Border to Border: Part 7 – Iran

Continue your photo travel tour as Joan Ubide discovers Iran.

Copyright © Joan Ubide

Basaar in Teheran

1/60 F4 (+0,33)

Iso 100, 12mm

Iran is a much better country than we’ve been told. It’s a country where people are crazy about football teams like Barcelona (or Real Madrid). The people greeted me affectionately and cordially with “Welcome to Iran.” As I was strolling around the impressive bazaars in Teheran or Isfahan taking pictures, people came to shake hands with me. They asked where I was from and offered me tea, food, or even their homes. I was truly impressed with the ordinary, anonymous people who did everything possible to make me feel comfortable in their country.

The “gifts” I found most interesting were the conversations that regular people started with me. Step by step as we talked, they let me know about their country and lifestyle—which didn’t seem that unusual to me, except for their treatment of women. That one issue is, without a doubt, a negative aspect of their lives according to our Western point of view. I am ignorant when it comes to the Muslim world, but I think we have to consider their lives from two perspectives–a critical one and an understanding one.

The critical perspective focuses on the obvious censure and lack of freedom in Iran, especially for women, who cannot decide whether they want to cover their heads with a scarf or not or what clothes to wear. Some of the women don’t want to live that life. I chatted with a few who, even though they were with their husbands, said they were fed up with living under such oppression.

At the same time, when I adopted an understanding perspective, I met people who did want to live according to their culture and to be respected by the outside world. I had the feeling they were saying that the people outside should take care of their own business. “We’re like that and that’s the way we want to be,” they seemed to say.

You can clearly see which women on the street prefer what, as you see women dressed totally in black, showing only their eyes, and women wearing more “Western” clothes, their scarves not totally covering their heads, and they’re wearing make-up. Unfortunately, sometimes they’re reprehended for their behavior.

Copyright © Joan Ubide

Woman in an small vilage near Kashan

1/125 F/5.3

Iso 160, 19mm

Copyright © Joan Ubide

Womans & Steeps, Kashan

1/320 F/9 (-0,67)

Iso 160, 12mm

Copyright © Joan Ubide

Darkness, Isfahan Basaar

1/40 F/3 (-1,0)

Iso 160, 50mm

Copyright © Joan Ubide

Woman Artist

1/200 F/7.1

Iso 125, 50mm

Of course, I could never accept the Iranian way of life simply because I wasn’t born there. If I had been and had experienced a very strict education in their culture, maybe I would have another opinion. I think it’s not fair judging individuals; maybe it’s the system we have to judge. As in many places, the people are not bad. However, there may be bad government and reproachable living conditions. Still, Iran and its people are delightful. The Persian region offers infinite possibilities and routes to discovering a country rich in culture.

Copyright © Joan Ubide

Street in Kashan

1/200 F/7.1

Iso 125, 12mm

Copyright © Joan Ubide

Kids after School in Kashan

1/80 F/4.5

Iso 125, 12mm

Copyright © Joan Ubide

A white point..

1/45 F/3.3 (-0,33)

Iso 125, 50mm

Travel tips:

For tourists—except those from North America and some specific countries–visiting Iran is fairly easy. You can get a visa when you contract your trip, or you can wait until you reach Teheran and obtain a seven-day visa on the spot if you have the following:

1. Passport with more than six months validity
2. A 3 x 4 picture
3. Proof of the place where you’ll be staying
4. A confirmed travel ticket for leaving the country
5. $50 USD or EUR

(When I followed these guidelines, I was given a 15 day visa, instead of a 7 day one for reasons I don’t know.) Extending your visa is not very easy, but in big cities there are agencies that can handle the problem for you.

Copyright © Copyright © Joan Ubide

Preparing banners and flags

1/20 F/2.4 (-0,33)

Iso 200, 50mm

Copyright © Joan Ubide

Street Congregation in Isfahan

1/160 F/6

Iso 125, 50mm

Interesting cities to visit:

  • Teheran: a beautiful city with a lot of traffic and pollution. During the daytime, several millions of people go there to work.
  • Isfahan: filled with bazaars and impressive architecture.
  • Kashan: surrounded by historical and symbolic places.
  • Mashad: in Arabian means “martyrdom place,” as it’s the place where Imam Reza, the eighth imam, was martyred.
  • Qom: one of the most sacred cities in the country.
  • Shiraz: famous for the deeds of Persian poets.
  • Tabriz: said to be the location of the Garden of Eden.
  • Yazd: a remote city in the desert, where the architecture is famous for water running inside the walls of the houses to make them fresher.
  • Zehadan: close to the border with Pakistan; has a wide cultural and tribal mixture.

