Unattractive Attractions

Some people travel purely for the sites. It’s obvious at any major attraction, or any town that finds itself on the well worn path, even in Iran. The main cities of Central Iran are different to the rest of Iran. All of a sudden everything changes – the stores are full of souvenirs instead of local goods, the people are not wanting to talk to you bc you’re different, they want to talk to you bc you have money. The bazaar is less about watching locals in action, and more about watching the techniques they deploy to try and get you to buy a rug. I don’t mind, they’re just making a living, but from a travellers point of view, I don’t get it – ¬†what’s the appeal with these places? Everything is choreographed and everyone is doing the same thing – standing around looking at stuff, patiently queuing to enter a site, or all sitting at the same restaurants. The village itself, that’s the site. There’s no 400 year old mosque, museum or ancient building, but theres a gaping mountain to wake up to each morning. There’s goats running across the road, there’s over-excited kids who’ve never seen an Anglo before, there’s other-worldy fashion statements, there’s the colour of the sky – these are the sites. Lonely planet is almost apologetic of such places, ‘there’s no sites’. Who bloody cares. You’ll never get a decent photo at the tourist traps. The best photos I shot in Iran were from random wanderings. You can randomly wander in parts of Iran and Turkey, in a way you cant wander in the west, because there’s less of a fear factor. In Australia, England or the US, I simply couldn’t randomly wander into someone’s land, or approach their house. People are protective of their land, in the US I’d probably be shot. In parts of Iran, I’d walk and walk, climb into some bushes, and then stumble across a family bashing pomegranates into buckets. Instead of being alarmed and being asked to leave their property, I’m asked to sit down and eat a pomegranate. Or, I’d see a Shepard with his flock, approach him, walk with him and end up back at his house for dinner. I’d say thanks and leave, then walk straight into another shepherd, ‘Here we go again’, as i bolt after him. You can’t go wrong with a Shepard photo. All the Shepard’s are different – some are just kids in a pair of track suit pants, others look like they’ve been guiding their herd since biblical times. This sort of stuff is just not going to happen at a tourist attraction. It may sound reckless to just wander into a strangers’ homes, but you need to be here to experience the feeling there is of safety and trust. Some of the fears we have in the west, are unique to westerners. They’re not universal, and shouldn’t necessarily be carried with us throughout the world. Fear for the sake of fear – if something is remotely possible, then fear it. I don’t want to paint a utopian picture, it’s far from it, but in this one aspect – fear, or lack there of, of each other; it’s another world. I felt completely safe, always. It’s a unique feeling. As that president said, ‘the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself’. (Disclaimer: I speak from the perspective of a male (obviously). Woman, unfortunately; need to be more vigilant).

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