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She Dresses Smart in Iran
anything goes under her coat...

A Women-Only Rolling Disco in Iran

Written by Journeywoman:
Helga Boom
Asse, Belgium

One of the most memorable impressions of my six weeks’ stay in Iran was my visit to the village of Abyaneh. Abyaneh is serenely situated up a hillside at the foot of 3899m high Mount Karkas. This village is recognized by Unesco for its antiquity and uniqueness. There are few motorized vehicles on its twisting climbing lanes of mud and stone. The ochre-coloured houses with lattice windows and wooden balconies are more than fascinating. The daily traditional dress of the local women is very different from the black tent-like chadors I encountered everywhere else in Iran.

However, for a low budget, single female backpacker such as me, this idyllic place was not easy to reach. Eighty-two kilometers to the north is the tourist town of Kashan. It was here that I was approached by a tourist guide offering me a shared taxi ride to Abyaneh. I took the offer but let the taxi return to Kashan without me as I wanted to stay longer in Abyaneh. The driver was worried and he emphasized that there would be no other transport leaving the village. At 3 pm I made a last stroll through the deserted lanes. At 4 pm I decided reluctantly that I really had to go. But how? I had been observing the access road earlier and cars were few and far between. Maybe my guide had been right.

Behind the parking lot I spotted a noisy bunch of black chador clad students standing beside a coach. I tried my luck. At first they looked at me suspiciously -- this western woman in a brown grandma dress and a bright orange headscarf. I approached the driver – the only male in the group because I thought he was the authority. He spoke no English and he ignored me. Still I was ushered into the bus and 'yes', they were going all the way to Kashan. Of the 30 passengers one miraculously spoke English (she was born in the Philippines and married to an Iranian man). These women were not students, but employees on a field trip from a hospital near the Caspian Sea. There were even a few retired midwives in the group. Some of the younger employees revealed as much hair as possible from under their headscarves and their faces were heavily painted.

As soon as the bus was moving they turned the Iranian music up to full volume and started dancing in the aisles. Headscarves and chadors were removed, revealing tight jeans and sexy T-shirts. One woman even showed off her bare belly. I was offered water, Coca-Cola, grapes, walnuts and oranges. No refusing! Out came their photo cameras and mobile phones: I was their subject and I was famous at last. When the dancers started to get tired, they also wanted 'me' to stand up and remove my headscarf. And again, no refusing. This was some kind of a fun party in a rolling disco, which I will never forget.

As soon as the coach reached Kashan, the chadors and headscarves came out again and the loud music was switched off. Back to reality -- as if nothing had ever happened. But it did. I know. I remember and I smile.

Women's words to think about...

Old SolThe bus to Teheran was a deluxe bus but there was no air-conditioning nor did the windows open. As the sun rose so did the temperature inside the bus, and I suffered in my jacket and scarf. On the back of the ticket was printed "Please observe regulations as to the Islamic covering", which seemed unfair under the circumstances.

In Shiraz, Iran, I became friendly with a man staying at the same hotel as me and accepted his offer to drive me to see Persepolis, the six-century capital of Persia. Once we got into his car his nervousness showed that he knew the risk that he was taking -- Islamic law forbids an unchaperoned woman to be with a man who isn't a relative.

(Source: Wendy Dixon, A Lonely Journey, More Women Travel, Rough Guides)




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