“The Austrian Airlines flight approaches Tehran as the hostess’s voice reminds female passengers to cover their hair. An Iranian girl sitting next to me arranges a scarf around her face and whispers, ‘I hate this...’”. So begins this travel diary of a passionate scholar of Oriental studies. For over 30 years she has visited Iran, a country that stereotypically evokes an image of a woman draped in a tight, black chador. But besides Iran’s allegedly bleak, insular and reactionary nature, media also convey a more advanced and Westernized reality. Iranian society publicly expresses submission to the regime, but in private accommodates dissolute living, with wild parties and uninhibited sexual behaviour. This book leads the reader on a cultural journey to places, people and everyday life featuring both tradition and change, thus revealing a multifaceted, extraordinary country, which to Western eyes appears unexpectedly familiar yet elusive.
Anna Vanzan teaches Arab Culture at the University of Milan.