As I type this entry from the hustle and bustle of Tehran, I am reminded how often we Americans take for granted the freedom of expression and thought.  The internet is censored in Iran and I am only able to visit some of our favorite sites like Facebook and the BBC by way of proxy servers that bypass governmental restrictions.  This is my first time back in my birthplace of Iran in 16 long years so I came with an open mind.  It’s one thing to read about the politics, oppression, westernization, religiosity, secularization and daily life in Iran.  But to live it and breathe it has become an experience of its own that I hope to share with you to the best of my ability.  So here goes my initial impressions of Tehran…

*Unfortunately, due to the use of a proxy server I will not be able to share my pictures and videos until I am back in the United States.

Tehran

-Tehran is huge… and by huge I mean ENORMOUS. Miles and miles of mid to high rise commercial/residential buildings and very densely populated (over 15 million people now).

-Iranians are apparently pretty racist towards Arabs and vice versa. While I have many Arab friends in the states I noticed a lot of tension in the air when the conversation turned to politics and the Arab world.  Iranians are upset about the Islamic expansion into Persia and the regime’s willingness to send millions upon millions of dollars to Arab fundamentalist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas while many suffer at home. My cousin tells me they dislike Arabs ten times more than Israel which I found interesting. Apparently Iranians see their government as an ‘Arabized’ regime that promotes anti-Persian legislation and shoves Islam (a deemed Arab religion here) down their throats.

-There are youth everywhere (70% of Iranians are under 30 yrs old) and most of them try to dress like the models you see in catalogues for places like Abercrombie or Express. Most of the girls wear the chador (required piece that covers the hair) very liberally; Exposed in the front so hair can be styled. Usually they have shades and make-up as well. I’ve noticed a very European-centric approach to fashion among women here. Also there is a surprising amount of girls that have dyed their hair blonde. You can tell which women are actually religious in that they will wear the full black outfit. It should be stressed this is by choice.  From what I’ve seen this group constitutes easily less than 20% of the random women you see on the street.

-Driving is SUICIDE. Nobody stays in their lane and at roundabouts which leaves you with cars pointed in eight different directions like a destruction derby. It’s pretty much who can get to their spot the fastest while dodging brave residents who are crossing the street. Did I mention this was extremely nerve wracking?

-Practically all my relatives have reinstated the notion that many Iranians dislike Ahmadinejad. And by extension the government. I actually have several relatives that I’ve met so far who really like Bush. I met a couple guys at a pre-wedding party who even liked McCain. They went as far as to say that they would join American troops in the fight against the Iranian Basiji and Revolutionary Guard. Though, most I have met are very fond of Obama.  Some kids I met call him ‘oo-ba-ma’ which roughly translates to ‘he is with us’.

-A lot… and I mean a LOT of American items/clothes/CD’s/video games/DVDs’s/etc are smuggled in here. The shopping center had a GAP, Abercrombie, Diesel shoes, DKNY, and others. I had heard about this but it was pretty surreal to see that in Tehran in person.

-Everyone has free satellite TV here even though it is illegal. They get BBC, CNN, NBC, MTV, etc. There is even an Iranian version of MTV here based out of Los Angeles that also plays American music.  There is lots of Iranian rap, rock, and pop songs with music videos that resemble the American style.  Rap is exploding in Iran right now everywhere I look and I’ve seen plenty of 50 Cent and Eminem t-shirts. Westernization is a booming business in Iran.

In my successive posts I will update you on my journey to experience the people, historic lands, and way of life in Iran.  Sorry so long but there is so much to share!

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