【West Asia's Largest City】The Beauty of Tehran

Islamic Republic of Iran
By Poman Cheung
7 Feb 2024

The Beauty of Tehran

Planning a trip to Iran means that you will be travelling to a land that is very different from Hong Kong, so it's important to do some research beforehand. Firstly, please put on your hijab before leaving the plane.


Iran used to be a fairly westernised country where women had absolute freedom in what they wore. It was only in 1979, when Khomeini, the spiritual leader of the country, initiated the Islamic Revolution to promote the unification of church and state, that the government enacted a law that required women over the age of nine to wear a hijab in public, otherwise they would be considered counter-revolutionary, and Islamic dogma restricted women to dress in such a way that "no curves of the body can be exposed". I expected to find local girls unhappy because they were deprived of the pleasure of dressing up, but on the streets of Tehran, I didn't see any sad faces, and I realised that the hijab doesn't seem to be an easy way to hide the beauty of Iranian girls.


In the relatively open capital city, girls wear hijabs but are often seen with their ears and bangs exposed. They wear a variety of hijab styles and cool sunglasses, making the hijab a fashionable accessory that is a constraint on dressing up. They have found a way to please themselves within their limitations, and their flexibility is to be admired! With their naturally deep and beautiful silhouettes, the Iranian girls were surprisingly beautiful with just a little bit of make-up. I can finally understand why my travelling companion's boyfriend couldn't concentrate on what I was saying to the other woman (laughs). However, outside of Tehran (Isfahan, Shiraz, Yazd, etc.) in the more conservative areas, both locals and tourists have to be stricter with their headscarves and clothing. It wouldn't be good to be targeted by the religious police.


The colours and delicate patterns on the walls of the mosque are fascinating.


In Hong Kong, people on the street go about their business independently of each other, sometimes meeting eyes, but the next moment they will silently look away, as if the glimpse they had just had was just a hallucination. Iran is different, people welcome eye contact, the feeling of intimacy is very similar to that of Southeast Asians, but from the eyes of Iranians, you can read more curiosity about foreigners, and a little bit of excitement and liveliness; they also like to greet you in a friendly way, and tell you "Welcome to Iran! If you meet a young man or a group of students, they will even take out their smartphones and hope to "selfie" with you. We were honoured to be invited. I remember one day when we were in Isfahan visiting the Hikkas Rotufullah Mosque, we met a local university student and had a great conversation, and then we were invited to have dinner at his home and he wanted to introduce his family to us. When I thought about how busy his family would be in hosting the three of us, I felt uncomfortable and declined. I am still impressed by their hospitality.


Tourists are greeted with more than their fair share of stares in Iran, especially in Tehran's metro cars. In the capital, we visited the magnificent Freedom Tower and Khomeini's mausoleum, before taking the metro to Tehran's Grand Bazaar on our last day, with a side trip to the nearby Gulestan Palace. The local metro ticket is a piece of paper with a 2D code printed on it, the size of a receipt from a supermarket in Hong Kong. Women travelling alone are less likely to be seen in the regular co-ed carriages and foreign tourists get more attention, so it's best to travel with a male companion. If you want to feel more comfortable, look out for the yellow "Women only" signs on the platforms and use the women-only compartments. As only the first and last sections of the train are for women, you may have to wait for a few more trains during peak hours, but it's still a unique experience.


Beetroot skewers, which can be bought at the deli stalls in the Grand Bazaar, look a bit like gourds.


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Translation:   deepl.com

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