Copyright © Joan Ubide

Pride Time in Isfahan

1/125 F/5.3 (-0,33)

Iso 160, 50mm

In the Persian Gulf area there are several islands. I would recommend Qeshm, where you can find large numbers of migrating birds–15% of the birds in the whole world.

Weather: The weather is variable depending on the area and time of the year, ranging from very intense cold with snow (there are ski resorts) to 40 °C temperatures.

Flying: Many flights from Western countries go to Teheran. Within the country, you can fly easily and at good prices. Iran has nearly seventy airports. However, sometimes it can be difficult to find free seats.

Train: There’s a weekly train from Istanbul (Turkey) and Damascus (Syria). From Istanbul the trip takes 70 hours and includes a ferry on Lake Van. From Syria, the train doesn’t cross Iraq; it goes via Turkey. The train network isn’t very extensive, but it works perfectly.

Bus: Buses are the best way to travel, especially in big cities. There are good motorways, and the buses are impeccable and very cheap. A bus from Teheran to Istanbul costs about 50 Euro. Always try to get the “super” or “1st class” services.

Taxi: Fuel prices are nearly zero (perhaps a few cents per liter), so travel by taxi is cheap. The shared taxi option is good. In many bus stations you can see taxis waiting for people who are willing to share the cost. The taxis drive at high speed. Also, if the passenger is a tourist, the price of the ride will increase five to ten times normal, so negotiate.

Copyright © Joan Ubide

Soldier in Kashan

1/10 F/4 (-0,33)

Iso 160, 12mm

Copyright © Joan Ubide

Man in Isfahan

1/80 F/4.2 (-0,33)

Iso 160, 50mm

The currency is the rial, but they don’t use that word. They say “Tomans” and sometimes “Chomejni.”

  • 1 Chomenjni equals 10.000 rials.
  • 1 Toman equals 10 rials.
  • 1 Dollar equals around 10.000 rials.

Cost of living: Expect to spend around 100.000 rials/day if you’re on a tight budget, but a more reasonable amount would be 200.000-400.000 rials/day. Take into account that there are no ATMs in this country. It’s not easy to obtain cash. However, in emergencies, hotels and some shops can give you money on credit, with a commission of about 20%.


  • Avoid border areas with Iraq and Pakistan. Be careful in tourist areas.
  • Gays and lesbians have to act with extreme discretion.
  • Alcohol is forbidden.
  • Pictures of government or military areas are forbidden.

Copyright © Joan Ubide

A good man in Isfahan

1/30 F/2.8 (-0,67)

Iso 160, 50mm

Copyright © Joan Ubide

Mosque in Kashan

1/30 F/4 (-0,33)

Iso 160, 12mm

Taking pictures, exploring new places around the world, and enjoying both people and places are what I’ve done for the last 360 days. I recommended traveling to all those who are tired of the daily routine. Get ready, save some money, do it, and disconnect from your everyday world. It’s a great experience; it will probably change your life as well as your point of view. You’ll value what you have much more and accept many things that now make you nervous.

This is where my stories end. To all the people I’ve met, all those who have followed my journey, thank you. Now I’m home. Now it’s time for me to recover–from the lumbago of carrying my backpack. As soon as I can, I’ll create a new website where I’ll show images of this trip, and I’ll begin saving money for a new trip–maybe in January–when I’ll start a new project traveling with my camera. I’ll let you know about it.

See you soon, and have a nice trip.


To see more photos on Joan’s trek through Iran, visit…

Visit Part 1: Mongolia
Visit Part 2: China
Visit Part 3: Tibet
Visit Part 4: Nepal
Visit Part 5: North India
Visit Part 6: South India

by Joan Ubide

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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