Women Games - eh?.

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It's rare that I see non-Iranian folk while traveling around Iran and with this, I usually enjoy the status of exotic foreigner, yet, a visit to Hotel Laleh - Tehran last week shattered this monopoly of attention I held. I was weaving through the lobby, passing brightly coloured tracksuits like the gates of a slalom run and was intrigued as I read "Azerbaijan"; "Uzbekistan"; "Kazakhstan" arched on the backs of these uniformed women*. After investigating further it appeared that Hotel Laleh was host to athletes of the Forth Islamic Women's Games. The event boasted participants from 40-countries partaking in various sports such as golf, basketball, karate, swimming and even "tenise"**. I was fascinated - curious as to how one can wear a black plastic bag during physical excursion, but, team Uzbek seemed to have found a way round this by fashioning a bandanna from their headscarfs. Amidst this crowd I eventually found our guests that we had come to meet.

This British couple - friends of my father, were part-way through a "Silk Route" alternative holiday before we meet them at the hotel. This package holiday had taken them on a tour to the historical sites of Iran prior to my meeting them. The tour follows one of many old transport routes of the silk traders, with our guests' specific route taking them from the city of Shiraz to a city in Uzbekistan (formerly part of Persia). I had heard stories of their arrival, where my father met them at Tehran's Mirabad airport before their tour began and was most amused at there reaction to the country. These stories still resonate over meals with the family, where a mixture of heat, hygiene and horrorific traffic troubled the our female guest. My father still tirelessly repeats the comments made by the gentleman where he was surprised to have not seen any camels or donkeys.

For me, their visit allowed me to feel more like a citizen and I was happy to relay the many cultural differences. It was also nice to take a break from the stuttered, slow and clear English speaking I'd become accustomed to. This was happily exercised on our visit to the Iranian Contemporary Art Museum, where I instantly perked up at the realisation of the current exhibition. The museum is currently exhibiting loaned 20th century artworks from various noteworthy galleries such as the Tate Modern. I trekked around with one of our guests, exhibiting my fragmented knowledge of Modernism whilst excitedly digesting new pieces by favored artist. I am still dumb-founded at this collection and am making further plans for further visits.

The rest of our visitor's day was consumed with tours of jewelry stores and the family sports complex before we went for dinner at a plush outdoor restaurant beside a river that flows through the Karaj mountains. We indulged in the usual mix of kebab and Hubble Bubble pipe before sharing controversial conversation regarding religion on our return journey. I was both pleased and concerned to indulge in the debate and as the only "non-believer" in the car I was surprised to hear such refreshing perspectives - although - I swear my father and step-mother chose to not hear a lot of what was said between myself and our guests.

*Further countries participating: Armenia, Bosnia, Brunie, Georgia, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kyrghizstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Senegal and Syria. 
**Further list of events: badminton, handball, table tennis, taekwondo and volleyball.


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