The Real Iran

My mom's voice was hoarse by the end of the evening, but she still hadn't shared all of her stories. Even though her trip had only been for two weeks, she had no shortage of the latest news from my extended family in Iran. It had been ten years since she had been back, and there was much to be caught up on.

While my mom was away, the media just had to ironically focus itself onto Iran, with talks of nuclear weapons and war flying around. I was genuinely worried while my mom was there, especially after hearing about key embassy closures. Why on earth did this have to happen over these two weeks, I thought to myself.

It was only when my mom returned and we heard her side of things that I realized what a bunch of a-four-letter-word is on the news. My mom's description of Iran was that of a bustling, thriving, youth-run and innovative country. Sure, there are strange politicians in power who continues to make stupid mistakes when talking about nuclear stuff...but the people and country itself sounds fascinating.

Here's the real Iran broken down by what it offers:

1. Iran is the centre of all things fashion related

"You'd be so underdressed in Iran, you'd be stared at" is how my mom described it. This doesn't surprise me, as before the King of Iran was ousted in the late 70s, Iran was the epitome of fashion. France and Italy is where the major sources of inspiration for Iranians arrives from, so you can see how Chanel influences run through fashion. I remember my mom showing pictures of herself and her friends before she fled the country during the revolution, and she was one snappy dresser! Even now when I search for pictures, women are dressed and done up to the nines. Stilettos and platform wedges with jeans, hijabs at mid-crown revealing streaked hair, the latest makeup trends, and cool hjiab fashions that don't exist here. And don't even talk about their evening wear or men's suits, it puts Moores and Harry Rosen to shame.

So yep, I am seriously going to have to work on my outfits if we (InshaAllah!) visit next summer!

2. Iran = Innovation

"Just pour some tea into the mug and see what happens" my mom guided us. So we did just that, pouring tea into the black mug.

"OH MY GOD, IT'S OUR WEDDING PHOTOS!!!" I screamed. Well, not screamed, perhaps
'loudly exclaimed'.

The black of the mug was starting to fade away to reveal a collage of photos from my wedding. It was the neatest thing ever and such a cool gift from my cousins. As the tea cooled down, the mug turned black again. I googled this type of mug and it does exist, but it's not as common as Iran, where it's common. We are behind the times. And I'm sure that when people think about Iran, they think people are living in the good ol' days of simplicity.

And then my mom pulled out a jar of white stuff. It looked like a milky-yogurty substance. Apparently, there's an enzyme called "kefir" in Iran which is used to make yogurt and contains a high amount of calcium. But the even cooler thing about this is that it's reusable AND it's quantity is multiplied when milk it added to it. The enzyme ends up remaining solid while the milk added to it thickens a little to form yogurt. My uncle in Iran has been drinking "doog" (a traditional yogurt drink in Iran which mint is added to...mmmmm!) every day, and when he showed my mom his nail under a microscope, it was double its thickness. Apparently, this enzyme is amazing for making yogurt and has tremendous health benefits.

There ain't nothing like that being sold at Planet Organic now, is there?!

Update: I've been drinking a glass a day for a few days, especially after workouts, and it feels much better for my gut than drinking milk.

3. Iranian women do Zumba...and much more.

Both men and women in Iran are extremely active. And I don't mean solely physically active, but Iranians know how to keep their brains sharp! My cousin is currently working, in school, learning English, taking lessons to play an Iranian instrument, and dabbles in naturopathic education "on the side". She is as sharp as a whip and has an incredible amount of general knowledge. Again, I don't want to generalize to the entire country, since I won't be realistic. But if you look at post-secondary education in Iranian, over 70% of students are female. Streets are full of youth either with their families or hanging out with friends. Men and women are up before Fajr prayer going for walks. And the best part is that obesity rates in Iran are drastically lower. This is not solely attributed to exercise, but diet too, since Iranian food is rich in herbs and vegetables and lean meat.

And I just learned that my cousin-in-law attends all-women Zumba classes. And here in Calgary, we had to ARRANGE for there to be all-female classes.

