Kish Island: Paradise Lost

Pristine beaches, Tiffany blue sea, pearly sandy beaches, and rich marine life that is a short description for Kish Island. Located in one of the most controversial countries in the world; Iran.
The island lies South of Iran on the Persian Gulf, and is approximately 90 km square meters, and except for its beaches, it is a concrete jungle. It is a popular shopping destination amongst Iranians, and hardly a crowded one, because of its hot weather most of the year. The island is not promoted by the government as a tourist destination, even for the local market; however, it is mostly promoted for business, since it is a free trade zone city.
The best time to visit Kish would be in autumn, where the weather is warm, but not so hot, and humidity is not at its peak. Women, if they want to swim in some public beaches they have to use an all covering suit, which is similar to a diving suit. This rule in Iran is a very whimsical one, and depends on the police patrol and whether they would approach people to get out of the water or let them be. Simply put, there is no written rule that says if women are “properly covered” they shouldn’t be able to swim in public beaches, however, it all depends on the police officer to allow you or not. I was lucky enough to escape the whims of the police twice, and enjoyed swimming with my husband, and also as soon as they know you are a foreigner they are more relaxed, and some rules can be bent. If one wants to avoid the hassle, women can go to the ladies beach.
The ladies beach in Kish is like nothing that I ever imagined. The first time I was there I thought maybe I am in Monaco or somewhere in Costa del Sol. You cannot imagine the amount of thongs, Brazilian cuts, and topless women there. The interesting thing was how comfortable women felt as they were strolling on the beach flaunting their bodies, and boobs whether fake or real. I didn’t expect to see the latest fashion in swimwear, accessories, designers’ sandals, and even tanning lotions. Also there were a lot of young girls with tattoos, nose jobs amongst other jobs, if you know what I mean. I didn’t only think that I’m outside of Iran, but also felt under dressed in my normal bikini that I got on sale from H &M, as if I crashed a Dolce & Gabbana party in my pajamas. Suddenly it all came back to me, all these pictures that I have seen on Instagram from this controversial account #therichkidsoftehran, it is sort of real. There is a niche in the society which is all rich, powerful, and definitely living in their own bubble. But eventually, aren’t we all?
Although In Kish is not promoted as a beach resort as I mentioned earlier, there are some water sports and activities that can be done to help people pass time. For instance, people can rent a bike or a scooter, watch a dolphin show, do Para sailing, diving, and also there is a cable ski. Kish houses some nice and decent restaurants as well as a couple of fancy malls. The most impressive thing about Kish is its tranquil beaches, and definitely it is worth visiting, although the island is nowhere close to achieving its full potential yet.

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#KishIsland #Iran #offthebeatenpath #travel #exoticdestinations

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The Sunken Greek Ship off the shores of Kish Island.

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Pristine #beaches

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Why I’m not Turkish?

This is my first and foremost close encounter with obsession, and this question is actually addressed to my God. Yes, I admit I’m obsessed. Not with a man, or a kind of food, but with a city: Istanbul. I don’t know how or why, it just happened. Did I live there? Yes. Is it long enough to make me fall madly, deeply, beyond any rational in love with this city? No. But I did. No matter where I go, my heart is there. Every place, building, corner in any other country, that draws a deep smile on my face, when I delve deep, it is only for the mere fact that it reminded me of a place in Istanbul.I started loving sea gulls but only recently, because I used to see them every morning squeaking out of my window, as I lived near the Iskele; the port.I love these pale, washed out, wooden houses wherever I see them, but now I love them even more, because they remind me of some houses in Kanaliada, a beautiful Island in Istanbul, which also is the center for Armenians living in Istanbul. I even pass by certain places or areas, wherever I travel, just because they revoke my memories of Istanbul.

I wish they can give the nationality of a country based on love. I have no interest in politics or what is going on at the moment of conflicts or disputes with the Turkish government. For me they are just politicians, tools, puppets, they come and go. I just feel immense, and deep, unprecedented attachment to this land. I feel this way and I’m so proud that I know Istanbul like the palm of my hands. I know where to go if I have money, and where to go if I have no money. I know where to go when I’m happy, and where to walk when I’m sad. I know which bar has the best romantic ambiance, and which bar has the cheapest beer. I know what locals don’t know. And may be some will never understand why I fell in love with their country. As much I sometimes didn’t understand how some people fell in love with mine: Egypt. But it happened.

In my neurotic attempt to always analyze things—I’m a Gemini, and it comes with the astrological package — I wanted to seek an answer from a therapist, or a healer, somebody who can take me back to my past life —I believe in this—and tell me something. May be I was living in Istanbul in another life, so that will explain, why I always want to go back.
Somebody would ask then why don’t you just move there? And I have a list of practical answers and personal reasons that I can say, but it doesn’t calm down my longing, or give me any solace. All I wish for, is that someday, I will go back and live there, without the fear of how can I SUPPORT MY SELF, or what will I do when my money runs out, or whether my partner will agree with my decision or not.
Barlar Sokak

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An old style Turkish house

An old style Turkish house

China International Travel Mart: Around the world in five halls

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Myself & some Koreans in their Ethnic dress.

