Mielenkiintoisia artikkeleita Montrealin suomalaisilta:
First of all, Iran is an interesting country which I visited in October
2000, but certainly not primitive or exotic like India or Yemen.
If one chooses Iran as their first country to visit in the Middle East then
one would be in for a cultural shock but it would be less pronounced than
if one went to India or Yemen first, countries that I had previously visited.
First of all, let me say that Iranians are an absolutely wonderful
people. They love tourists so that they are always welcoming you and are
very warm, kind and generous. Many people, especially students, will make
a point of approaching you, asking first from which country you are
coming. Canada always receives a very favourable response, something I
also experienced inYemen. Americans on the other hand keep an extremely
low profile, understandably, and actually I only met one group of them,
they being very reluctant to admit they were from the United States. Then
they ask you what you think of Iran and the Iranian people. Many students
love to converse with tourists, giving them an opportunity to further
their understanding English. In Iran the students were university students
while in Yemen they were school kids who asked the same questions no matter
where in Yemen you were, such as, what is your name, how old are you, are
you married, what do you do in your life, etc.
The topography of Iran is very varied. In the northwest one encounters
vegetation like one would here in Quebec. Also there are many Kurds and
many are of a much lighter skin colour than your average Iranian. In other
words, many of the Kurds would not be considered a visible minority in
Canada. Then there is the Caspian Sea, the beach resort. One spot on the
beach comprised a large area extending a fair distance into the water that
was cordoned off with fences and draped with heavy curtains so that prying
male eyes could not feast on the Iranian women swimming there even though
they were completely covered with clothing from head to toes. To travel
from Rasht on the Caspian Sea to Tehran necessitated going through the
mountains. Absolutely breathtaking. And in many places there was snow on
the mountain tops.
We flew from Tehran to Kerman in the south thus saving at least fourteen
hours of sitting in a bus. It was the smart thing to do as the scenery
wouldn't be anything to write home about plus the fare was a little over
thirty dollars, Canadian, for a sixty-five minute flight. Then one soon
understands why the fare was so inexpensive as the best brand of gasoline
could be purchased for five American cents per litre.
From Tehran we went to Bam, an abandoned sandstone city. It is now an
archeological site and is very interesting. Bam is the route of the drug
trade. In the small hotel we stayed in the gates were locked for the night
and we had armed guards patrolling the front. My room was on the first
floor facing the backyard and I was not comfortable at all, considering the
danger that lurked around. I kept the windows locked all night, not that
it would have made a big difference.
Then we motored for hours and hours through semi desert to Isfahan and
Shiraz. Both cities were very interesting. The mosques were fabulous,
especially the one in Shiraz which was lit up at night. Inside the mosque
was a feast for the eyes. Breathtaking. But since everyone walked around
in barefeet there was a certain specific odour one would never forget. All
the ladies, including those on our tour, had to put on a special
chador. The ordinary one was not good enough, not pure enough. Our visit
to these two cities was much too short. One should stay at least four days
in each place.
There are bazaars throughout the country but I still feel the most
interesting and picturesque was the one in Sana, Yemen. I kept returning
there day after day. It was only a five minute walk from the hotel.
The food was excellent in Tehran as we stayed at a four star
hotel. However I found the food was even more interesting in the southern
Iranian cities probably caused by the great influx of tourists. There was
much more variety compared to the small towns that we passed through as
most of them had a choice of three main courses one of which always
included the proverbial chicken.
No alcohol was permitted but one can always manage to obtain some at black
market prices. Tea is everywhere but not coffee, at least what we are used
to drinking. What you get at the hotel is Nescafe.
The men dress like they do here but long sleeves must be worn although in
Tehran one can get away with short sleeved shirts. I did. However it is
not recommended that you wear shorts. If you did, you would become so
uncomfortable that you would go back to the hotel room and change. It
happen to one fellow from Montreal.
Public transportation in Tehran is very interesting. The busses are
divided into two sections. The smaller section is for women and children
while the large section if for men only. No mixing is permitted by
law. And no one of the opposite sex is allowed in a car or a taxi unless
it is a close relative.
Apparently there are prostitutes but I never encountered or saw any. But
what I found very interesting in that young bucks can obtain temporary
marriage licenses to tide them over until they get married. The
contradictions in that society absolutely amazed me and it definitely is a
man's world there. Apparently arranged marriages are no longer in vogue
but there is an investigation of the bride or groom to be. Usually someone
is paid to do the investigation and neighbours are the main source of
information. Men, if helping ladies out from either a boat or bus grab the
lady's wrist. A man never puts his hand into a lady's hand. And in
restaurants the men are served before the women. Homosexuality is strictly
forbidden. Often the first offence is forgiven but the second offense
results in a two year sentence.
