Tarof Explained (important knowledge for tourists!)

Taarof is a tradition specific to Perisan culture, literally meaning ‘to offer.’ All tourists should be aware of this cultural act of hospitality as they will certainly encounter it frequently in Iran. Taarof is a ritual in Iran where Iranian’s are overpolite, but don’t necessarily mean what they are saying. It indicates humility and respect, but can often be confusing to a foreigner.

I remember being confused at the beginning of my time in Iran when taxi drivers and shopkeepers determinedly refused to accept payment for the journey or things that I wanted to buy. I would keep trying to pay them, until after several attempts the vendor would ‘give up’ and accept payment. I would leave bewildered about what had just happened. Until it happened again. And again. And again.

It was then I realised that this was actually a typical occurrence in Iran; something locally known as taroof. And while confusing for a foreigner, this tradition permeates every social interaction in Iran – people don’t say what they mean. The shopkeepers fully intend to accept payment, though tradition dictates that they must go through the ritual of refusing payment several times. Seeming unnecessary, foreigners must understand taarof in order to navigate Iran proficiently.

Taarof extends to other social situations as well. People will generously offer their personal items, such as an item of clothing or a pen, if you show interest in them, even if they don’t want, or intend to give them to you. I found this once when I complemented a friend of mine on her necklace. She immediately took it off and gave it to me, insisting that I take it. Feeling very happy, I graciously accepted what I thought was a generous gift and carried on with my work. It was only afterwards that I realised that I had ‘taarofed’ the necklace from her.

It is a strange phenomenon for British people, a clash of cultures if you will. In the UK we are used to people being direct and relatively standoffish as a culture. The opposite is true in Iran, where you are instantly accepted as a family member and invited to dinners, weddings. While this hospitality is sincere, and Iranians are lovely and welcoming, it is important for foreigners to understand the concept of taroof, and not take advantage of this generous and humble culture.

Taarof represents the kind essence of Iran’s culture, and their respect for others. Guests are cherished in Iran, and locals will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. The trick is to always pay your way in situations that you would typically expect to pay, such as a taxi ride, or buying gifts – even if it may take three or four exchanges before they accept your payment. Though, you can graciously eat to your hearts content when offered extra portions at dinner!

We wish you a great time in Iran!

Iran’s answer to Uber

As we face the potential of a future London without Uber, let’s look at another place where Uber is also banned: Iran.

Due to the US sanctions on Iran, Uber has not been able to penetrate the Iranian market.

Though, let me introduce you to Snapp, the ‘Iranian Uber.’ Currently the main player in Iran, Snapp now has over 120,000 active drivers in Iran, and is growing from strength to strength as the demand for quick, personalized transport rises.

Just like Uber, it is available on iPhone and Android, and even has an Apple Watch version.

The sanctions have produced an entrepreneurial hub, where the educated, tech savvy youth strive to create start-ups to rival their international equivalents.

This has created a ‘reverse brain-drain’ where Iran’s youth, educated in Europe and the US, are returning to Iran to launch companies, equipped with ideas and training from the West.

And thus, Snapp emerged in 2014; a ride hailing app tailored for the Iranian market. It offers a range of services, including Snapp Rose, which provides female drivers for women, kids and families. And, unlike Uber, Snapp gives you the option to pay in cash or debit card.

True to Iran’s entrepreneurial spirit, Snapp shares its market share with other companies such as Tap30 and Carpino. Though Snapp currently dominates the market with a claimed 80% share.

So, Londoners must realise, that although life might temporarily be harder when we are no longer able to call Ubers to take us to our every destination, we must look to countries that never had Uber.

They are doing well, and their equivalent companies are thriving. Gaps in the market produce innovation and progression.

So, in a London where there is no Uber, perhaps a British version of Iran’s Snapp will come to fill the gap in the market.

Women’s fashion in Iran

This article will address some of the questions that many British women ask us before they travel to Iran. What should I wear?! Do I have to wear a hijab?

And yes, while it is true that all women are required to wear a hijab in Iran (it is the Islamic Republic after all!), Iranian women are incredibly fashionable; Iran’s glamorous fashionistas are more than capable of giving their British counterparts a run for their money!

And the great thing about it is that you don’t have to alter your dress too much from what you would wear in Britain. Where you would wear jeans and a t-shirt in England, in Iran you would wear jeans, a t-shirt and a thin, loose fitting robe, (called a monteau) over the top.

The important thing is just to cover your shape from chest to thighs with the robe, but you can still wear your regular clothes underneath.

As for the hijab, a scarf loosely wrapped over your head is perfectly acceptable these days. Women wear it in a variety of ways, many leave locks of hair styled around their face, others might keep their hair more hidden. It really is personal preference, and should your hijab fall down when you are out and about, you might be politely reminded by a considerate stranger or the religious police to put it back on again.

