Wheelchair Accessible Journey to Iran
By Mirko and Xiomara Tomassoni © 2002

We know than the Middle East isn't often the first objective to go using a wheelchair, and, above all, if your final destination is Iran the Ancient Persia, the First Islamic Republic.

But anyway you want to call this country with its 1,648,000 km, it is important to say that it is a safe place to enjoy in a wheelchair! And speaking English is better if you only can say "bebakshid" (I'm sorry) in farsi, the official language.

Our honeymoon trip started in Rome, the last June 13th, at the Fiumicino International Airport. We began to feel the adventure when we checked to board because Xiomara had to start using a "foulard" to cover her hair and wear a long- sleeved blouse to cover her arms.

After 4:30 hours we arrived at the Mehrabad International Airport in Teheran. A friend, we met through Internet, and her family were waiting for us.

The Mehrabad Airport had the people, the narrow wheelchair and the lift necessary to make my disembarking comfortable.

The first impact after viewing all the women dressed in a "chador" (long dress with long sleeves) and a "foulard" (but many of them with a nice makeup), was the traffic: It is incredible the level of risk a person takes to cross the street or needs to drive without experience, but... all the taxi drivers and our friends are accustomed and secure, so going by car was safe for us. too.

The politeness of the Persian people is famous, and we loved it, especially when we found ourselves in front of us some stairs...

You can remain shocked about all the announcements about the army and the politics that they have on the walls. The cars are not exactly the latest models-- most of them are "Paykan." produced in Iran. There is pollution in Teheran Center and South, but they have clean streets,  safe water (one of the purest in the world), even though the standard of living is lower,  as are the salaries for people who finish the university.

Anyway, we were lucky, because our friend lives in the North of Teheran, where the air is less contaminated (the Elburz mountains are nearest), and we enjoyed the must traditional Persian dishes: Fesenjan (chicken with -granada-, nuts, cardamomo and egg plant); chicken with eggplants, pepper; rice with fried potatoes slices, rice with nuts, almonds, zaferan, pistachios and berries; ball meat with vegetables called "Kufté"; the Persian ice cream made with flower "Faludé"; the kebab (meat or chicken), and also the fast food of Nader (Kentucky Fried Chicken).

Disabled veteran's stamp

Xiomara points to an access sign. Mirko samples the ghalyan.

Teheran is a modern city with big commercial centers, a lot of parks and squares, all kinds of houses, parking lots for disabled people at the airport, comfortable places to eat kebab and smoke the ghalyan, with exotic tobaccos of banana or berries, which were perfect for Friday night. We saw an interesting and nice tradition: during the holidays (weekend) people picnic at noon or afternoon until midnight, with the family or friends, but all the people so relaxed, so secure... Here the violence or the robberies are so strange. 

After these experiences, we decided to visit the past.  We took a plane 900km2 to the center of Iran and the city known as the cradle of Persian culture: Shiraz. This city is famous for the tourists and for the Iranians because of its mosque, tea rooms, Vakil Bazar (a lot of stores with all that you need), the Eram Botanical Garden, and because of its famous poets' tombs: Hafez and Sa'Dí.

At Eram Garden 

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