Myself & some Koreans in their Ethnic dress.

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The CITM took place on the 14th of November in the bustling city of Shanghai. I was there as a journalist, observer, and as a Tourism Consultant, for a client. I have to admit, that I was highly disappointed by the level of organization, or shall I say disorganization. I heard that it was organized by the ITB of Berlin, or may be the same people; however, my mind refuses to believe it. I was there with my client one day before the exhibition started, to organize and decorate the booth, set our stuff, and decide on the branding. It was shocking how you can’t get any help from the organizers in terms of handy people, workers, or if you need to rent any tools. No body from the organizers, pass to check if you need any help, or they can’t even be seen anywhere except, where the registration disc is. All you have is a bunch of hustlers coming around, passing by every five minutes, offering to rent you a lamp, or a TV, where you have to bargain your heart out, as if you were in a flea market.
On the opening day, there were unbelievable queues packed and squeezed against one another in front of the entrance gate. People have to go around in something like a labyrinth of steel barricades, to get in the security check. After one hour we finally got in. There was a heavy presence from Europe, can’t say the same about Africa though. All eyes now are on the Chinese market, and the Chinese client. Compared to London’s WTM, there was no Wow element, especially from the Brazilian booth, which always managed to lure, and attract people to their stall. However, I have to say, that Korea, managed to steal the spotlight this year with a fantastic creative brand “the United Nations of Imagination” They were really vibrant, creative, and they had fun performances almost all day, although a bit noisy. It was inevitable not to notice them, when you here people screaming from across the hall, and when I approached, it turned out they were playing a match of Taekwondo, or Kung Fu in the BOOTH. With their brand you actually get a passport that has the United Nations of Imagination written on it, where you have to go around and stamp it from three different places. Inside you get to see the tourist attractions of South Korea, highlighted with the names of its different regions.

New Zealand was also another interesting booth, with some of their people dressed like natives with their faces painted, and a catchy slogan; “100 Pure”, as the title of their promotional campaign. The nice thing about New Zealanders (Kiwis) in the campaign that they managed to get audience involved in their singing and dancing, which was so engaging. An interesting thing was that almost all the countries hired Chinese personal in their booth, so they can communicate with the visitors, and most booths had no one who spoke English. Also, all flyers, brochures, and booklets, were in Chinese. Personally, I understand that this is geared towards the Chinese market, but did it occur to some people, that also other tour operators from other countries might be present, interested, and a potential client, and if they had some English brochures, that would be hunting two or more markets with one stone.

Few other countries, had some action going on like; Japan, Namibia, and Madagascar. However, the pinnacle of creativity when it comes to booths’ decorations, were the Chinese themselves. They represented, their Islands, their different regions, with some astounding pictures, colours, and scenic backgrounds, that when you see them it wouldn’t cross your mind that you these places are in China. The thing is I didn’t expect China to have all this diverse landscape, and variety of touristic products. I lingered in each stall, trying to absorb the amount the diversity that this country encompasses, but still didn’t manage to absorb all the wonders this land has to offer.

15 things I learned in Shanghai

1- It is not a tourist friendly city.

2- People are not helpful and dismissive.

3- It is mostly a concrete jungle, and has no spirit, except for a few parts of the city.

4- Everything is mostly in Chinese, and geared for Chinese.

5- The majority of the people don’t know the basic English words, like; taxi, toilet, subway, metro.

6- The service sector is horrible, and mostly people are borderline rude.

7- You have to bargain.

8- They are loud people.

9- You can only find one brand of Tampons, even in Walmart.

10- They have very good hot-pot restaurants.

11- It is OK to pick your nose in public.

12- In most public areas they have squat toilets.

13- People, spit and litter in the streets.

14- There are many homeless, and beggars.

15- Tab water isn’t potable.

Isfahan, Half of the world (Nisf Jahan)

Naqsh Jahan Square

Naqsh Jahan Square

Isfahan:
Isfahan, one of the most historical cities of Iran, and was once one of the largest cities in the world and it served as the capital of the Persian Empire in the 16th century. Although it is considered the third biggest city in Iran, with a population of approx five million people, its a small city in terms of how exposed the people are. People are traditional, and when I asked an Iranian girl, what is the difference between Iran and Mashhad for instance, because the latter is one of the most traditional and religious city since one of Iran’s biggest Imams is buried there; Imam Reza, and one of the most bedazzling architectural phenomena as his mosque . She said, “The difference is in the mentality of the people. In Isfahan, people hardly get accustomed to any new trends that evolve in the society. They want to live according to an old set of rules, that their ancestors lived by ages and ages ago. These rules are not necessary religious, they are mostly social, which means they lack flexibility.” As for Mashhad she said, people take any social norms old or new, and apply them through religion, they always ask does these rules align with our beliefs or not? An Isfahainan well traveled friend, has a different opinion he said that although he doesn’t agree with everything in the Isfahanian culture, like the fuss and details of the marriage traditions, but he feels like ,”you can’t rule out all the culture because these rules are also part of our identity,” he said.
In Isfahan, people can ask you all sorts of questions in the first five minutes, like, how old are you? What are you doing here? How long you have been here and how long you are going to stay here? Are you married? Do you have babies? ending with the most popular question in all Iran; “Do you like Iran? Or what do you think about Iranians? Or Isfahanians?

