Travel Diary: Couchsurfing in Iran



Joanna Horanin

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Last updated at 20/05/2024, 18:45

Hi, I'm Joanna, the author of The Blond Travels. In the worlds of Thailand and Portugal, I feel like a fish in water - and it's no coincidence! I've been exploring Thailand for over a decade, and I've settled in Portugal for 6 years now. My mission is to support Dreamers - just like you - in discovering these fascinating countries and helping those in love with them find their own place on Earth, preferably for good! Let's uncover these unique corners of the world together.

I’m not sure why I decided to use Couchsurfing in Iran. Probably because all the bloggers who went to Iran really recommended me that option. And because it’s a completely different country from where I’ve been to so far, I thought ‘why not’ and decided to try it out.

I had used Couchsurfing a couple of times before. In most cases my experience was good, but in a few instances it ended in a bad way. This time I was careful. I chose to use Couchsurfing in Yazd and picked a girl as my host, which lived with her parents.

When Zara came out to greet me and I saw her smiling face, I knew that we were going to be friends. I think I know people well and can recognize their emotions and their personalities. I instantly know when a person will be a good friend of mine. I thought Zara was beaming with joy and openness. I wanted to hug her straight away.

I was welcomed in her house like a long-awaited friend. Zara took me to her room, which we shared. She showed me her full wardrobe, cosmetics and her drawing kit. She was so happy that she could finally practised her English! Constantly she apologised for her language skills, which weren’t that bad at all.

When I told her what I did in my life, she looked at me with her eyes wide opened. ‘You want to tell me that people can work from home and actually not go to the office every day?!’ She worked as an administrator at a school and she really didn’t like her job.

When I asked her what she wanted to do in life, she told me that she really wanted to travel and get to know the world. She dreamed about going to Turkey, or to the south of Iran. Unfortunately, being only 25 and not having a husband, and earning very little, an Iranian woman must stay at home with her parents. ‘I will get out of here one day’ – she laughed – ‘I will travel and I will manage to make a living somehow’. I am keeping my fingers crossed for her.

We ate dinner while sitting on the floor, in a real Iranian style. The dishes were set up on a patterned table cloth and spaghetti with meat waited for us in a big pot. I really didn’t expect to it that in Iran!

Her parents didn’t speak a word in English, but they smiled all the time. Zara’s mum had the most beautiful smile in the world and she was a very welcoming and warm person. Every now and then she put the pot with pasta near my plate and gestured for me to take more.

Her dad – a big man with a moustache – looked at me shyly and didn’t say a word during the whole meal. He seemed nice tough, but my presence was a little awkward for him, I think.

It took Zara quite a long time to get ready to go out. She couldn’t decide which colour of hijab she should wear, then there was a problem with her jacket and if it went with the hijab. I think women all over the world have the same problems. I observed her with amusement. There was something childish and innocent about her, which made me feel even more fond of her.

We took a car to the city. Zara was a very chaotic driver. She was driving while talking on the phone, she took off her gloves, then she put them on again, she put lipstick on and then she talked to me while gesturing her hands. I was glad the seat belts actually worked.

Yazd is a city on the border of two deserts. In June it’s very, very hot there. Even the evenings don’t bring any relief. I felt like someone closed me in an oven. When the sun set, people went out on the streets and sat down on benches spread around beautiful and colourful mosques.

We met with Zara’s boyfriend – Mahjid and another friend from Couchsurfing – Vlad from Ukraine, who was looking for some company in Yazd. We wandered the streets for a few hours, got lost and went into the darkest corners of the old city. Mahjid knew so many interesting stories about Yazd, its people and culture.

A man, who was about 50 years old, invited us to his house for cake and tea. Inside, his old mother sat on a big bed. They’ve been living there for 5 generations. The building is being constantly renovated, but the garden with a very characteristic chimney looked poorly. The family doesn’t have much money for renovations. But they talked about their family so proudly. They said that despite some difficulties they love the area and their neighbours that are so friendly and open.

The two days I spent in Yazd went very quickly. There were a lot of laughter, a lot of warmth. I made new friends and experienced the true Iranian hospitality. We watched sun sets on the rooftops, we walked through the city, tried local food and talked about life and travelling.

I cried when we said good bye. I really get used to people I meet quickly and truly believe that they appear on our way for a reason. Every person teaches us something valuable.

Do I recommend Couchsurfing in Iran? Yes, definitely, but remember about safety! You can read my post about my bad experiences with the site and learn something from it before you find a host. I’m sure that if you’re reasonable and careful, you’ll have the best time ever!