcard can be sent to you.