Cycling 2000 kilometers through Iran and some practical considerations

Iran, Gonbad-e Sultanieh, a spectacular 14th century domed mausoleum

Iran, Gonbad-e Sultanieh, a spectacular 14th century domed mausoleum

Probably if I were to sum up my experience in Iran in couple of words it would be exactly like this day has been, great people but a lot of traffic.

After a quick search and a phone call I’m able to finally find Hashem’s house and what follows is an evening filled with the incredible hospitality the Iranian people are known for. Dinner with the family and with the neighboring relatives, with traditional dishes and with the crusty rice which I haven’t encountered before or after Iran, and most of all with genuine curiosity about how life is in other countries and in other parts of the world.

Before travelling through Iran I read stories about the Iranian hospitality and after almost a month of travelling through Iran I can only confirm it. The Iranians are also over polite between themselves, and it’s customary to refuse something 3 times just to be sure that an offer is genuine, but somehow when foreigners are involved this is combined with a genuine curiosity and with trying to somehow mend the bad image Iran has at a personal level. I have been asked countless times by locals what I think about Iran and about Iranians after travelling through the country and just as many times I’ve answered that I think that the Iranians are more or less incredible. There have been countless situations when complete strangers spent time and/or money to help with whatever problems I was facing. This of course doesn’t mean that everything is rose and perfect but the percentage of people doing seems to be way higher than in other countries.

Temperature wise in April it really changed a lot and there was a cold spell which brought temperatures way bellow freezing in the area around Tabriz only to encounter summer like temperatures in the the desert after Teheran. On the other hand I wouldn’t chose another time to cross it as I’m not a big fan of the 40 degree temperatures which define the summer in Iran.

And now for some more practical informations

1. Visas (Iran and onward travel)

Probably the easiest place to obtain the Iranian Visa is Trabzon in Turkey, but for more information the caravanistan section is also very helpful. From Iran I picked up visas for Uzbekistan and for Turkmenistan (in that order). The Uzbek visa took 1 day with a letter of invitation and for the Turkem visa I applied for it in Teheran and I picked it up one week later in Mashad.

2. Money (what the hell is a tumen?)

Iran can be a confusing country and the subject of money is no exception. The first thing you become when you enter Iran is a millionaire as in 2014 the exchange rate was around one dollar to 30000 Rial. The best place to exchange money I think is at exchange booths at bazars, banks will exchange at the official rate which is considerably lower. But then when you start spending it you discover that almost everthing is handled in tumens, 1 tumen beeing equal to 10 Rial. It takes a bit to get used to it especially when you add in consideration the fact that all the prices are written using Arabic characters.

3. Prices.

When comming from Turkey Iran is a pretty cheap country and when you get over the fact that paper notes just keep flying away (keep in mind that they still have a 500 Rial note which is worth around 0.016 dollars) and when you consider that you do get invited a lot Iran has been quite cheap to travel through. Food seemed to be almost half of what it was in Turkey, with restaurant meals starting at 2-3 dollars and alternatively buying food for one day from a shop for a bit more than that. On the other hand there isn’t much diversity regarding things you buy in small shops. A night in a cheap guesthouse / hotel was a bit less than 10 dollars.

4. People.

 As I’ve said before the people are incredibly warm, curios and welcoming and they would be the main reason why I would visit this country once again. Just as an example, after being stopped by the police for a checkup after leaving Hashem’s house he came to the police station with me and tried to help as a translator, spending quite a bit of time in the process. Somehow the Iranians didn’t seem to be as conservative as the Turkish people (at least in the eastern part of Turkey), and even though religion is important there is quite a bit of difference between the laws and what the people think about them.

5. Mobile and Internet.

Yes there is internet, yes all social media is officially banned but everyone still has access to them using vpn’s. While in Iran I bought a cheapish sim card for my phone from Hamrah-e-Avvall, after trying an Irancell sim card which didn’t work and which seemed to be restricted for phones manufactured for Iran. I haven’t tried internet cafes but when I had access to an internet connection is was generally pretty slow.

5. Places.

Iran’s culture and history is amazing and my only regret is that I didn’t have enough time to take a detour in the southern and central part of the country. But from the places which I did see one there were a couple of places and moments which became stuck in my mind. Riding my bicycle through the narrow alleyways of the Tabriz bazar after all the shops were closed was one of them, and the entire place seemed to be taken from the tales of the “One thousand and one nights”. The huge dome of Soltanyeh on a crisp spring day was another one, together with the old caravan-sarais from the barren desert east of Teheran.

And now in short, 2200 kilometers in photos.

Heading towards the stormy border of Iran.

Heading towards the stormy border of Iran.

The first morning in Iran.

