Nowruz, or No Ruz, is Persian new year which begins sometimes in the middle of March and lasts for two weeks. This is the biggest holiday in Iran, and Iranians leave home to visit families in other cities, and also travel to different regions in the country for some quality family time. Thus bus tickets are hard to come by, and it’s even harder to find a room in any accommodations.
For this reason a lot of travel guides to Iran cite this as a time to avoid traveling to this fascinating country. But I didn’t think that way. I specifically chose this time of the year to visit Iran. I’m a street photographer. I love photographing people. And this was going to be time where I will have chance to meet the locals do their things right before my eyes. What’s not to like? So in March, 2016, I took a flight to Tehran, and began my three weeks photographic journey in the country. Here, I’d like to let you know why you should consider visiting Iran during Nowruz.
1. Being in the crowd as a foreigner
It’s inevitable wherever you go during the time of No Ruz, there will be people everywhere. It won’t be easy visiting popular travel destinations. Places us tourists want to visit, are the same places the locals want to visit during this time of the year. But it actually can be a good thing. Instead of having foreign people fill the places without a single sight of local human beings, which happens a lot when you visit world famous attractions such as Statue of liberty, Taj Mahal, etc, here you can be among the local people and fully embrace how the locals do it. You won’t be an outsider looking in. You will be an insider. And locals will be happy to take you on.
2. People are generally happier.
As it is the biggest holiday of the year, people are generally happier. Who wouldn’t be if they’ve got two weeks vacation? That means Iranians are in a good mood during this time, and it isn’t too hard to get people to smile, and on every corner of the streets you will easily spot people having fun. I don’t know about you but I’m a kind of photographer who loves photographing people in joy. I don’t feel like pressing shutter when people seem to be in distress, or just flat out miserable. When people around you are happy, you feel happy too. That makes this trip a lot more fun.
3. Shows Everywhere
Nowruz means people are everywhere. When people are pouring out on the streets, street performers know it’s their time to shine. Naturally, it’s easy to spot musicians, and showmen perform on the streets, especially on famous squares. It gives such lively atmosphere. And the guys who dare to perform in front of a huge crowds, they are bound to be pretty good most of the time. You don’t need to pay for a big time theatre to enjoy it. Just be there and let your minds go loco.
4. You Could Be On TV
Well it’s a minor thing, but during my time in Iran I was interviewed by a TV reporter. They found me to be an interesting subject, one of few foreigners enjoying the occasion in the country. If you’re a seasoned traveler you know it. Locals love it when foreigners take in their traditional culture. So you being there just might be enough to let the whole nation see your face and hear your voice.
5. People Will Line Up To Take a Photo With You.
Being an Islamic country, Iran could be a place where you have to be more careful taking pictures of humans. Middle east travelers know this, I’m sure. But during Nowruz time people loosen up. Most of them travel as a big family and they all want a picture with a foreigner, and a family portrait can’t hurt! So it’s actually a nice time of the year to approach the locals with a camera in hand, and you won’t be bothering them. There were many times that I took pictures with Iranians. In fact, few times people actually lined up to take a picture with me. I took more than half an hour just taking pictures with people. They not only bring photographs, but they also bring stories to you. They will talk to you, endless stories, family tales. You can spend hours just meeting new people.
6. Sure There Are Negatives But..
I won’t lie there are also inconvenience to being in Iran during this time. As aforementioned it’s hard to find a hotel room. I mean you can find it, but it’s not easy to find a good one, unless you’ve booked them at least a month in advance. The ones you find on the spot will be less than ideal and cost more than it should. Many times I was turned away from the accommodations I’ve wanted to stay. I didn’t find that to be too much of a problem, though. Iran in general is pretty well developed city and while you might not score the best place to sleep you still will find a decent hotel to lay your back. I also didn’t really have problem scoring my bus tickets, as long as I’ve booked them a day or two beforehand. And while there are more cars on the streets, it’s no big a traffic like you’d see in Seoul or New York. Only at Persepolis I felt it was a bit too much.
I think a trip truly begins when your plan doesn’t go as planned. You’re only a tourist if your itinerary stays on course. Travel is where you get lost, placed on a sensory overload. Iran is a fascinating country to travel no matter the time of the year, that is for sure. But if I have to choose, I won’t be hesitant choosing Nowruz time. I know a lot of travel guides say no. So I wanted to be the one to tell you that it’s ok to go then. It’s more than ok to go. It was one of the best time I’ve had on the road. I miss it.