Some websites recommend loose fitting trousers, and baggy tops, but if you really want to do Iran like an Iranian, it’s imperative that you buy a few of these monteau’s, before you go, that you can throw on over your normal clothes, and you’re good to go.

There is no limit to the colours you can wear; mix and match, wear stripes and patterns, experiment with fabrics – Iran is full of chique, hip women pushing the limits of fashion within an Islamic context.

Though it is important to remain respectful and observant, especially if you are entering a more religious area or a mosque, it would be considered polite to wear your hijab in a more conservative style, and close your monteau with a wrap.

Leave some room in your suitcase, especially if you are going to spend some time in Tehran. The fashionable women on the streets will inspire you, and the city is full of fashionable new retail shops selling a variety of brands.

If you pick up some nice pieces, you will be able to return to Britain showing off your newfound Iranian glamour in flowing robes and stylish outfit combinations.

Again, if you need any advice on this subject, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01344 622832 for a free fashion consultation (or to book your next trip to Iran 😛 )

Satellite image – Shadegan, Iran


The Shadegan wetlands of south-west Iran cover about 400,000 hectares, making this the largest wetland area in the country. The wetlands are composed of a system of ponds, shallow lagoons and marshes, some of which form drainage patterns that resemble tree branches extending from cerulean stems.

Located in a fertile crescent of Iran, the Shadegan wetlands are surrounded by date palm orchards famed for their sweet dates, livestock farms and sugar plantations. Shadegan is also known for its biodiversity; the Shadegan Wildlife Refuge provides sanctuary to animals such as the marbled teal, a diving duck classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.


Five tradition Persian foods you have to try in Tehran

Iranians are known for their delicious food and welcoming hospitality. These are the dishes you have to order while in Iran, or try if you are lucky enough to be invited for a home cooked dinner!

1. Shashlik Kebab

This is a real delicacy, often the most expensive item on the menu, but worth the money. It comprises of succulent lamb chops, often served with bread, pickles and garnish. You can also order Mast, which is a type of thick yoghurt to be eaten with the kebab. Shandiz Garden Restaurant in Tehran is the go to place for Shaslik Kebab, known for its unlimited servings.

2. Ghormeh Sabzi



This is the Iranian national dish, known as Iranian herb stew. Ghormeh is the Persian word for stew, and Sabzi is the Persian word for ‘greens’. This is a delicious dish, often served with lamb, and can be eaten with either bread or rice. This is an important dish for Iranian people, and is traditionally served to family member’s after they have been away for a long time.

3. Zeresk Polo Ba Morgh

My personal favourite; it’s crispy roast chicken served with rice mixed with sweet butter and Zeresk (a small dried, red berry.)

To make it extra special part of the rice can also be flavoured with saffron and cooked to make a tadeek. Tadeek is a Persian speciality where they intentionally burn the bottom of the rice a little to make it crispy and slightly chewy. A very delicious and simple dish.

4. Abgoosht

Abgoosht, also known as Dizi, is an interesting dish, that comes in a boiling clay pot filled with whole potatoes, chickpeas and pieces of lamb. Traditionally you pour out the liquid in a separate dish, and drink it with flatbread crotons.

Then you use the metal masher, to smash the remaining ingredients together in the clay pot to make a stew type consistency and then enjoy.

Best eaten in the outdoor restaurants on Darband Mountain, North Tehran. On the walk up the mountain there are numerous restaurants where you can sit on Persian rugs next to waterfalls and relax, eat and smoke shisha pipes.

5. Bastani sonnati

This is Persian traditional ice cream, and it has a sweet, unique taste, and can become highly addicti ve! A truly delicious ice-cream made from Persian ingredients such as saffron, rose water and pistachios, mixed with the occasional frozen flake of clotted cream.

A delight at the end of any meal, or worth a trip to the specialised ice cream stalls in Tajrish Market, Tehran.

6. Bonus Item – Kale Pache!

An item only the bravest of you will try, this dish consists of a boiled sheeps head, including brains, cheeks, eyes, tongue, as well as hooves in a shallow bowl of broth. Traditionally eaten in the early hours of the morning, and to be found only in speciality Kale Pache restaurants which light up the streets from 3am to dawn.

Five interesting things to do in Tehran

Tehran is the buzzing capital of Iran, a fascinating juxtaposition of modern and ancient cultures, an entrepreneurial spirt and a traditional mind-set; the West colliding with the East. With half the population under 30 years old, this vibrant city offersa true gateway into the modern Persian culture, which is still very firmly set in a historical land; only here it is possible to go from shopping in a giant modern mall, across the road to the Shah’s legendary palace, into the ancient, winding alleys full of shisha smokers and bazaar stalls, and finally ending up in one of the many art galleries arising on Tehran’s contemporary cultural scene.


Here at Magic Carpet Travel, let us show you the five attractions that you must see, should you ever get the chance to visit this fascinating modern city, in the ancient land of Persia.

