I always wondered if Tehran would treat me the same way it treated me when I travelled here 6 years ago. Before I came here for my second visit (and this time, with my husband), I told myself to control my expectations. Societies change. People change. Cultures change. And Iran is no exception. What did I find at the end? Well, to my surprise, by the end of this trip, I have nothing but good memories of Iran. Despite the increasing influx ofRead more
Tag Archive for: couchsurfing
Before coming to Jordan, I tried to browse through a number of profiles in CouchSurfing and see if there are any interesting locals I would like to meet. When it comes to Jordan, though, I took an extra precaution in choosing a host to stay with. The amount of men registered on this site with a wrong purpose alarmed me. I encountered many profiles with negative references. After all, this is an Arab country with an Arab culture. They are not used to hanging out with women or having women sleeping in their homes. This is not their culture to say the least. Compared to Turkey and Iran, choosing an open-minded host with true travel spirit in Jordan proved to be difficult.
New Year's Eve in Istanbul seems kinda cool. I can picture myself sitting by the side of Bosphorus shores, drinking Turkish tea, and enjoying fireworks which beautifully illuminate the entire city. These are my ideal New Year's Eve that I have in mind.
Exhausted is the only word I can say about myself as soon as the plane has touched down at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen Airport. I did manage to sleep for a few hours, but it wasn't enough. All I want to do now is to rush to the visa and immigration section, take my luggage, hop into the last bus to the city, find my hostel that I already booked, and have a proper sleep. The visa on arrival process is smooth sailing -- to my surprise.
I have been looking forward to come back to Tehran after having such a memorable day with my host Reza and his family, and Saeede. I promised them that I would find a way to come back, even with my packed schedule. I am glad that I fulfilled my promise. The purpose of me going back is actually just one: to spend as much time as I can with them.
Azin asks me if I have any plans today and whether or not I'd like to join her for a so-called Shirazi picnic in her friend's house. Since the first day I arrive in Tehran a week ago, my schedules were always packed with sightseeing and meeting CouchSurfing people. I did not have a single day of full rest and doing nothing. Somehow, I kinda miss that feeling. I figure, I have two more days before I come back to Tehran. That's enough time to do sightseeing and mingling with locals. Why would I want to miss out this golden chance? I finally say 'yes' to her invitation :)
When doing my research on Iran before this Middle East trip, there were two particular cities that particularly caught my attention. Yazd is one of them. Being the centre of Zoroastrianism and the main religion of some of Persian great empires, Yazd is the city I would not want to miss. Even though I would be spending only a few hours in Yazd, I wouldn’t mind taking a bit of detour, just so that I can catch a glimpse of Yazd. Upon traveling around Iran for few days, I came to realize that indeed, I made the right decision to come all the way from Esfahan to Yazd. Zoroastrianism has been one of the defining elements of Persian culture.
After dinner, Ikmal and I join Majid to discuss about Shia, the most misunderstood branch of Islam, merely because the majority of Muslims in this world are Sunnis. Our intention in starting such discussion is not to try to convince the other party that his view is wrong, but merely to know and understand Shia from a Shia's perspective.
We arrive in Esfahan just after the call to a morning prayer. I managed to sleep a little bit during the 6-hour long train ride. It was noisy and bumpy, but this was expected as I was too used to the comfort of European trains. But I'm happy that I'm in Esfahan now! I've always wanted to go to this city, which is the former capital city of Persia. When I think of Iran, Esfahan is the first thing that comes into my mind. The famous Square is the reason why I am drawn into this place.
The minute we step into Sharaf El Islam Restaurant we know that this is indeed a perfect place to taste authentic Iranian foods. My host, Reza, recommended me this restaurant located right inside the Grand Brazaar of Tehran. The restaurant is packed with Iranians and the tables are arranged very close to each other. The place is quite narrow and it is quite tricky to find a place to sit.
After what seems like the most boring 15-hour transit experience ever, my plane arrives in Tehran. I am finally here, in Iran. Today, 17th of December 2011, marks the start of my Middle East trip. The trip that I have always been waiting for. One dream can soon be checked off the list. I feel excited, thrilled, and nervous at the same time. Yes, I am alone here, at this moment. One part of me screams that I am insane. What am I doing in this totally strange place alone? The other part of me applauds myself for having the courage to do this. Well done, you have finally conquered your fear!
The CouchSurfing Project (CS) is currently the world’s largest hospitality exchange network, founded by Casey Fenton in 1999. The network connects like-minded travellers for cultural exchange, friendship, and learning experience. Travellers can be hosted by the locals for free and sleep in whatever empty space available (floor, couch, or bed). The idea of CS came up when Fenton got a cheap flight ticket to Iceland. Rather than staying in a hotel, he spammed over 1,500 Icelandic students in Reykjavik toRead more