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Cultural awakening: feeling like a celebrity in Iran

Heike Pirngruber's picture
Pushbikegirl Heike Pirngruber cycle touring in Iran. Cycle Traveller

Iran is thrilling. The people are extremely friendly, the mosques stunning and the culture varied and not easy to understand. I don't regret visiting it at all, moreover, I am so happy to be able to learn more about the country.

Iranian women have a totally different status in society than the women in Turkey where I have just been. They are confident, dressed prettily and made up. They drive cars, study and have jobs in public places. I don't get the feeling of being in a male dominated society. But despite everything, in the places I travelled through about 50% of the women still wear the black chador. Somehow all of them look the same to me.

Pushbikegirl Heike Pirngruber cycles in Iran. Cycle TravellerAs a Westerner you might think there is suppression, but I have the feeling these women are happy. Quite often they are curious, laugh and are really happy to see me. Men are very open towards me. They are polite and respectful.

The Iranians are not only a happy and friendly folk, they are also educated. There is barely any rubbish strewn around, the roads are in really good condition, the people are neat and the homes always clean and tidy. They are proud of their country, of their culture and their history. Islam has a very important role in their life. I am treated with privilege everywhere. I am always served first, I always get the biggest portion. I also get a lot of attention about how I am feeling. Sometimes even a bit too much and quite often I feel a bit embarrassed.

Prayers in IRan. Photo copyright Pushbikegirl. Cycle TravellerI am not allowed to help -- the guest should rest and feel comfortable. The living room is heated way too much and I often have difficulties coping with the extreme heat. If I want to sleep in the cold room they can’t understand why I would like to sleep there. But I always do it and therefore have the room to myself.

The hospitality is very sincere and it impresses me again every day how welcome I am in the country. I've so often heard "Welcome to my country", "welcome to my town", "thank you for visiting my country". Drivers give me fruits and hot tea, wave and hoot and call hello to me. Sometimes I feel like a star, because everyone is taking pictures of me.

Pushbikegirl Heike Pirngruber bicycle touring in Iran. Cycle Traveller postcardThey ask me a lot of questions, always the same, every single day. Not just the usual questions like which country I'm from, my name, martial status and age. No, they also ask: why are you not married? why don't you have kids? do people in Germany have sex with their girl-friend or boy-friend? what's my salary?, the names of my family members, the relation between Iran and Germany, how much my pushbike or my camera cost and, of course, if I like Iran. There are also some weird questions like: who is the prettiest man in the room or who has got the prettiest name? 

Heike Pirngruber, also known as Pushbikegirl on her popular blog, was born in Germany in 1972. A traveller at heart from an early age, Heike has now travelled much of the world and loves nothing more than to get off the beaten track. You can follow her adventures past and present at

Images copyright Heike Pirngruber and Mirhossein Hosseini.

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