Unveiling the City of Qom

I was born and raised in the Western world and have fond childhood memories of traveling back to Iran to visit family. Through traveling back and forth, I have been able to see things the way they are, not the way western media portrays them. With roots in both worlds, I’m lucky enough to be able to switch between two perspectives.

Downtown Bazar in Qom

Downtown Bazar in Qom

“Where in Iran do you visit?”

“Qom.”

Cue wide eyes and uncomfortable smiles; perhaps, even a…

“You’re not one of those mullahs, are you?” (it’s happened before).  Some Iranians are desperately trying to demolish the image of akhoonds and black chadors (trans: muslim clerics and black cloak-like veils), and the last thing they want is for an unassuming Iranian-American girl to blab to all of her American friends about one of the holiest cities for Shiite pilgrimage, which has a lot of both.

A store in Qom, with dresses on display and tape on the glass to hide the boobs, haha.

A store in Qom, with dresses on display and tape on the glass to hide the boobs, haha.

I’ve heard numerous times that…

“Qom isn’t even considered to be Iran,”

(due to its conservatism) The cultural gap widens upon entering the most conservative city in Iran. In the universities of Qom, chadors are ejbari (required) upon entrance. All over the internet, articles about the secret lives of Iranians center in on colorful, barely-there hijabs and underground bashes; but the secret life of Qomis’ is kept buried.

True, Qom is not as vibrant or exciting as Tehran or Isfahan, but there is something calming about walking through these proclaimed holy streets as the sun shines brightly during the day, and the lights of restaurants and shops flash alluringly, as the calming sounds of rosaries echo through the night (I, myself, am not even religious).

Arg Restaurant

Arg Restaurant

Though a large percentage are, in fact, wearers of the chador (even in their private lives), for many, it is out of devotion to God, rather than means of a political alliance. But many, including Iranians, don’t fully understand.

People from Qom get discriminated against, a lot.

“At first, the girls [from other cities] in my class at university wouldn’t talk to me,” my cousin, Farzaneh said. “They later said, ‘wow, we didn’t think you’d be that open-minded, being from Qom.'”

Like all other cities in Iran, Qom has something unique to offer to the country’s culture. There’s something oddly precious about akhoonds walking in the streets, old and young, riding motorcycles, pushing their kids in a shopping cart, or talking on the phone (some of them, barely in their twenties, talking on the phone to their brothers about what to tell Mommy joon).

Plenty of tourists visit the holy city every year; mostly Iraqis, Saudi Arabians, Lebanese, and even Chinese. The Haram is dubbed one of the holiest mosques, and it sparkles at night. One can visit plenty of graves of famous figures ranging from politics to royalty, as well as the tomb of Fatemeh Masume. The Arg restaurant and hookah lounge (see photo above) is an outdoor restaurant that is open year-round. With Tahitian-styled tents set up side by side, the restaurant imitates a tropical paradise with waterfalls, a decorated pool, and bridges. Not to mention, awesome food! Jamkaran Monsque: on Tuesday nights, people crowd the beautiful mosque to pray and toss their hand-written letters down the holy well, in hopes of Imam Mahdi hearing their prayers and helping them in a difficult time.

Jamkaran Mosque

Jamkaran Mosque

At the Bazaar (see photo earlier in the post), they’ve got just about everything from boots to Barbies. There’s also an entire building dedicated to jewelry (whatcha know about gold?!).

Over the past few years, the holy city of Qom has become one of the bigger cities, due to the construction of more universities. There has been fashionable progress in recent years; what used to be chaador-only outwear has now transformed into black manteaus, with well-groomed eyebrows and makeup. Males and females struggle to be discrete as they snuggle together in the corner of a dim-lit restaurant, softly reciting poems of Hafiz, as they stare lovingly at each other. Inside the universities, young people flirt between classes.

I had no idea they were posing for me!

I had no idea they were posing for me!

