A knot is not the solution

Tschador Frauen im Iran

When crossing the Iranian border my clothes had to change completely. We have 20°C. Usually time to wear flipflops and shorts, but not in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Long pants for man and woman, long sleeves that cover your ass twice and a scarf are mandatory!
Well, we knew it. We could have stayed home as well. So let’s just call it an experiment.


Before we crossed the border I was already facing the first problem. I didn’t have a long sleeve that covers my ass… I decided to wear a dress, with Jeans and a jacket to cover my arms. Once we had finally crossed the border I’m quite happy for the excuse to go shopping since a long time. As I said, its 20°C, so wearing all those layers seems to be ok, but I’m quite challenged by the scarf all the time. As soon as it is a little bit windy, I lose my scarf. I move to fast, I lose my scarf. Jörg’s suggestion: make a knot under my chin isn’t good as well. I look like a grandma. I cannot understand how some Iranian women can handle a chador.


A chador, it means tent, is a black robe that very religious women wear to cover their body.
Unlike the better known burka it doesn’t cover the whole face and it is not closed. Due to the fact that it is not closed women have to hold it together all the time. Approximately  50% wear it. For us it doesn’t make any sense to wear a black tent when there are temperatures up to 50°C during the summer time. So we tried to find out the reason and got different answers. One explanation was that a woman should hide their body from men, because men are going to be distracted by their beautiful body. The society is going to be not inefficient as could be. For us it looks like the Iranians have just found enough other reasons limit their productivity. The siesta between 1pm and 5pm might be one of them. The second theory says that women want to be and stay interesting for men. The most realistic theory is: A women shows the men that she wants to be treated with respect. Not that realistic we thought first, but if you go back to the times and rules of Mohammad, the founder of Islam, it comes together. He allowed women to wear a scarf to show the difference between them and the slaves. Bevor that women were only things a man could treat like he wanted. With the scarf a woman could show other men that she is more than her body. Only her husband was allowed to see her whole beauty. Over the time it changed to a chador like we see it today and in some cases the meaning changed as well.


I stick to my casual scarf. The first days are challenging enough for me. An overlander we met said: “I decided to come to Iran, due to this it is ok, but I need a lot of energy to handle the scarf. You need always one hand to correct the position of it.” I try not to fight against it anymore and slowly I get used to it. Being used to it the next challenge was waiting just around the corner. We go to Jamkaran and it is not allowed to enter the area without a chador to show respect to the place and the religious people there… First I make a knot as no one will see it anyway. At the end I got to wear a chador several times till we leave the country, but still I cannot handle it well. It is always the other way round than it should be…



I’m very happy that I don’t have to wear this tent all the time and that Iranians are very respectful even when I don’t wear it. I expected very worse behavior before we got here. My mind was expecting that men wouldn’t talk to me, women that walk two meters behind her man and stay the most time at home. But Iran is surprising in any way. Men and women are not allowed to touch each other in public. That means it is as well forbidden to shake hands. Instead of this Iranian men even bow for me. Who expected this? When they are talking they always talk to Jörg and me. No one wants that I walk behind him. Women are everywhere on the streets, go shopping, study and can work in the most areas. Iranians are proud to be different than the Arabic countries. (Jörg told me about streetlife without any women in Saudi Arabia).

I’m surprised and happy that I only have to change my clothes and not my behavior. After a while we realize some couples holding hands in the streets. Some men shake my hand and if you are far away from the police the scarfs fall for the photos. So I get relaxed slowly. While driving the scarf is in reach but I don’t wear it all the time. I bought two nice dresses. Jörg and I are sometimes holding hands when strolling through the streets.  


In a few points though the Iranian culture is completely different. The main point is to be married. It is not like you always hear. A little child, promised to a way too old man and married with 14, but for us it is still not common. The normal procedure is like this: A man decides to marry and let his parents know it. The mother chooses two or three possible women. If the man likes one the choices the future couple gets time to get to know each other. After a while his family visits the girl’s family and discusses formalities. Many men want a covered girl, girls usually want rich man. The most important fact is: The girl has the last word. If she does not want to marry, the couple is not going to marry. As the economic situation is not really good these days, a lot of guys don’t earn much money. For them, it is often very hard to find a girl. When they are married the man makes all the final decisions. A relationship that works because you trust each other is very strange for Iranians. For many women it is a duty to do what the man wants. On the other hand men take care of the family as well as the children. Women do not have to work. That’s how it works in traditional families. Apart from that there is lots of other ways as well. If bride and groom already know each other and decided to marry the only need the approval of their families. Fact is though: you don’t live together bevor the wedding party. This would be against the law.



As we said bevor, we were invited by Iranian families very often. There are all kinds of religious people. Some were the chador while sitting on the carpet, some don’t wear a scarf. We were very surprise by the way the treat each other in the family. Everyone takes care of the other. The man helps in the kitchen, the woman on the field and is it about the kids. We have seen a lot worse in our home country. When the guy comes home from work he goes straight to the kids to play. Papa carries them around all evening and brings them to bed at night.

Even when we cannot understand all of the behavior in this country, it looks like a healthy, peaceful and impressively friendly society.

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