Meet Iran’s US Football Coach

Dan Gaspar is a 58 year old American, living and working in Tehran, Iran.  He is also the Assistant Coach for the Iranian soccer team.

“My experience is not one I’ve seen on TV or read in a newspaper. I live here, it’s real life,” said Gaspar.

“It may sound strange to most people, but I’ve worked on four continents and Iran is one of the safest places I’ve worked in,” he said. “When I read and hear and see things through the media and then go out to the balcony of my apartment and look into Tehran that is not what I see.”

“You would be surprised, it is very multicultural, far more than I had anticipated,” he said.

“Out and about in the city, when people discover that I’m an American they are interested by it,” he said. “It opens up a discussion, in a positive way.  I have had no negative reactions.”

Read more about Dan Gaspar’s experience here.
Unveiling Iran

Fashion Designers Against Fashion Police

You may have heard of Iran’s few and far between ‘Fashion Police’ who regulate how women present themselves in public.

So far, the new Rouhani government has brought a more relaxed attitute towards the morality police, and is much more lenient on western influence and the expression of culture.

Fashion designer Shadi Parand has been working for nearly 30 years,  inspired by her couturier mother who also had a passion for all things patterned, colourful, interesting, and unique.  In a short documentary by the Guardian, Shadi explains Iran’s nature of “Inside and Outside fashion.”  On the inside, Shadi says Iranian women as the same as western women, and wear beautifully colourful, patterned, and unique clothing.  On the outside, they wear hijabs or chardors, which she believes is similarly “sexy.”

“Iran is a country of contrast and contradiction.  We have our own way.  We are the ones who impose what has to be done” – Shadi Parand

Shadi seems like an incredibly liberated, powerful and determined women in spite of her sex, place of birth, or religion.  It is so rare that we are exposed to this wonderful side of Iranian people, and is an absolute pleasure to finally see it in western media.

We highly recommend you watch this insightful documentary:


Unveiling Iran

Goodbye Annoying Visas

Iran is about to become a lot more accessible to tourists worldwide…


Visas were one of the main challenges in crossing the boarders into Iran.  These valuable slips of paper and stamps were once difficult to obtain, where officials have been very reluctant in handing them out, and sceptical of traveler’s motivation.  The entire process was overly bureaucratic and much too difficult.

Things are about to change.  In an effort to increase tourism to the ancient country, the government has overhauled many of its strict immigration rules, and eased up on visa requirements, even considering abolishing them for good.

Mohammad-Ali Najafi, a vice-president and head of the country’s heritage and tourism organisation says, “After the next two or three months, I predict that the number of foreign tourists who come to visit Iran … will greatly increase,”

Najafi said the authorities will divide tourists into three categories: tourists in the first group will not need a visa; visitors in the second group will be allowed in without a visa as long as they are part of an organised tour group; and visa procedures for the third group will be eased – meaning that many will be able to obtain a visa on arrival.

“Western countries will most probably be categorised in the second or third group,” he said.

For more information, click here.


Unveiling Iran

Hiking and the Great Outdoors

In response to the Take a Hike blog‘s comments and questions, today’s post will be about hiking in Iran.

There are many trails that give tourists and locals alike the opportunity to explore and see the diverse scenery and landscape of Iran.

Whether trekking to the summit of the highest peak in the Middle East, along the trails to the Caspian Sea or at the foot of the Alborz mountains, the Iranian landscape is diverse and best experienced on foot.  Below are some options:

Mt Damavand

Northeast of Tehran and the highest peak in the Middle East is Mt Damavad at 5,671 meters high.  The dormant volcano is shaped like Japan’s Mt Fuji, and is one of the most iconic landmarks in Iran appearing on the IR10,000 note and spring water bottles.

There are many routes up the mountain, but the most common one is the southern route.  The hike takes about three days, and is fairly straightforward and safe with the most dangerous aspect being altitude sickness.  Symptoms included dizziness, swollen fingers/toes, nausea and headaches.  The only way to combat this is to take it slow and adjust to the altitude.  The best time to climb is during July, August and September where the weather is a lot warmer (and less erratic).

From the summit on a clear day you can see the green jungle of north Iran, the Caspian Sea, Tehran, the lake of Lar and the vest plain of Varamin.

Alamut Valley

At the foot of the Alborz peaks, the Alamut valley is a scenic myriad where one moment you’ll feel as if you’re in central Australia, the next in in Switzerland.

The Alamut Valley hosts historical as well as scenic significance.  Throughout the valley are ruins of over 50 fortresses with fabulous myths and stories to accompany them.  The Castles of the Assassins is perhaps one of the most well known fables.  Here the castles are said to have been the centre of a medieval religious cult where followers would lure and then murder political and religious leaders in the hope of reaching the afterlife’s paradise.

Lake Gahar

Waterfalls aren’t something one would expect to find in Iran.  There are many long and short treks around the mountain ridged Lake Gahar in Iran’s central west, south of Tehran.

The best waterfall views are from across the river using a footbridge.  Otherwise a popular trek is to the Shevi Waterfall that emerges directly as a spring from a cliff, then falls around 100 meters in a wide sweep.  This is approximately a five hours walk from Talezang (off of the Dorud to Tehran train line) with some climbing involved.  Hikers can camp here, although should bring their own equipment and food.

Happy hiking!

Unveiling Iran

Iranian Film Culture

Iranians have a longstanding passion for film.  Yesterday was the premier of the 30th Tehran International Short Film Festival (TISFF).

Over 4,400 Iranian and foreign films were submitted to the Film Festival said the secretary Hashem Mirzakhani.

Iran’s Head of Cinema Organisation, Hojatollah Ayoubi, renoun film Iranain filmmaker, Mohammad Mehdi Asgarpour were among those who attened the opening night held in Tehran’s Mellat Pardis Cinema Complex.

The Iranian favourites include The City I Know by Ehsan Masoumi, Secret of a Stature by Farshad Ektesabi, Taftan by Houshang Mirzaei and Mangroves by Abdolaziz Qasemi.

Organised by the Iranian Young Cinema Society (IYCS), the Tehran International Short Film Festival is scheduled to run until the 20th of October, 2013.


Unveiling Iran

Tehran Calling

In many ways, Tehran is no different to many other cities around the world with concrete office buildings, congested, chaotic roads and pollution.  But Tehran has much more to give than smog and hustle and bustle.

Some say it is the beating heart of Iran.  It is Iran’s most secular and liberal city where women are less inclined to wear the traditional chador, and instead opt for more colourful, transparent, or even tight fitting garments.

A city full of students paired with a treasure chest of activities makes for a fun and lively destination.  Whether haggling for great bargains in the markets, sipping on some chay (tea) or dizi (stew) in a buzzing teahouse, soaking in the east’s most contemporary art in one of the many galleries, or visiting a majestic palace, Tehran has it all.

Tehran Bazar

The best way to soak up the hustle and bustle is to take part in the playful bargaining at the Tehran Bazar.  The Bazar covers more than 10 kilometres of lanes and has several entrances.  Needless to say, the maze of alleyways and shopfronts is overwhelming at the least, confusing, chaotic and jungle-like.  The Bazar sells everything from gold and semi-precious stones, to spices or clothing. With over 4000 carpet merchants in just 60 passageways its no surprise that here’s where you’ll likely find the best bargain on Persian carpets.


Carpet Museum of Iran

Dating from the 17th century the Carpet Museum houses over 100 pieces.  A myriad of patterns and styles indicate the different regions of ancient Persia, and make for a fascinating and informative showcase.


Unveiling Iran