Today I went to visit the Chehlstone palace which is very close to Meydan Naqsh Jahan nowadays ( Imam Khomeni square), I was mesmerized by how colorful the patterns and the drawings were, even the mosques in Iran are one of the most colorful I have ever seen. The famous combination of the Shia mosques are grades of blue and yellow tiles that are so beautiful, along with their mirror work. The thing about these beautiful colored mosques, that they stands in sharp contrast and almost obscured by the people who come to pray. The women are mostly dressed in in a black chador; which is a loose, , full length, black gown, that is from the top of the head till the toes and usually open. Sometimes the streets, and monuments are obscured by the amount of women WILLINGLY wearing black in the streets of Isfahan. When I asked about the reason, “we mostly wear it out of tradition, than religion.” However, what I figured out later, that there is a very fine-line between tradition and religion in Isfahan, that at the end you won’t know what is what.

Rice : waste not a grain

You  can’t  imagine  what a bowl  of  rice  pudding  can do to the  soul. After  a long  school  day,  or coming  home  after  a long  day  at work  and  longing  for  comfort  food, this can be the cure. I watched  my husband  coming  sometimes  late  at night, with  an intention  to  skip  dinner  but  wants something  filling  and comforting, and reached immediately for a bowl.  Barely have  time  to  cook?  you can  even have time to  make  dessert. Just take a look inside  your  fridge.

Rice Pudding :

Ingredients:

Minimumm  a cup of well  cooked  leftover  plain rice.

2 cups of milk (preferably  full  cream)

1/2 a cup of fine sugar

1tbs of Rose water

1tsp Mcetkh

1/2 cup of starch

Pistachio powder for garnish

How to make it:
Heat the rice in a cooking pot, add some water to it if you were keeping it in the fridge. After it becomes soft, and it absorbed all the water, add the cold milk,sugar,and starch. Stir till it reaches a boil. Then reduce the heat, add the rose water and Mcetkh. When you feel that it became a soft and homogeneous mix , pour it in bowls or glasses while hot. Cool for minimum

Rice Pudding

Rice Pudding

four hours then serve it cold,garnish with Pistachio powder .

Iran Journal: Iran through the eyes of an outsider

My trapezing in the Middle East  for almost three years finally lead me to Iran.

Tehran: September 2014:
If you visit a traditional, big or small city in Iran, you will immediately notice the stark contrast between them and Tehran.  In some areas like Elahia, and Zafarania, you feel like you left Iran all together. It was very refreshing to see less people in Chadoor ( an open black gown that is normally worn on top of clothes).when I asked Iranian women whether women wearing it is as a sign of being religious or not? They said that its not necessarily that,  and most women wear it out of tradition.

I went to this café that is called the living room, and not only it was impressive because of the decoration, but even the clients were more intriguing. From one look at the young people in the place you can realize that they come from a wealthy background, colorful cloths, bags and shoes are mostly brands, their hair is beautifully styled and completely exposed, the scarf is a piece of ornament that only adds to the elegance of the overall look, and not take from it. Let alone that they all look tanned, as if they just stepped out of a beach somewhere in Florida.
It was interesting how if I closed my eyes for one second and forgot where Iam , I can never relate this image to the rest of images you see around Iran. But this concept only got asserted when a girl walked in with a completely torn out jeans, as if she was attacked by a wolf or something, and most of her thighs and legs were shown, and a tight top that left nothing to the imagination, but of course she has a manteaux pronounced (manto) in Farsi;which is a knee long coat, sometimes longer mostly covering the hip area. But I was surprised of the bold notion of getting out of the house like this, where she can easily be stopped by the police , and according to Iranian law, she can actually be locked up for sometime before a judge can see her, and decide on the punishment(usually an amount of money, and attending some religuios classes).

While in Tehran, I visited another fancy neighbourhood ;Elahia, I saw women coming down from their fancy buildings, blonde hair, stilettos, you can smell her perfume until two blocks later. I forgot to mention the piece of cloth that covers a small portion of the crown of the head aka Veil.
Through my travels in different cities in Iran, I noticed that young people yearn for choice. For flexibility to make their own choice. May be they will choose to practice and be committed religuiosly, they just want to choose.

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