Overall, I find Iranians to have a zest and curiosity their entire lives. And it's not only in their knowledge, but in their skills. My uncle is an engineer by trade, but dabbles in a million little hobbies on the side. He's obviously instilled this same zest in my cousins (his daughters). Now I'm itching for a hobby in an effort to keep my brain healthy and sharp!

4. Iranians build respectable mosques for their women

My mom checked out a few mosques while she was in Iran, and her descriptions made mosques in Calgary look like nothing in comparison. She described the women sections are being large and airy with at least 4-5 chandeliers hanging, plush carpets, and NO WALL separating the women from the men. There are "chadoors" (large pieces of cloths Muslim women in Iran wrap around themselves to pray) neatly laundered and folded for women to use in the mosque, and there is no wretched food odour smell coming in. The women's entrance is just as ornately decorated as the men's. And while there are little children, they are actually listening to their parents or they're not allowed to be in there.

I don't even want to talk about the women's prayer space in Calgary mosques. I think my message has come across.

Oh yes, and women in Iranian mosques mind their own businesses when they're praying, and don't give running commentaries about praying the wrong way and asking other women where they are from. Moving on.

5. Iran = Sports central

Similar to other countries with Muslims, Iran is sports crazy! If you caught the Olympic games this summer, you may have seen Iran competing in multiple sports, including fencing, judo, weight lifting, and wrestling. Iran has always had an athletic side (remember when Team Iran beat Team USA in soccer at the World Cup?). My mom recalls stories of playing multiple sports when she was in school. When I was in Iran 10 years ago, my cousins and I would play soccer in pitch black darkness outside until 1:00 am. Iran is a country with a lot of pride in their athletes, and this value is instilled in children starting from a young age.

6. Iran = Culture

The Persian empire once ruled much of the world...and now they're being threatened with war. Sigh. Anyway, much like many other countries in the East, Iran thrives with culture, history, and economy (even though things are expensive and inflated, people just borrow money and continue living their lives). Stores are open until 2am in the morning, hence the crowds of people you'll see shopping or eating ice cream or enjoying their final cup of tea. Markets are open, theatres are playing movies, parks are swarmed with families, ice cream stores have lines, etc etc. People want any excuse to just get out there and enjoy what they have with the people they care about.

And seriously, what do we have here? An overpriced Farmer's Market, 17th Avenue lined with lounges and patios, malls with the same old stores and boring clothing, a shortage of authentic places to eat and a dire lack of culture in comparison to back home. When Asif and I returned from Turkey, we thought "what the heck is there REALLY to do in Calgary?!" We have a serious lack of culture and activities that are suited for families and those who don't want to get hammered on the weekend.

7. Finally, Iran is NOT a bad place!

In summary, it's so easy to let the media taint our view of Iran and other countries in that region. One crazy leader does not necessarily mean that everyone in that country is looney. Most Iranians are actually against the current government regime, yet the fear to openly speak about this means that they keep it to themselves.

But at the same time, I got the sense from my mom that Iranians are continuing on with their lives, despite what the United States and most recently Israel has said about imminent war. I don't really know what these countries are thinking since if you know anything about Iran's history with war, don't want to go there with them.

The thought of war in Iran makes me sick to my stomach and saddened at how any innocent people will lose their lives, including placing my extended family at great risk. Not only that but a great country will lose so much, and all for the sake of what?

So my advice to all those reading this is to STOP listening to what is in the media. The States is awesome at instilling fear in people's hearts, and Iran is another tool they are using to accomplish this.
I've visited Iran 5 times and have many happy memories. We need to stop generalizing crazy leaders to the country as a whole.

So after all that I've described above, do you think that bombing this country to pieces makes any logical sense?!


  1. Thank you sister for the article, I had no idea of what was going on in Iran. I haven't visited my family there for some time and am happy to hear everything is well there.


    1. Dear brother, I am glad I was able to provide you with some information about them. I hope you are able to see them soon as I am sure they are missing you!


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