Video: Finding Love In Iran

When people think of Iran, dating isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. It’s a conservative country with a strict form of Islamic law. Natural urges are unconquerable, though, and young people will always find a way to hook up. This video from Alessio Rastani describes how the young and well-off find love in Tehran, Iran’s capital. Rastani talks with his cousins, who live there, about how to go about it and what Iranian women are looking for in a man.

This is nothing new. When I was in university back in the ’90s, one of my friends was an Iranian woman studying in the U.S. She told me that when she was in a girls’ high school, guys would hang out in front of the gate at the end of the day and throw little balled up pieces of paper onto the ground with their phone numbers on them. If you liked the guy, you picked up the piece of paper and called.

She was strictly Muslim, so talking was all she did. She liked one guy enough that she got permission for him to come over. After a few visits, her parents left them alone together. The first time this happened they sat together and talked for a couple of hours. After he left, her mother came out from the next room and said she’d been listening the whole time and was proud that she had been a good girl. My friend replied, “What did you expect me to do!?”

For her, you could be a good Muslim and still have fun.

Check out Rastani’s YouTube channel, HelloIranTV, for more great videos about life in Iran.

Video of the Day – IranAir 727 makes emergency landing

Just one week ago on October 18th, an IranAir Boeing 727 landed at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport without the use of its front landing gear, after the bay of the nose gear failed to open on approach.

The crew performed a landing without the nose gear on runway 29L and came to a stand still on both the main gear and the nose of the aircraft. The flight, traveling from Moscow to Iran, held 94 passengers and 19 crew members; none were injured in the landing.

Video of the landing has now surfaced on Youtube, demonstrating an incredibly skillful landing executed by the pilot and his crew.

Hats off to a job well done in a critical situation. If you’ve seen incredible rescue video online or witnessed an amazing safety performance on your travels, we want to see it. Leave us a link the comments below or submit your photos to our Flickr Pool. It could just be the next Photo/Video of the Day!

Five ways to get to Kabul, Afghanistan

Does your definition of “adventure travel” involve a safety briefing and equipment to keep you safe? If so, there’s a hard-core version of the concept that you’ve been missing. Chase the ultimate thrill in Afghanistan, and your world will never be the same. In case you haven’t heard, there’s a war going on, not to mention plenty of corruption. You will have an adventure to talk about when if you get home.

So, how do you get there?

Unsurprisingly, there isn’t a lot of demand for travel to Afghanistan. It looks like your best (and sometimes only) bet is to fly into Kabul and branch out from there. Flight availability varies with the fighting and willingness of air carriers to assume the attendant risk, so you may need to hunt around a bit and be flexible. The good news, though, is that the flights appear to be relatively inexpensive.

Below, you’ll find five ways to get to Kabul. The rest is up to you.

%Gallery-9128%1. Air Arabia: though it seems this airline used to offer flights directly to Kabul, this destination is no longer listed. But, you can always get close: fly to Peshawar, Pakistan, and take your chances with a local guide or solo trek.

Bonus: Air Arabia isn’t flying into a war zone any more. Take the hint.

2. Ariana Afghan Airlines: this regional carrier offers flights to Kabul from more than a dozen cities, including some that are recognizable and easily accessible, like Frankfurt and Moscow. A quick look at the website shows you that Ariana specializes in Kabul, as every flight available either starts or ends there. If you’re looking to save a few bucks on your little adventure, you could do worse: roundtrip tickets are only around $1,000 and kids’ fares are even cheaper (bring the whole family!). There are additional discounts for long-term stays of six months or a year. Unsettlingly, one-way fares are listed on the website.

Bonus: There is a customer loyalty program, but details have yet to be published.

3. Pakistan International: There aren’t any direct flights to Kabul, unless you fly from Dubai, make that your first stop from the United States. Flights from Islamabad are available only four days a week (Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday). If you prefer to leave from Peshawar, you’re limited to Saturdays. Build this into your itinerary.