Surviving in a sub-culture of a closed-off society, the youth of Qom struggle not only against the labels given to them by the rest of the world, but across Iran, as well, but

They also have a story to tell.

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xoxo,

SARAH سارا

IRANIAN MALES: Give Before You Take

A guest post from a male joony, who prefers to be anonymous:

Salam,

I’ve been reading your great blog posts, and it made me reflect a lot and I felt the need to give something back.

I’m what most Iranians would call an Iranian raised ‘hezbollahi’ simply for my political beliefs (and not my actual religious beliefs), but hey I lost my virginity to a doctor in London, who was older than me and was married, but not happy. Three years of crazy day-long sex encounters and not a single instance of thinking whether she enjoyed the experience.

It must be the sexual isolation in Iran that makes all men think penetration makes women as happy as men.

Some years later, I fell for a half Iranian religious, modest girl who I knew I wanted to marry. She was raised in the UK, unlike me and the Doctor. The first time she got intimate with me we dry humped till she orgasm-ed and I was left in such a shock! Women do that too???

It has been years since our wedding and as rule of thumb I do not penetrate unless she has come twice with the help of our powerful gadget :)

As religious people, we always talk about caring and giving but all of that disappears in the bedroom and it really upsets me to think how many Iranian women don’t orgasm as much as my loved one does.

However awkward this non-social topic might be, it is the only thing I talked about with my younger brother before he got married a few months back. [Read more…]

Your Mind Too Narrow, You Can’t Be Talking To Me

Hey joonams,

It’s been on a long week- but TANK YOU GOD that tomorrow is Friday.

Did you see how I used “God?” I MUST be an extremist… just kidding …

I grew up in a very different generation than my parents.

My father is an Atheist, my mom blames everything wrong with the world on religion – regardless of whether it’s Islam, Christianity, or Judaism.

But they were born into a Muslim family.  My family is Islamic historically.

My great-grandmother fasts, she covers her hair at all times, she doesn’t eat pork – she was also married off at age nine… but if you think that is what being Muslim means then you’re f#cking cray.

The only God I’ve ever prayed to is a God who would keep the nightmares about vampires away (Buffy the Vampire Slayer scarred me for life).

My mother taught me to hate Islam and I did.

For a long time, I believed that everything wrong with Iran is a result of Islam including (but not limited to), the ridiculous notions that a woman should cover her hair, marry at a young age, and be stoned to death.

The Islamic Revolution of Iran

But Islam isn’t the reason that “Islamic” countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia are so backwards… to the point where Saudi Arabia wont allow it’s women to drive/vote/wear what they want.

If you really believe that the “Supreme Leader” Ayatollah Khamanei was chosen by a higher power, then you might as well believe that I, Farrah am a Virgin. [Read more…]

I Just Want to Be Touched.

Salaam JOOOnies.

This weekend is a blur, and like all weekends it passes by too quickly. My actual Sunday is more like watching BEHIND THE MUSIC: NAS re-runs, trashy reality TV, and mourning over the responsibilities I procrastinate. Hello, Xanax.  But if I ruled the world…

My ideal Sunday would include reflecting on my life with some wine, a beach view and maybe, a guy…maybe. Kinda over the male species right now.

SO I don’t know how many of you Joonies are religious, but you all know where I stand on the issue (if not CLICK HERE). But you know what the most frustrating aspect of religion is?

Hot, religious guys.

Guys who actually prioritze God over their…..you know impulses

and I actually commend them for that, because if you don’t have principles in life, you probably don’t have much. BUT it does kill me when I happen to like one of you…

You see, I can respect a guy’s choice to be religious, if he can accept my lack of religion.

If I walk around in a miniskirt or shorts, I don’t want to see that look of judgment– that ‘ok, she’s a slut‘ label being branded on me. And I know the thought crosses their minds, and I know even if  a religious guy and I have great conversation, I will never be ‘girlfriend’ material for him.

Now, is that principle or discrimination?   [Read more…]

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