Women only holidays to Iran
Women only holidays to Iran invite you into the often unseen flipside of Iran: the lives of women. You’ll get to chat with Iranians you simply wouldn’t meet if you travelled with a mixed gender group. From jogging parks and mosques to hairdressing shops that double as debating parlours – your female guide will be your behind-the-scenes pass to the women only sanctuaries that have sprung up in the wake of Iran’s ever-tightening dress codes.
Within hours, you’ll realise why women only holidays to Iran are vital to demolishing all those cultural clichés of Iranian women. While the West zooms in on the strict compulsory hijab laws and Tehran ‘morality police’ that hog the headlines, everyday Iranian women are busy founding tech start-ups, and starting university at twice the rate of men.
On these trips, you can meet the full spectrum of women who live across this vast country. As you go, you’ll travel through Tehran and Shiraz and on to desert cities filled with Zoroastrian relics.
Tehran & Shiraz
You don’t know glam until you’ve seen a Shiraz beauty salon in full swing. It’s one of the few businesses where women can win financial independence – and business is thriving.
Most women only holidays to Iran start off in Tehran and Shiraz – cities that, handily, will blow your expectations of Iranian women out of the water. Western dialogue seems fixated on how Middle Eastern women dress. You’ll see conservatively dressed women wearing the full-length chador, of course – but you’ll also see young women dressed like they’ve just stepped off a Paris catwalk, lips and nails matching their fuchsia headscarf.
Your tour guide is your magic pass into the beauty salons that double as oases, where women can shuck the layers, roll up their sleeves and chat freely about their family, partners and ambitions. While getting a full mani-pedi. You’ll find that it’s a real privilege to be invited into their world.
You’ll learn that women only spaces are on the rise in Shiraz, snowballing since the Iranian government’s crackdown on ‘Westernised’ dress in 2010. Join the women jogging and picnicking in the parks where even the gardeners and guards are women. Or join a yoga class where women can shed their outerwear (and thoughts) without reprisal.
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Architectural treasure troveTo get plenty of travelling under your belt, it’s best to sign up to a small group tour. Many stop off in the northern neighbourhood of Tajrish on their way out of Tehran. Dip in and out of fabric stalls and tea houses on a walking tour with the female co-owner of the market, before tucking into a Persian meal with a group of female entrepreneurs.
Elsewhere, the central city of Esfahan has been described as ‘half of the world’, thanks to a 16th-century Persian ruler who stacked the city with mosques, gardens, bridges, palaces and courtyards. The fairytale vibe ratchets up at dusk, when musicians huddle to sing folk songs and chat by the river.
Yazd is another deal altogether, almost entirely hewn out of golden earth. It’s the heart of 4,000-year-old Zoroastrianism (the Persian state religion before Islam) and deals out some of the oldest city corners on the planet. Mud-brick buildings with ornate doorways, skinny lanes and sunny courtyards huddle down in the shadow of Shir Kuh Mountain. The sacred flame in the Zoroastrian Fire Temple is rumoured to have been burning since 470AD. Then there are the Towers of Silence, where Zoroastrians once purified the dead by allowing their bodies to be nibbled clean by birds. The best way to see it all? Alongside your expert tour guide.
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