Come with me to Iran.

Close your eyes and forget anything you’ve heard about Iran. Forget what you saw on CNN last week, forget what you’ve read on blogs and forget what people have told you. Then, any opinion you may already have about foreign affairs or the middle east, rise above it; this isn’t about politics, it’s not about religion, and it’s not about the economics of a third world country.

It’s about the culture and the people seen through a lens free of bias, negativity and judgment.

 

I visit every year and it’s always a swell time when I go. Want to check it out for yourself?

Then open your mind and let me take you on a trip to Tehran.

 

1. We’ll drink a lot of tea. And by “a lot” I mean like seven cups a day. The kettle at my grandparents’ house is always on a hot stove 'round the clock. We’ll walk to the bakery on the corner (because there is one on every corner) and grab some Danish pastries to eat with our tea, and maybe even buy some barbari bread for tomorrow’s breakfast while we're there.

 

2. We’ll hang out with my family. And drink some more tea while we’re there because, as you know, with tea comes good conversation. We’ll sit in the round in the family room, eating pistachios, cracking pumpkin seeds, gossiping, and sipping on our 8th cup of tea. They’ll ask you what you studied in college and how much you weigh, because those answers obviously require equal amount of discretion. They’ll exchange recipes, talk about last night’s episode of that series everyone we know is watching and wonder, as they always do, when my parents are moving back to Iran (note: they’ve been in Los Angeles for over 35 years…).

 

3. We’ll visit the bazaar markets  in search for nothing specific, but will come home with bags full of souvenirs and gifts for ourselves. We’ll price antique tea sets, grab handfuls of handmade, printed tablecloths and scarves, and sample nuts and fruits that don’t exist in America. It’ll get crowded, and people will start to shove, but just roll with the tide and go with the flow and you’ll be fine! Just remember, watch your pockets. After all, every major city has its fair share of unwanted incidents.

 

4. We’ll spend afternoons in coffee shops. They’re all the rage there, and common hangouts spot for local teens and students. We can people watch and hop on that wii (yes, wifi!) to instagram a pic of our Café Glacé, a delicious coffee drink with milk and a scoop of ice cream.

 

5. When the day is finally over and the dinner finished two cups of tea ago, we’ll turn on the Farsi-dubbed Turkish soap operas and dwell in the romantic gestures and family dynamics that seem to be a common trend in Turkish, Colombian and Korean dramas. We’ll all be watching, the entire family, because this is how we come together.

A lot of tea, a bit of gossip, and a good boy1-loves-girl-loves-boy2 drama.

 

Did you have fun on the trip? I told you it would be a good time!

But next time, you should go for real! Go with this same open mind: it’s about the people and the culture above all else.

If you do, let me know! I already I have a long list of recommendations to give you.