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Iran – Discovering the Traces of Old Persia in the Islamic Republic. Episode 13 – Reading Kama Sutra in Teheran

Reading Kama Sutra in Teheran

The last couple of days spent in Iran were spent in Teheran and they were pretty full … on one hand I wanted to buy some more carpets (and I found them next to the bazaar for a few Euros) but also to visit what was left for visiting…On top of that, we had a huge surprise in a bookstore that had books in English.

The main attraction was the former palace of the Shah…If the Qajar dynasty lived in the South in the Golestan Palace which we visited upon arrival, the last royal dynasty – Pahlavis moved up North, where it’s fresh, at the feet of the mountains. And it’s worth moving …Pahlavi were spoiling themselves in the numerous palaces in a park of no less than 104 hectares. And as the park is large and the slope is sometimes pretty steep, the biggest fun of the locals is to take one of the vintage cars or even minibuses that are allowed on the alleys of the park (Thanks God, the visitors here aren’t allowed to enter by their own car! Obviously there are some exceptions, either one knows somebody from the inside, or there’s a known character, maybe the cousin of the guy from the entry). The best car in the whole park though is an Iranian Rolls Royce. It is a car from the 20’s, assembled in Iran for the Shah and has instead of the usual goddess on the car dashboard a statue of the Ahura Mazda!

On the top of the slope you can visit the Green Palace. Used by the father of the last Shah it was generally speaking a guest house. Today, the Green Palace can be visited (it isn’t out of the ordinary), but instead has a cute cafeteria with a wonderful panorama and where you can listen to a waterfall coming from the 4000 meters high mountain above us.

The most important building in the park is the White Palace, the residence of the Shah. Here, one may take pictures on the inside (for some weird reason, you cannot take pics in the Green Palace). Honestly, I didn’t have a feeling of opulence… Yes, it was a high class palace, with a strong flavour of the 60’s – 70’s (if you watch the movies with Piedone when he’s around luxury hotels, that’s the atmosphere). The Palace has 54 rooms, a lot of paintings and the very dubious tiger skin in the office Number 1 – back then, the animal protection wasn’t a priority, neither was the ecology… Next to the palace, there are some huge iron boots…they are what’s left of the statue of the Reza Shah, the founder of the Dynasty and the father of the last Shah… After the death of Reza, his son Pahlavi built a statue in the honor of his august father right next to the palace… After the fall of the dynasty and the proclamation of the Islamic Republic, the Reza Shah statue was removed (like the Lenin ones from across Eastern Europe, but also the one of Saddam Hussein from Baghdad), the only thing remaining were the boots – today a place where everybody is taking pictures.

And while talking about people … Like at the graves of the poets in Shiraz, here as well, a lot of people are high class … and more relaxed, I saw girls that from time to time were fixing their veil on the head, but actually it was almost fallen from their heads…Reza Shah was a reformatory himself, but didn’t have the charisma and the prestige of Ataturk, his contemporaneous. He forbid the wearing of the veil as well or the scarf on the head…Numerous women didn’t get out of the house for years of shame to walk around with their naked head and appeared though after the European hats were accepted…It seems strange, but we have to think about the fact that for centuries, the Iranian women wore something on the head and suddenly it was forbidden…how would a lot of women in Europe feel if tomorrow, it will be ordered that during the summer all women should walk topless on the streets? For the men it would be cool, for many women, maybe not…That’s the way it was in Iran…in fact, it is estimated that in the case that it will be allowed that women walk on the street without something on the head, only 30% would give up their veil or scarf.

After finishing the visit of the Shah complex, we met a friend of Adriana who took us by car, an Iranian from Teheran… we walked around the wealthy and sophisticated North, we went through a bazaar, we were in a mall (yes, yes, even in the Islamic Republic, you can find temples of shopping), we were at a mosque of that sort with the interior placated in glass (unfortunately no photo! here) and I was at a bookstore with books in English…Wherever I go, I usually buy books about the history of the place, and in a controversial country like Iran, I would have wished to find books on the Islamic Revolution from the Iranian point of view…Unfortunately, although the Persians are an extremely cultured people and although I have seen enough books upon this subject in Farsi (judging by the pictures on the cover), the offer in English was practically null …I didn’t find anything…Instead I found a book that blew me away …Should I let you guess? Well, let’s not, this time…I found “Kama Sutra”!!! Yes, Kama Sutra in Iran! I can almost picture a new book – “Reading the Kama Sutra in Teheran”! What’s interesting, neither our friend from Teheran didn’t know what’s Kama Sutra, although she was a cultured and well-traveled girl!