You are allowed to have four wives but each must be treated equally. In
other words, if you provide the first wife with a house then you also have
to provide the others with their own house too. Naturally you have to be
rich to enjoy such a privilege. One fellow in charge of computers for the
use of tourists in the hotel admitted to me that he works ten hours a day,
everyday of the year, holidays included, and has a wage of fifty American
dollars per month. At that salary one could only afford one wife. It was
my understanding that the annual salary was between one and two thousand
American dollars per year. Their cost of living may seem low for us but so
are the wages. They were amazed at the salaries we earned but then they
didn't realize that our expenses are so much higher than theirs. Telephone
calls and ice cream cost ten cents each.
For all the contradictions noted when it came to segregating the sexes, the
one that really amused me was the unisexual bathrooms, something I have
never seen in a western country. The toilet stalls were private and
unisexual but the sinks were in a common room where both sexes together
made use of them. The private stalls had floor to ceiling walls. Before
entering one, it was necessary to knock twice on the door. If someone was
occupying the stall, they would answer you by knocking twice. Instead of
doorbells, many homes had knockers, separate ones for male and female
callers. In this way the people at home would always know if the caller
was male or female.
The guide was puzzled as to why Iran only receives .01% of the tourist
trade when Iran has 15% of the major tourist sites in the world. I can see
why but I never answered him.
I did allude to the fact that Iranians are one of the most friendliest
people in the world. There is an exception however. And these are the
drivers. Absolutely crazy. There were traffic lights but they were in use
only during rush hour. After that it was every man for himself and if it
happened that there were a set of traffic lights still functioning after
rush hour that did not deter drivers from barrelling through a red
light. Traffic lights were a mere decoration and to be ignored. To cross
a busy intersection I would wait until a bunch of Iranians would reach the
corner. Then I would walk alongside the Iranians who would in a group
start crossing the street. You definitely felt you were taking your life
in your hands if you decided to go on your own. You literally had to put
your hand out and wave to the driver to stop to indicate that you wanted to
cross. Some drivers would slow down while others merely blew their horns
and drove around you. Sometimes they didn't use lights. Pedestrians have
absolutely no rights there. Cars come barrelling down a side street unto
the main street without stopping. They blow their horn at the same time to
tell you to get out of their way. Forget about the 100- yard dash in the
Olympic games. Any pedestrian tourist in Iran can do better. In fact all
tourist should receive a gold medal for surviving Iran.
One evening we went to a restaurant and we went there by taxi. It was
frightening. Absolute chaos. As I mentioned they went through lights at
great speed and missed other cars by inches, squeezing into the tightest
places.. And they were so relaxed while I was having about fifty heart
A lot of the female tourists claimed they would never return to Iran as
long as they were forced to wear the chador which was dark in colour, black
or grey.. They found it very uncomfortable especially in the desert
heat. When we had a meal in a private home and some of the tourists wanted
to take pictures of the family, all the females had to go and put on their
chador. To be photographed without a chador is unforgivable and if the
picture is published in a newspaper or is displayed on the Internet that
person will not only lose their job but will have no hope of ever being
employed again. So one could readily understand all the females putting on
the chador before picture taking. Same thing before the plane arrived in
Tehran, an announcement was made and all the ladies started to put on their
We did visit a Zoroastrian village and then went into a dwelling. Very
interesting. It used to be the religion in Persia before the Moslems took
over. Also visited an Armenian ghetto. They happened to be celebrating a
cultural day. It was nice to hear Christian music again. It was an oasis
in a sea of Moslem culture.
The English used was very interesting and I never knew the English language
had so many varieties in spelling the same word. This from one menu which
I found fascinating:
- Meet Roest & Rice
- Meet lambroast & Rice
- Meetqchicken Roast & Rice
- Stce (meet & pietas) & Rice
- Steik with Ring peper Souse
- Mashron Sause & Steik
- Chicken Hen
- File Minion
- Honey Best (probably they meant Brest) Chicken.
Just because they were listed as such didn't mean you could order all of
In tourist areas, the English language was practically incomprehensible for
those whose mother tongue was English. I'm certain the German, French,
Spanish tourist would not be able to understand what was being indicated.
The brochure describing the facilities and services available at one of the
hotels I stayed in was priceless. It was hilarious. Unfortunately I no
longer have it with me.
Text: Wilfred Yrjölä, Treasurer, St. Michael's Finnish Lutheran Church, Montreal.
© Copyright Wilfred Trjölä