Iran – Clothing

"When visiting Iran, women must wear the appropriate attire."

This statement is enough to put one off traveling to a country which is fabulously interesting and has the advantages that go with a lack of mass tourism.

Firstly, the Borka - I could not cope with my face covered! Not a problem as the only covered faces are probably visiting Saudis. The most conservative women in Iran wear a chador – a semi-circular black sheet. The middle of the straight side covers the head and by twisting the sides, covers the forehead and is held firmly under the chin. We only had to wear this garment on five brief occasions whilst visiting very holy shrines. The tour company lent us lightweight navy/white patterned chadors causing much hilarity for locals and ourselves trying to put them on. Being short, I chose the largest chador, which dragged on the ground and needed four hands to hold up the bundles of fabric. A swap soon sorted that problem, but taking photos with one hand was a major challenge.

The rest of the time I wore a manteau - a thin, fawn, cotton garment like a dressing gown - long sleeves, knee length, buttoning in front. I wore dark slacks and a T-shirt underneath. The best T-shirt was a thin cotton one costing $2. Even this was left off on hot days. Cardigans and jackets were worn on top whenever necessary.

The scarves I took were too heavy or slipped to reveal too much hair. The cheap cotton one from the local bazaar was comfortable and remained in place. Generally it was acceptable to show some hair and neck.

My manteau soon looked grubby. I sponged the spots nightly, but finally washed the offending item which drip-dried well in a hot bathroom. Thicker fabric may not have dried in time for breakfast. At first I was inclined to head for breakfast without a scarf, so I left it in a prominent spot. A knock on the door would cause a flurry as I donned the scarf (or hid in the bathroom). By the end of the tour it had become a habit to put it on. There were times when I was hot and hated the dress requirement, but really it was no more than an irritation and a small price to pay in order to visit a country where so many people were welcoming and friendly. The history so old and interesting and the artwork and architecture so beautiful.

I was often reminded of schooldays and the hated uniform which really had some advantages We needed very little clothing in our cases, which left room to buy lovely and reasonably priced items like textiles and carpets.

We seldom encountered other groups of tourists, but when we came across a French group whose dress was not up to standard, we were proud to belong to ASA. Our group were attempting to "blend in" with the locals. The young "locals" in particular wear their outfits with a sense of style and looked fantastic - we just couldn't get it right. We really did try!

Melinda Daniels