1. Golestan Palace

A jewel of Tehran; the palace and gardens of the former Shah of Iran. Golestan Palace was used as a centre for power and art since the Safavid Dynasty, and now consists of a group of Royal buildings displayed as museums and acres of tranquil gardens. You could easily spend a day here wandering through the King’s courts, and visiting each of the nine museums to gain a glimpse of the extravagances and marvels of the palace under the formerKing’s rule. No trip to Tehran would be complete without a visit.

2. The Holy Defence Museum

If you are looking for an interesting way to spend half a day in Iran, The Holy Defence Museum will certainly provide you with that. This is an impressive museum, set on 21 hectares of land, that takes you through the entire history of the 1980 Iran-Iraq war. You are able to walk through the timeline of events, displayed in giant air hanger spaces, and gain a fascinating perspective on the events. This is a well put together museum, with a large variety of displays, surreal artwork and sensory effects, that take you back in time to one of the most important events in Iran’s modern history. English speaking guides available.

3. Contemporary Art Museum

A place for art lovers, located next to Park e-Laleh in downtown Tehran, this museum holds one of the greatest collections ofIranian modern and contemporary art. A truly fascinating place to visit, where traditional Persian art is displayed amongst its Western counterparts such as Vincent van Gogh. In a city teaming with pop up art galleries, come here for a concentration of rotating exhibitions, films and performance art.

The museum is currently showing the world renounced Parviz Tanavoli, The Lions of Iran Exhibition, a fantastic display of abstract, symbolic lions.

4. Skiing!

A little-known fact is Tehran’s amazing Ski resorts; Shemshak, Dizin, Darbandsar and Tochal, all just a short drive from Tehran. During the winter, you can find powdery mountains to rival any European ski slope. If you are a fan of skiing, why not ride out your next ski season in Tehran, with a multitude of boutique hotels located on sight, and over 4 resorts to choose from surrounding Tehran, you can spend the entire Winter discovering new runs. All ski equipment can be rented at the resorts and a day ski pass is around the equivalent of £10.

5. Azadi Tower

Literally meaning Freedom Tower, Azadi Tower is the modern symbol of Iran. You will likely drive past this landmark on your way into Tehran from the airport, though it is worth a visit in itself as, underneath the tower lies an art museum displaying artefacts of Iranian cultural and national heritage. If you are lucky, you may also be able to attend a Persian modern music or comedy performance, in its underground theatre!

The list definitely doesn’t end here; we hope it’s just enough to get you started!

Author: Loretta Rice


Iran’s ancient cave village

iran village

An ancient cave villageIran’s ancient village of Maymand, located around 900km south of the capital Tehran, is littered with troglodytic dwellings ‒ cavernous, underground homes carved out of soft rock. Stone engravings found at the site are estimated to be more than 10,000 years old.

A Unesco World Heritage Site, Maymand is said to have been inhabited continuously for more than 2,000 years, which makes it one of Iran’s oldest surviving villages.

Seasonal housing

Tucked away in a valley within the arid mountains of central Iran, Maymand experiences extremely hot summers and severely cold winters. To adapt to these harsh conditions, villagers switch homes according to the season.

In the summer and early autumn, they live in homes with grass thatch roofs which help protect them from the oppressive heat. When temperatures plummet and bone-chilling winds sweep the valley, Maymand residents move underground.

Iran's ancient cave village


Winter caves

Of the 400 caves built more than 10,000 years ago, 90 remain intact. These cave homes can contain up to seven rooms, each about 2m tall and 20m squared, although size varies from cave to cave.

Modern living

Residents have updated the caves to suit their lifestyle: they have electricity, which allows for refrigeration, and even televisions. However, there is no running water, and ventilation is minimal. The dark film that covers some of the walls is a result of the soot from the fires used to cook or heat the rooms.

Remnants of an ancient past

The village once followed the ancient mystical religion of Zoroastrianism, which prospered under Persian rule. Vestiges of Maymand’s spiritual past remain, like the Kicheh Dobandi, a cave that is said to have once been a temple (and is now a small museum).

In the 7th Century, Islam overtook Zoroastrianism as the primary religion in Maymand, and today, the caves are home to one of the few cave mosques in the world (pictured).

Nomadic shepherds

The majority of the villagers are agro-pastoralists, raising cattle on mountain pastures and bringing the animals with them when they migrate to the caves, which feature underground stables. Residents also collect medicinal plants, which they claim help them achieve good health and long lives.

A disappearing lifestyle

Today, fewer people are choosing to live in the caves, instead moving to neighbouring towns in the winter and returning in the summer. Only an estimated 150 people populate the village throughout the year.

Preserving a legacy

The dwindling year-round population poses a threat to the survival of Maymand’s unique lifestyle. In 2001, the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization has worked to raise awareness of Maymand. Since then, the village has received more visitors; today Maymand even has caves where tourists can stay the night to experience a way of life that has persisted for millennia. (Credit: Rodolfo Contreras)