When I first left Iran for the West in 1969, all I knew was Tehran. I mean I had travelled to the main cities that Tehranis usually travel to, such as BAbolsar, ChAloos, RAmsar, and even EsfahAn, ShirAz, and of course Mashhad and Ghom, but I doubt it if I really could consider myself a well-traveled kid.


While meeting Iranians from other parts of Iran in the West, I noticed how much I did not know about many parts of Iran.  For example, I had learned eating okras and shrimp from KhuzestAni friends in the US and had learned eating mangos from Bandar AbbAsi friends in the US.  But I had never seen Bandar Abbas or Khuzestan when I was a kid.  In a way, I had learned a lot about Iran in the US, ironic but true.


Later, when I returned to live in Iran in 1974, I made up for the loss, which I had noticed in the West and traveled as much as I could.


My parents enjoyed driving to different places by car and even took a train to Mashhad, but I had never traveled on an airplane until I flew to London before my 18th birthday. I was not used to seeing the cities from above. I mean when I was in high school, I would go mountain climbing and always enjoyed talking to the people in the villages when stopping at a ghahveh-khAneh. I hated to just go for the peaks, especially I hated it when some of my friends would circle the villages so that they would not go in the towns to talk to people.


Also when travelling to Ghom or Mashhad, they did a good job of seeing all their vicinities like Toos, KhAj-e Ravi, Khaj-e MorAd, or Kooh-sangi near Mashhad, or Chehel-Dokhtar and ChAh-e sAheb zamAn near Ghom, but in other places we would just quickly look at major historical sites, have a chelo-kabob and move on.


No doubt it was fun. My mother was chAdori and in many places there was discrimination against her in parts of Tehran. In some shopping centers, people would make fun of her. My sisters were not chAdori, and there was discrimination against them as well in some other places, e.g. in EshfahAn.


It seemed like as a family, we "enjoyed" both kinds of discrimination against women when traveling across Iran and we could not complain of lack of balance in our take-in.  In a way, equality in discrimination was observed for us as a family.  Traveling with the family also made me aware that many pre-conceptions about Iranian cities are not true.  For example, if you compare Mashhad and Tabriz; I would definitely say people in Tabriz are more religious.  Although on surface, it may seem the other way.


When I returned to Iran, I enjoyed seeing some of the remote places. One was KAshAn!  Oh, yes, it is not really remote, actually it is much closer than EsfahAn, to Tehran, but not that many Tehranis go there. Everyone in Tehran seems to know about the scorpions of kAshAn, but not that many people had seen that city.


I went to Bagh-e Fin in KAshAn and while sitting there thinking about Amir Kabir whose veins were cut with razor nearby at the HammAm-e Fin. It seemed to me that I owed it to him the pleasure of seeing that place. My family never had travelled to that city, but I did, and it was thanks to living abroad and having learned about other Iran in the West. I thought Amir Kabir was the one who pioneered sending students abroad. I felt I was paying tribute to a grandfather.


Sam Ghandchi

March 25, 1994





* The above article was first posted on SCI (soc.culture.iranian) Usenet newsgroup on March 25, 1994


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