I spent the day with Mohammad Mahdi exploring Tabriz. Mohammad Mahdi has studied civil engineering, but is in limbo while he waits to start his military service. In his spare time he translates books.

Among the various sites we visited as we made our way through the city was a very random attraction called the Betooni Museum. It contained cabinets full of food items and meals made from clay/resin. Some guy had spent much of his life reproducing food items. Perhaps the highlight of the day was exploring the old bazaar, which felt like an abandoned maze of ancient corridors. Normally full of life, the continuation of the holiday in the name of Iman Hossein meant that market life had stalled. As we wandered through, we stopped off at multiple tea rooms where free tea was on offer. In one such room we enjoyed a free meal of egg and potato, on offer as part of the religious celebration. At one point we stopped to witness a long procession of men walking through the bazaar, swinging chains over their shoulders in imitation of a masochistic act.

The evening was spent at home with Amir, Mohammad Mahdi, their mother and their friend Shahin. We enjoyed a pleasant question and answer session, learning as much as would about each other and our different lives.

As with other countries, I have done no previous reading about Iran before coming here, so all my insights come from interactions within the country. I didn’t know before tonight, for example, that Iran is governed from two angles, a democratically elected government (that is not so democratic depending on how you look at it) and a self-appointed religious ‘organisation’. Thus, Iran has both a president and an Islamic leader. This is why it is the ‘Islamic Republic of Iran’ and not the ‘Republic of Iran’. The Islamic leader exerts strong influence over who is the president of Iran (thus the loose application of the word ‘democracy’). The Islamic ‘organisation’ and its leader are not elected into power. Instead, it maintains and controls itself independently from public opinion. Thus, the country is largely controlled by a group of very religious men. Many people in the country do not like the way the country is governed and the rules they place on its people. For a simple example, I learned tonight that a boy and girl cannot walk down the street together unless they are married. How can the people make the changes they want in their country when they have limited say in who is in charge of it? I see two answers; either by waiting for many generations of small changes to move towards a way of life they want, or by a dramatic revolution. I have the impression that the people are not ready for a revolution as they are too fearful of the consequences. Yet at the same time so many people in Iran want change. For the young people, desired change seems to revolve around relationships. They want to be able to love openly. At the moment, relationships are kept secret. Many girls also want to be free of the requirement to wear headscarves. The people I spoke with tonight got emotional when talking about the state of affairs in the country. Especially when they develop an increased understanding about how life is in other countries, such as Australia. Simmering under the surface of what I see as a beautiful country is discontentment about the relative lack of freedom, independence, self-expression and opportunity.

Exploring Tabriz with Mohammad Mahdi

Accommodation Home of lovely family
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 24,271km