Since I was a child, I have been lucky enough to have my twin sister by my side. She has always been the ideal partner in crime. As kids, she was the one carrying the flashlight while I was leading the way on an improvised cave exploration. As teenagers, she was the one going reverse bungee jumping with me, while all of our friends were too scared to try. As young adults, she is now the one hitting the road with me to explore the world off the beaten path. From hitchhiking to Turin, to hiking with the tribes in the Vietnamese mountains, to driving in the Iranian desert with a flat tire, she is always ready for an adventure – even when we don’t know where we’ll sleep for the night!

Last summer, after being fed up with listening to all the negative things the media was spreading about the Middle East, we decided to go to Iran. When I told my friends, they had mixed feelings about it. Some had doubts about our destination but were curious and supportive. Others just didn’t understand our choice, thinking that we were once again putting ourselves in danger. I listened to all the ‘I don’t know why I’m asking you where you are going on holiday, you always pick creepy places!’, ‘You know that you will have to wear a scarf, right? Is that ok with you?’ and ‘I hope that you will come back alive’; and I told myself that I would make sure to debunk all their prejudices once I am back. So here I am, debunking every myth you might have heard about Iran one by one.

Without a doubt, Iran has an image problem. That's why we are debunking the 5 most common myths and encourage you to see it for yourself!

Myth #1: Iran is nothing but a vast desert.

It’s true that two thirds of the country are exclusively made of sand. You actually have to know that the hottest spot on earth is in Iran: 75°C in the Dasht-e Loot desert. You can actually cook an egg there, just like that. But Iran is much more than a desert. The Northern and the Western parts of the country are much cooler and host gorgeous valleys and mountains. Those areas are mostly rejected by Western tourists, but are loved by locals. There, they have the opportunity to enjoy rain and fresh air. If you like traveling off the beaten track, small villages in the mountains are tailored for you!

For instance, we visited Masuleh, a remote village not so far from the Caspian Sea, with small streets, houses made out of yellow clay and yards on the roofs of the buildings below. We were the only foreigners there and met a great deal of Iranians. That was our first day in Iran and right from the start, we were invited for tea, we exchanged dozens of phone numbers and learned so much about Iranians and their incomparable sense of hospitality.

Without a doubt, Iran has an image problem. That's why we are debunking the 5 most common myths and encourage you to see it for yourself!

Myth #2: Iran is an Arabic country.

Contrary to common belief, Iran is not an Arabic country. Iranians are Persians and they are really proud of their heritage. Just like many other countries in the Middle East, Iran was historically invaded by the Arabs who introduced their religion and tried to impose their language, but actually failed to do so. This is a fact which gives Iran great pride, particularly as neighboring colonised countries failed to maintain their dialects.

Once on a tour to the Maranjab Desert, our guide said something quite funny which underlined this mindset: ‘You have to remember 3 things about Iran. First, we are Persians. We were invaded by Arabs. Second, please, ‘invade’ us (he meant, come visit Iran to stop confusing Iranians and Arabs). Third, listen to your grandparents!’

Without a doubt, Iran has an image problem. That's why we are debunking the 5 most common myths and encourage you to see it for yourself!

Myth #3: Iranian women have no rights.

As a matter of fact, Iranians tend to despise poor behaviour towards women. Okay, women have to wear a hijab just like in most Muslim countries, but the legislation is not that harsh about it. Most of them flippantly put a colourful scarf on their head, dye their hair as they please, and wear skin-tight clothes with a trench-coat. Western travellers are actually the unfashionable ones here!

Here, women can drive a car, they have access to higher education (we met so many female PhD students), they can hang out with male friends (even though physical interactions are still prohibited in public), they can stay single as long as they please, and they can have their own flat. Of course, there are still certain exceptions, but where in the world aren’t there?

Without a doubt, Iran has an image problem. That's why we are debunking the 5 most common myths and encourage you to see it for yourself!

In Masuleh for instance, we met Sahar, a twenty year-old girl all dressed in black. She is one of the few to wear both a hijab and a chador. When she invited us to stay with her family in Shiraz, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to cross the line between the public and the private spheres. We were really curious about the way people would behave in their home, out of the sight of the government. We spent 3 days with the family, and it was totally worth it! If there is one thing we learned in Iran, it is not to judge a book by its cover. Sahar regretted the fact that wearing a scarf was forbidden in some foreign universities. She is to be a doctor, and even though she would love to study abroad, she values her hijab more than foreign education. She is very religious, full of ambition and pride, she has the unconditional support of her father, and there is no way in the world that she would get married before graduating (so not for the next 8 years).

Without a doubt, Iran has an image problem. That's why we are debunking the 5 most common myths and encourage you to see it for yourself!

Myth #4: You cannot trust Iranians. As a matter of fact, they are terrorists.

When we were in Kashan, we met a family from Iranian Azerbaijan. The father told us something sad, but true: ‘Outside, the world thinks that we are terrorists..’ Struck by the gap between common Western beliefs and reality, we took a picture of him and his lovely family – to show the world how people they think are Islamist radicals really look.

Not only they are not terrorists, but, whether they are religious or not, Iranians are extremely welcoming. They are always ready to give you a hand whenever needed, to share a cup of tea and to give you a bed for the night! Can you say the same about the people in your country? At home in France for instance, it is definitely not like that…

Without a doubt, Iran has an image problem. That's why we are debunking the 5 most common myths and encourage you to see it for yourself!

Myth #5: It’s impossible to visit Iran without planning everything ahead.

When we left Paris, we had no visa and no hostels booked. We only had a vague idea of the places we wanted to travel to, a few contacts we got through couchsurfing and our cameras.

As I said earlier, right from the beginning, we were struck by the kindness of the Iranian people. Even before we arrived in the country, we had loads of replies from hosts, tons of helpful tips and even invitations to weddings! As a matter of fact, we were happy not to have planned anything ahead. People invited us over, offered us dinner, showed us around, helped us get a sim card and repair our shoes. They even negotiated with taxi drivers for us and called back to make sure that we had safely arrived where we wanted.

Without a doubt, Iran has an image problem. That's why we are debunking the 5 most common myths and encourage you to see it for yourself!

After such an experience, it is our duty to let everybody know how wrong they are not to visit this beautiful country because the media brainwashes us with bullshit in the name of creating a religious and political discord. A whole people cannot be defined by their political leader.

As our tour guide said in the Maranjab desert, please, ‘invade’ Iran and see for yourself!

Without a doubt, Iran has an image problem. That's why we are debunking the 5 most common myths and encourage you to see it for yourself!


This is a guest post by Claire Barthet.

unnamedSince Claire was a child, she has always wanted to become an adventurer, to travel the world and to unveil its mysteries, possibly on a boat! Too bad, she’s not into sailing… And yet she travels, often with her twin sister, to feed her insatiable curiosity, to overcome language barriers and move beyond the life that she grew up with.

Follow her on Instagram @acrosstheline_pictures