The first morning in Iran.

Winter on the iranian plateau

Winter on the Iranian plateau

Endless wheat fields in the middle of the desert.

Endless wheat fields in the middle of the desert.

After 230 kilometers through the desert with almost no villages in between.

After 230 kilometers through the desert with almost no villages in between.

One of the restored caravan-serais.

One of the restored caravan-serais.

Semna ale primaveri.

Semna ale primaveri.

The pilgrimage complex from Mashad, one of Iran's religious centers.

The pilgrimage complex from Mashad, one of Iran’s religious centers.

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Mozart Medal holder Shajarian and Shahnaz ensemble to perform in London’s Appolo Hammersmith on October 26.

Mohammad Reza Shajarian

The world-renowned musician ensemble, Shahnaz, started its music tour at the Malmo Arena in Sweden on September 27.

Composer and tar virtuoso Majid Derakhshani, kamancheh virtuoso Saeed Farajpouri and several other musicians are accompanying Shajarian on this tour.

Shajarian is known as Iran’s contemporary traditional music legendary who has invented new string instruments dubbed Bam Sorahi, Saghar and Kereshmeh, designed for traditional Persian music.

The maestro, Shajarian, was honored with UNESCO’s Mozart Medal in 2006 and the 1999 prestigious Golden Picasso Medal.

Photos: Middle East’s largest planetarium opens in Tehran

The largest planetarium in the Middle East, Dome of Mina, was inaugurated on Monday October 6th.

The planetarium, which is located at Abbasabad neighborhood of Tehran, is designed as a sphere showing all stars, planets and other celestial bodies for entertainment and educational purposes, IRNA reported.

Aftabe, an Iranian app downloaded 1.5 million times and counting

Mohammad Amin Moradi, 19, who studies Mechanical Engineering, Seyyed Hamed Valizadeh, who is also 19 and studies Software Engineering at Sharif University of Technology, and Amir Ala Masoumi, who is 20 and is studying Architecture at Tehran University, have jointly developed the app.








They seem to enjoy plunging gamers into deep thought for hours. The game they have developed is simple and complicated at the same time. In this app an image appears on screen and the gamer must guess what word that image refers to in order to advance to the next round.

Art for Humanity WFP Exhibition in Iran

Art for Humanity

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) exhibition features 130 works by 100 prominent Iranian artists in painting and other fields of visual arts.

“This move can serve as a model for the artists in the other countries,” said UN representative, Garry Lewis, during the opening ceremony of the exhibition.

Speaking at the ceremony, director of the center Abbas Sajjadi hoped to celebrate the end of hunger one day. “In our culture, helping others is a precious value that we have inherited.”

“The project began with 33 artists last year, but we are proud to have 100 artists this year,” she said, adding that the artworks have been priced by the artists themselves.

Gary Lewis also said that many steps need to be taken to eradicate hunger in the world. Sufficient food is being produced in the world, however there is still hunger not only in the poor countries but in the rich and developed ones, he said.

He added all the money raised in this exhibit will provide food for different individuals including Afghan nationals who are being supported by the country of Iran.

He thanked all the Iranian artists who have displayed their heart and compassion in their works.

Hossein Mahjubi, Jalal Shabahangi, Reza Bangiz, Mostafa Asadollahi, Mohammad Farnud and Sorush Sehhat attended the opening ceremony.

Nahid Aryan, Shima Esfandiari, Simin Ekrami, Minu Emami, Bahram Dabiri, Hamed Rashtian, Mohamamd Salahshur, Asal Fallah and Ario Farzi are among the participating artists in the exhibit.

Iran’s president has more cabinet members with Ph.D. degrees from U.S. universities than Barack Obama does

Iran-cabinet members with Ph.D. degrees from U.S. universities

Iran-cabinet members with Ph.D. degrees from U.S. universities

“Take, for example, Rouhani’s chief of staff, Mohammad Nahavandian. He spent many years in the United States and has a Ph.D. in economics from George Washington University. Or Javad Zarif, the foreign affairs minister and chief negotiator in the recent nuclear deal between Iran and six global powers. He studied at the University of San Francisco and completed his doctorate at the University of Denver. For five years, he lived in New York and was Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, has a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from MIT. Mahmoud Vaezi, the communication minister, studied electrical engineering at Sacramento and San Jose State Universities and was enrolled in the Ph.D. program at Louisiana State University (he ultimately earned a doctorate in international relations at Warsaw University).  Other cabinet members have advanced degrees from universities in Europe and Iran. Abbas Ahmad Akhoundi, the transportation minister, has a Ph.D. from the University of London, while President Rouhani got his from Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland. The new government in Tehran, in other words, might well be one of the most technocratic in the world.”

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