When travelling, we are exposed to a wide variety of new experiences, as well as new cultures. Though these cultures and subsequent cultural practices may be vastly different from our own, it is our responsibility – and our duty – as travellers, to accept and respect these practices as best as we can.
I wrote last week about my incredible experience visiting Nasir ol Molk (The Pink Mosque) in Iran, but unfortunately, I also feel it is necessary to write about the not-so-great parts of that visit, or more specifically, the not-so-great people who happened to be visiting the mosque at the same time as I did.
On this particular day, there was a small tour group of about 10 people present, and honestly, I still cannot quite believe how completely and utterly disrespectful they were.
There are a few points to cover, so lets start at the beginning.
First things first, they were talking so loudly that they were borderline yelling. I mean, honestly guys, when visiting a sacred place like a mosque or church, keeping your voice down should be a given!
Things then got progressively worse.
There were five or six women in this group, and all of them took it upon themselves to remove their hijabs whilst inside the mosque! Now, I understand that people may not love wearing the hijab, but it is just something that you must do while travelling in Iran. Women are expected to don a headscarf at all times (except whilst inside hotels or private residences) and this most definitely includes while inside mosques. In fact, even more modesty is expected while inside these mosques. To take off your headscarf is blatantly disrespectful.
Despite my disapproving glares aimed squarely at these women, they were not deterred in the slightest. They paid me no mind as they continued to parade through the mosque sans headscarves, and they seemed to have no concerns as they then proceeded to start posing provocatively for photographs while doing so!
They took it in turns to spread themselves out on the floor, push out their busts and make themselves look as ‘sexy’ as they possibly could while their fellow travel companions loudly spurred them on. How anyone could think that this is okay, I honestly do not know.
As if that wasn’t already horrible, one of these women decided that she hadn’t already been offensive enough! She grabbed one of the Qurans from inside the mosque and proceeded to use it as a prop while continuing to “sexily” pose on the floor sans headscarf!
It was at this point that I couldn’t stay silent anymore, and I told the women to put their headscarves back on. They seemed to then realize that just because I wasn’t Iranian didn’t mean that I was going to sit back silently and allow them to continue to be disrespectful.
Basically, the moral of this story is that if you ever intend to travel to a country whose most prominent religion is different than your own, only do so if you intend to respect this religion and the customs of that country.
To not do so honestly just makes you a complete and utter asshat.