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We hadn’t even passed the border with Iran by a meter or Lucía was already reprimanded for not having a headscarf on. After she put on a hat and our passports had been stamped we could drive on to the nearest city. Fortunately that was Mashhad, because that’s the most sacred city of Iran with a 25-odd million pilgrims annually visiting the holy shrine in the city center. So we were confident Lucía would be able to expand her wardrobe in order to comply with the dresscode during our stay in Persia. But that wasn’t as simple as we thought. We kept going in and out of stores, you know the drill, but Luciá found it difficult to find something nice. Comparable to when she’s standing in front of her closet. Unbelievable, because the shops, like her closet, bulged with the latest fashion. I almost bought something myself. After all, there was plenty of choice. ‘You look like a black raven in one of those tents’, she said. Something I couldn’t deny, especially because the only body part sticking out of those robes is the nose. And with regard to that the people here are, generally speaking, well endowed.
In the end she didn’t buy a chador, as these tents are called. Despite my effort to convince her that those things are the latest in fashion these days. Even style icon Janet Jackson has been seen wearing one. It was of no avail, she sticks with her head-rag or hat. Either way, that’s enough if you just want to go outside and don’t intend to enter holy buildings like mosques, shrines or mausoleums. Of which they have quite a lot I might add, they’re quite religious around here you know. For an atheist like me it’s still very hard to grasp such devotion, although I’ve seen a thing or two in my life.
For Iranians their whole life is about the shiite islam. Even more so this month. October is one of only four (!) holy months, more precise: the month of mourning called muharram. The shiites mourn because in the same month of the year 680 AD some imam was decapitated in Iraq. So it is safe to say that people in this region feel pretty strong about tradition. Anyway, every day it was on. With processions in the streets where the participants whipped themselves with chains to the beat of the drum. Meanwhile the five times a day praying schedule was maintained, all tv channels showed squealing imams 24/7 and they have to abstain themselves from earthly pleasures for a month.
I haven’t really found out what the latter means exactly. Because everything that gives me pleasure is prohibited by law year round. I already mentioned the strict dresscode for women, because of which relaxing on an outdoor terrace scouting talent is already out of the question. On top of that alcohol is not permitted by the ayatollah, rendering terraces basically useless. That’s probably why there aren’t any, I think. Pork (by which I mean frikandels and bacon) is not tolerated either. So, the only diversion left over is therefore soccer. Fortunately that is permitted, and they even had a world cup qualifier the other day. Iran played against South Corea in Tehran, and won the game with 1-0! So you can imagine afterwards the country looked like a huge
party zone graveyard.