Bonus: Business class seats are available!

4. Kam Air: Do you want choices? You’ll get them with Kam Air! Among the cities that will get you to Kabul are Dubai, New Delhi and Islamabad. Tehran and Mashad require layovers in Mazar, which you probably don’t want. When planning your travel, pay attention to which cities have flights to Kabul on which days (your best bet is Dubai).

Bonus: You have choices … what more could you want?

5. Get a job: if you really are committed to visiting Afghanistan, consider finding employment there. I’ve heard that there are plenty of U.S. government jobs that offer no end of opportunity to go to Afghanistan. You’ll even get free clothing and be surrounded by some well-trained security folks (hint, hint).

Bonus: You’ll get money for college.

[photo by isafmedia via Flickr]

Iranian and British national museums face off over artifact

Iran’s national museum has cut off ties with the British Museum because of a controversy over a 2,500 year-old cuneiform tablet called the Cyrus cylinder. One of the most important artifacts from Persian civilization, the cylinder was supposed to be loaned to Iran but the loan has been delayed. Iran says the delay is politically motivated, but the British Museum says they need to compare the artifact to two similar tablets that were discovered recently. This is a change from the reason they gave back in October, citing the insecure situation after Iran’s disputed national elections.

In anticipation of displaying the cylinder in Tehran, the National Museum of Iran has spent $200,000 to enhance its security systems, but now it has nothing to display. The UK now faces the possibility of having all its scientific and cultural missions to Iran canceled. The move is similar to what Egypt did to the Louvre a few months ago in protest over some artifacts stolen from the Valley of the Kings.

The Cyrus cylinder was made in 539 BC to commemorate Cyrus the Great’s conquest of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. The inscription is significant for several reasons. It mentions returning exiles to their homeland, which might refer to the end of the Jews’ Babylonian captivity. Some scholars have written that this passage and others about just rule make the cylinder is the world’s first declaration of human rights, although it is by no means comparable to a modern constitution. The text is online here.

Destinations feature highly in top Twitter trends of 2009

It wasn’t explicit, but the top Twitter trends of 2009 have a hint of travel built into them. Sure, it was the elections in Iran that put made “Tehran” and “Iran” among the top 10 news items trending this year, and politics pushed “Gaza” up there, as well. And, we all remember the H1N1 Swine Flu epidemic, which has been memorialized in the form of “Swine Flu” and “#swineflu” on the microblogging site. Six of the top 10 new trends on Twitter had implications for travelers.

Twitter exploded this year, entering the public consciousness and drawing enough action to bring its user base close to 60 million. Travel writers spent the year devising new ways to use Twitter to help their readers circle the globe and suggesting interesting and unusual tweet-masters to follow. So, 2009 was for exploration, and 2010 will put Twitter on the mobile devices of even recreational travelers as they look for hotel rooms, hunt for cheap fares and try to get the lay of the land at the destinations on their itineraries.

Beyond tips and tricks, a travel community developed on Twitter, with bloggers and reporters, destinations and publicists and travelers of all types collaborating to help each other get the most out of every jaunt. We learned who has the best info through such practices as #TravelTuesday, which gave everyone recommendations on whom to follow.

Travel didn’t gain enough of a profile to unseat the major newsmakers, top movies and TV shows and major sporting events, but there was plenty of travel intel we were able to pick up from the news trends – especially for those of us with a more adventurous bent – and the action within our own community was certainly enough to prove the value of this tool to jetsetters of all types.

So, peck away at your devices next year, and let’s resolve to contribute to a robust, useful and exciting travel tweet-stream in 2010. Even if we don’t make the top 10 for travel reasons at this time next year, we’ll all have benefitted from the shared experiences of millions of airport-dwellers, business travelers and adventure-seekers. Whether they’re on-the-ground updates on delayed flights or tips on where to get the best hotdog in a strange place, it’s up to us to give each other news we can use.