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Tight Knot

It's amazing. I feel like crying so bad. It's almost 2AM and I am sitting in the pre-boarding area of Mehrabad airport, waiting to get onto my Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt. In front of me, is an elderly couple sitting side by side. The woman reaches into her mysterious black ... read more

Mersedeh Mehrtash

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My Third Published Book: The Global Balance of Power

Book Description The measurement of the global balance of power focuses on the paradigm shift from the United States post-September 11th, 2001 preemptive doctrine of unilateralism to one of partnerships and corporations in a modern multilateral order. Although the challenge to the unilateral doctrine brought to light new actors on ... read more

Binneh Minteh

IranIran

Censored in Iran

      One of the stranger things that nobody told me before I left for Iran is that streets in Tehran have two names and buildings have two street numbers.  During my first week in Tehran, I looked, with increasing frustration, for a building on Nejatollahi Street.  Nobody seemed ... read more

Mimi Hanaoka

IranIran

Dressing for the revolution

"She's foreign." "Yeah? I can't see her face." "Yeah, she's foreign. Miss! Miss – please, tie the belt of your coat properly." For the first time in my adult life I mumbled, "Of course, I'm sorry," to a very young man and complete stranger who chastised my dress. I quickly ... read more

Mimi Hanaoka

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Books

Speak well and travel light -- bring a phrasebook

Mimi Hanaoka

11 May 2009

Iran

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More mundane but also more useful than the latest book about Iranian society or political Islam is the Lonely Planet Farsi (Persian) Phrasebook. Even if you’ve taken advanced college-level Persian, you’ve probably never had to ask to borrow a vacuum cleaner or ask for a colander in a shop. Read the heavy literature at home and travel light to Iran with this pocket-sized phrasebook.

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Getting Around

Fly if you dare

Mimi Hanaoka

11 May 2009

Iran

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If you’re short on time, don't scare easily, and have good medical insurance that covers evacuations, consider flying within Iran. On the upside, domestic flights are extremely cheap, with some no more than $65 round trip. On the downside, the nation’s main carrier, Air Iran, as a somewhat crash-intensive track record. Buses are a fraction of the cost of air travel, and if you’re on a leisurely schedule, you might enjoy traveling a little closer to the ground.

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Festivals & Events

Bear witness to mourning ceremonies

Mimi Hanaoka

11 May 2009

Iran

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Mimi Hanaoka

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Iran’s Shia Muslims have so many religious commemorations that you’re likely to be able to witness some ceremony, either major or minor, while you’re in Iran. One of the most important large-scale mourning ceremonies is Ashura, which marks the anniversary of Husayn’s martyrdom at Karbala in 680 AD. Husayn was the son of ‘Ali and the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad; Iranian Shia’ Muslims revere him as the third of their 12 imams. Since this is a very visible and important commemoration, you won’t even need to visit a shrine or mosque to see some of the events – including passion plays, posters, self-flagellation processions, and banners hung on mosques and other buildings – that mourn Husayn’s martyrdom.

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Culture Shock

Enjoy the spotlight

Mimi Hanaoka

11 May 2009

Iran

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Mimi Hanaoka

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There are few foreigners who travel through Iran, so take advantage of the fact that you’ll attract a lot of attention. Ask the caretakers of various shrines what lies within and if you can see them, practice your Persian, and let people tell you about their city. If you’re a woman traveling alone, expect a tremendous amount of attention, generally very positive and helpful, from other women – you’re a true oddity in the Islamic republic.

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Etiquette

Insist on paying

Mimi Hanaoka

11 May 2009

Iran

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Mimi Hanaoka

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People will say they cannot accept any money for their services and goods in Iran – don’t take this literally. It’s an elaborate form of politeness, known as taa’rof, and it comes with its own set of rules. A shopkeeper may refuse pay even as he grasps your cash in his hands. So if a taxi driver, a waiter, or a vendor says that he can’t accept your cash, insist that he can and pay him his due.

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Food

Consider kebab. (Vegetarians, prepare for lots of salad.)

Mimi Hanaoka

11 May 2009

Iran

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Mimi Hanaoka

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Kebab is ubiquitous in Iran. If you’re a vegetarian and don’t eat any of the many different variations of grilled meat known as kebab, scour your Persian phrasebook for the names of non-meat dishes and prepare to eat a lot of salad. All alcohol is strictly illegal in Iran, so if you drink, consider your trip as an extended opportunity to detox.

