Parting Shots: Gay Tour Iran With Coda Tours

By @ 08/30/15 in Gay travel, ManAboutWorld, Parting Shots, Travel

Gay tour Iran, in ManAboutWorld gay travel magazineIn May 2015, Coda Tours operated its first small group gay tour to Iran, visiting Tehran, Shiraz, Persepolis, Tadz, Isfahan, Kashan & Qom. Jim Smith is the founder of Coda Tours, a leader in small group luxury travel for the gay and lesbian market since 1998. We asked him to provide photos of his Gay Tour to Iran for the Parting Shots section of this month’s issue of the magazine. Here are more of his photos and a Q&A with Jim Smith on his passion for that part of the world.

  1. Why did you choose to go to Iran?

I have always wanted to go to Iran. Its history is so important to Western Civilization and one can best become intimate with a country’s history by traveling in that country. My reasons are also mundane: because it is there, because it is in the news (and I do like to formulate my own opinions and not follow blindly those of the media and politicians) and because I have been in every other Middle Eastern country (not that Iran is technically in the Middle East) and nearly every Arabian peninsula country.

  1. Can Americans go to Iran? (And do you offer tours?)

There are no restrictions on Americans traveling to Iran (only Cuba carries restrictions for us.) The visa process is more involved than for most countries, but provided the applicant is not a journalist or politically connected, a visa is issued. Coda Tours ran its first trip to Iran this year, and we will repeat it in April 2016.

  1. What is their feeling towards Americans?

I have never felt more loved as an American than during this trip to Iran. Truly! Iranians will stop you on the street and tell you they “LOVE AMERICA!!” — or yell it from a car window or from across the street. As one man, who sat by me on a plane, put it, “Iranians don’t just like America & Americans. They LOVE America & Americans.” So if you want to feel like a rock star, pack and go to Iran.

Gay tour Iran, in ManAboutWorld gay travel magazine

  1. What has surprised you most about Iran?

Besides the feelings of the Iranians for America and Americans, the thing that surprised me most was the extent of the repression of the people by the Islamic republic. It is a theocracy, of course, but I think of it as a religious communism. There are many, many restrictions on conduct, dress and morality.  It is worse for women but not a party for men either. I knew this before traveling there (after all, I have been all through the Arabian peninsula, including Saudi Arabia) but the reality still hit me hard.

  1. What’s the gay community like?

The community is totally underground. I saw plenty of gay people and Grindr did work there — used for research purposes only! But gay Iranians are not out in any way. Homosexuality is not illegal, but sodomy is illegal and can be punished by the death penalty; although, getting the death penalty is a very complicated process. The picture that went viral on the Internet of two 16 year old boys being hung because they were gay is highly questionable. First all, no one under 18 can receive the death penalty by constitutional law. I tend to think it was probably propaganda from the Western media against the Iranian government. But all of this said, even though there are no gay meeting places (bars, cafes, restaurants etc.) one has to keep in mind that even straight couples have a very hard time getting together in Iran! Sharia law is not kind to any sort of sexual act.

  1. Favorite moment was…

One of my favorite moments was going to a local café near the Bazar-e Bozorg. The café was packed with young university students, all very fashionable and having tea or a light lunch or smoking qalyoon (hookah pipe.) Women were ordered to keep them under the table since women are prohibited from smoking and, in the event, the police enter the café they can say it is not theirs – it was just under the table when we arrived. The youth were every bit as hip and ‘in’ as our American youth.

  1. Best time to go to Iran?

The best travel months for Iran are October-April. It gets very hot in this, mostly, desert-covered country.

  1. What’s the most memorable experience you had during your trip?

My most memorable experience was also the saddest moment for me. Our tour guide was stopped in the bazaar by a 60-something year old man who spoke to him in Farsi and said, “Please tell our guests that we apologize for our country. We used to have many beautiful things.” 35 years of sanctions have taken their toll.

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