Iran is not your typical destination and having just travelled there myself, it feels very much like a traditional country fighting to be modern, or a modern South Asian country struggling to retain its traditional values. Either way changes are occurring and it’s an interesting time to watch people set in their old ways vs. those looking to embrace this brave new world.
How is Iran Changing?
I took a taxi in Yazd with my female Iranian guide and the driver told me how modern life is no good. He wants to see a return to the traditional lifestyle and values. My guide who was much younger and had recently shaved off her dreadlocks wasn’t convinced. Later we laughed about how we both love the modern world however, imagine being a girl with dreadlocks and headscarf in Iran who doesn’t conform to the template of a Muslim girl, in a conformist society. Things are rapidly changing and I imagine now that travellers (like myself) can get a visa on arrival and with locals overriding website blocks with personal VPN’s, things will continue to change.
This got me thinking about the old and new generations colliding and what people will do with this newly acquired freedom. I can answer that question with two words – Selfie Sticks!
Iran and Selfies
Yes, you heard me correctly, extendable sticks attached to mobile phones to take pictures of themselves. No, I don’t just mean 1 or 2, I’m talking hundreds! At all the tourist attractions and street cafes in Iran I saw a sea of selfie sticks extended towards the sky, from below, out in front you name it. I saw more in one day in Iran than I did in a weekend in New York City so that should give you an idea of the volume and they were Iranian, not foreigners. OK so it was Narooz (Iranian New Year) and people had travelled from all over Iran but literally there were selfies sticks and mobile phones clicking for miles.
Can you imagine how weird it is to see a traditional women in full Hijab, pouting and changing facial expressions whilst talking selfies? Young and old embraced in that practiced smiling pose, waiting for the mobile phone click to relax the jaw again. Certainly not what I expected. I was at Kharanaq ruins and a couple asked me to take a photo of them. It was their mobile phone and on a stick. I thought the whole point of a selfie stick was in the title?
If you’re Iranian I get it, there isn’t the same evening entertainment for people like bars, clubs, theatres, evening youth clubs etc. My guide in Yadz said even the movie theatre was rubbish so people just go to each others homes or a cafe. Many people told me there was nothing in the evening for young people to do so they have underground house parties with alcohol (banned in Iran), drugs and western music. This way boys and girls can dance together and ‘let their hair down’ so to speak. Anyway, back to the weird and wonderful world of selfies taking over Iran!
I call them ‘Selfie Stick Wankers’ because they’re always in the way and no matter how many photos they take it’s never ‘the right’ photo. Sorry folks, thats what you look like, if you’re waiting for divine intervention it’s a long wait so kindly step aside and me through. I wonder if this contributes to the reason why so many Iranian men and women are having plastic surgery and wearing fresh bandages out in public as a trophy of wealth?
I’ve nothing against selfies, I’ve taken them myself but I have a real issue with selfie sticks. The photo is all about you so lets dismiss the facade that there is anything in the background you actually care about.
Selfie stick users: “Oh but I travel alone so how can I take photos of myself pouting?”
Me: “Um…ask someone just like we did two years ago in the ‘olden days’.
As I walked around inside the bazaars and street markets, I realised just how many shops sold these extendable wonders. I just hope they are the next fad which will come and go like the rise and fall of the new Persian moon.
People of Iran, welcome to the new world. I have a new message. Stop. Put the mobile phone on a stick down, it’s going to be OK, we can get through this together and I can start by taking your photo for you, background is optional.
If you fancy reading more of my posts from Iran, just click on the links below:
10 reasons why Iran is the perfect travel destination for Donald Trump
Guide to travelling in Shiraz, Iran
Your guide to travelling in Esfahan, Iran
The ultimate guide to travelling in Iran
Yazd city guide, Iran
Tehran city guide and obtaining an Iranian visa
Bathhouses of Iran – washing away tradition