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Film

Go to the movies to watch the flirting (and maybe the movie)

Mimi Hanaoka

11 May 2009

Iran

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Mimi Hanaoka

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Instead of watching films about Iran while at home, try going to a cinema in Tehran. The films they show are hit or miss, but you’ll be able to watch something far more interesting: flirting. There are few social spaces in the Islamic Republic of Iran where the youth can mingle and chat far from prying eyes, and so cinemas are a convenient place to flirt – while queuing in separate, gender-segregated lines, of course.

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Religion

Know who the supreme leader is

Mimi Hanaoka

11 May 2009

Iran

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Shia Islam is the official religion of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has been run by clerics since the Islamic revolution in 1979. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the supreme leader and holds the most power in the country. Ayatollah Khamenei has effective veto power over all laws and political candidates, and he appoints military leaders, the chief of the judiciary, Friday congregational prayer leaders of mosques, and the directors of the state-run TV and radio stations. While the president is elected, his candidacy must be approved by the supreme leader.

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Sports

Watch from afar

Mimi Hanaoka

11 May 2009

Iran

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Mimi Hanaoka

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Be prepared to visit your embassy in Tehran if you’re a woman and want to watch a live sporting event. If you’re an American woman, forget about watching live sports entirely – the Swiss embassy, which attends to the needs of Americans in Iran (since the US has no official diplomatic ties with the Islamic republic), has better things to do. Women are generally forbidden from attending live sporting events, but sometimes your embassy can pull a string or two and arrange for you to be in a specific section of the stadium for foreigners, in which women may sit. Instead, get your fill of sports at home.

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TV

Satellite TV is officially illegal, but...

Mimi Hanaoka

11 May 2009

Iran

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Mimi Hanaoka

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It’s an open secret that many hotels and private homes all harbor illegal satellite dishes that transmit various foreign channels, including the BBC, CNN, al-Jazeera, and many others. If you don’t have access to one of the millions of illegal satellite dishes, use the opportunity to practice your Persian and watch propaganda in action on the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) channel.

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Fashion

Don’t show skin

Mimi Hanaoka

11 May 2009

Iran

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Mimi Hanaoka

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You’ll need to wear Islamically acceptable dress if you’re a woman in Iran, which includes a headscarf and some loose-fitting clothing that covers all of your body, from your neck to your wrists to your toes. Bring loose pants, a few large scarves, and a loose, long jacket. Once you arrive at the airport, look at the women around you and copy how they wear their headscarves. If Tehran is your first destination, head downtown and blend in a bit more by getting a manteau, which many young women wear – it’s a belted jacket that typically falls to your knees that is considered Islamically acceptable.

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Dating

Get married. Or tell a white lie.

Mimi Hanaoka

11 May 2009

Iran

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Mimi Hanaoka

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If traveling with your boyfriend or your girlfriend, introduce him/her as your spouse in the Islamic Republic of Iran. You won’t just receive a withering look from the hotel clerk if you tell him from beneath your government-mandated headscarf that you and your boyfriend would like to share a room together – you’ll probably get separate rooms.

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Slang

Know old street names

Mimi Hanaoka

11 May 2009

Iran

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Mimi Hanaoka

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There’s a bizarre, time-warped kind of slang that exists in Tehran when it comes to one thing: names. Some streets in Tehran are only referred to by their pre-revolution names, despite the fact that the Iranian revolution occurred in 1979. Ask for Nejatollahi Street, a prominent street with dozens of travel agents and airline offices, and you’ll be met with blank and apologetic stares. But ask for “Villa” street, as the street was known over 30 years ago, and people will point you in the right direction. The Islamic revolution changed almost the entire Iranian socio-political and economic landscape, but pre-revolutionary Iran still lingers in a lot of people’s memories.

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Nightlife

Remember you’re in the Islamic republic

Mimi Hanaoka

11 May 2009

Iran

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Mimi Hanaoka

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The “nightlife” section of Lonely Planet Iran is exactly one paragraph for the entire country, and that’s a fair reflection of what’s on offer here. The Islamic Republic of Iran – where alcohol is illegal and Islamic dress is mandatory – isn’t a nightlife destination. Take your travels to Iran as an opportunity to detox from the nightlife that you usually enjoy at home.

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Being an American

Prepare for "death to America!" chants

Mimi Hanaoka

11 May 2009

Iran

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Mimi Hanaoka

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You’ll probably hear chants of “death to America!” in person in Iran if you witness a rally, march, or celebration, but understand that this is essentially a political statement. American foreign policy toward Iran, as well as American support for Israel, is loathed here. Few Americans are even granted visas to Iran, but if you are allowed to travel there, take the opportunity to enjoy talking about things other than America and being American.

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