The last day – the last tours around Teheran …We were at the National Museum, unfortunately nothing out of the ordinary, there are some interesting things around, but by far not as representative for a museum of such an impressive culture. I was at a park where there was a beautiful panorama upon Teheran. We wanted to go to the Tochal mountain as well, where a cable car takes you up to 3975 meters high , changing the cable car 7 times! Unfortunately we didn’t get to do this. Instead we reached the Great Bazaar where I bought two more carpets at 5 Euros each…

At night, we left towards the Imam Khomeini International Airport where we took the Alitalia flight towards Europe. The moment the plane took off, instantly, all the women took off whatever they had on their heads – foreigners and Iranians as well …We were going out of a contrasting country that lives in two parallel universes – on one hand, there is the official Iran, the one that is led by the Ayatollahs, with undergoing women and in chador, while at home they throw away all the Hejab they had on and the party begins…It is a country guided after the Koran, but that worships the poet Hafez, it has free elections under censorship conditions and religious filter, it has an infrastructure that even a country like Poland would desire, but onto which there are extremely many junk cars travel, it has one of the biggest oil reserve in the world, but still imports gasoline. The same people that whip themselves in order to mourn the Imam Hussein are the ones that read the largest number of books anywhere in the world – it’s true, there aren’t very many fun opportunities in the Islamic Republic. Although the rules of the men-women relationship are similar with the ones from the Arabic countries, you won’t see on the faces of the men that libidinous look and the stupid wish like it is the case in places like Egypt, where there is a widespread belief that any European woman will take off their bikinis at a simple “hello, baby!”. More than that, the number of women on the streets is much higher than in any country in the Middle East.

I close here the story of my trip in Iran. I hope you found out more about a country that resembles Europe– its image abroad is much worse than the reality. It is perhaps one of the countries where it is really worth going inside the houses of people and interact with them, a perfect country for couch surfing. This is what I’ll do next time I will go to Iran!

Pictures of  Teheran:

 People of Teheran

A fun guy – with the Ahura Mazda on his neck

Things to see in Teheran: Green Palace

Green Palace

Things to see in Teheran: Green Palace

Where people take pictures in traditional clothes

Things to eat in Teheran: Iranian chocolate

Or eat modern cookies

Things to see in Teheran:: Rolls Royce made in Iran

Rolls Royce made in Iran

Things to see in Teheran: Rolls Royce with Ahura Mazda instead of the goddess

With Ahura Mazda instead of the goddess

Cool Iranian girls

In the park where people have a more relaxed hejab

Strip tease in Teheran

Or even does a strip tease :)

Things to see in Teheran: White Palace

White Palace

Things to see in Teheran: White Palace

On the inside

Things to see in Teheran: White Palace interior


Things to see in Teheran: The boots of Reza Shah

The boots of Reza Shah

Shopping in Iran malls

Mall experience – Teheran

Bazaar in North Teheran

Through the bazaar

Souvenirs in Teheran bazaar

Things to buy in Teheran: foreign literature

Through the bookstore

Fast food in Iran

Fast food in Teheran: McDonalds

Iranian McDonald’s

Surprise in Teheran: Kama Sutra in Teheran

Reading the Kama Sutra in Teheran – including the money I spent on the book

An EU flag at Teheran

With the EU flag at a tea shop

Things to see in Teheran: National Museum of Iran

National Museum of Iran

Things to see in Teheran: tea shop

A cool tea shop

Things to see in Teheran: The Great Bazaar

Through the Great Bazaar

Things to see in Teheran: The great bazaar

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