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Exotic Tribes
Be a responsible traveller. Show tribal people respect and meet them on their premises. Visiting people with a different lifestyle and culture could sometimes be a very rewarding adventure, but be aware of that many tribal communities are extremely vulnerable to outside influences. All tribal people need to be protected from tourists in order to preserve their unique lifestyle and cultures. Travellers should understand that some tribes would like to live undisturbed, and that visit would be an intrusion.

Attitudes and communication skills for visiting nomad tribes in Iran!

How to acquaint people with a different culture background, and how do you communicate with them?

If your aim is to explore, having an adventure and to make friendship with nomad tribes in Iran, this article could be useful for you.

The article is based on my nearly 20 years of travelling visiting indigenous people around the world, and my trekking trough the land of the nomads in Iran July 2004.


Photo: Meeting persons with another culture background for the first time it`s always an exciting moment. Doing it in the right way can be a great enrichment.

It is a privileged to be understood

Some times it isn't easy at all, even though you may think that others understand you quite well. But what do you do when you find out that they don't understand you at all? The absolute greatest experience is to come from the outside, and experience to be a part of the native's society. When you approach people, you have to take the initiative yourselves some times. It is the things you don't say that you regret the most. Look at it this way.

Just imagine yourself unhappy because for one split second, you hesitate and threw away the chance to start something. Your whole life is down the drain. For your whole life, you will be asking yourself "And what if..." "If only I had the guts to..." .You will be so disappointed and feel miserable, as you will keep questioning yourself, thinking of things that might have been. I can still clearly see myself in these situations, and now I try to be more conscious about this, and don't do the same mistakes.

Photo. People from the Quashqai nomads in Iran.

As other nomad tribes I have met, they are all nice people, and their hospitality is something for itself.


Meeting and contact for the first time
Bear in mind that people you visit never are really sure why you go there. Therefore is it important to talk to them, get to k
now them and what they are doing. When you get to know them better activities will start happening in a natural way. For the locals you can be both a potential friend, but also a potential enemy. Your success in the communications depends on your ability to meet people and relate to them on their own terms. It can take a time before you get accepted as their guest.


Make your intention clear to eliminate any suspicion. Many people have good reasons for being sceptical to outsider, for example people who appear to be missionaries, lumberjacks, gold diggers, oil drillers, thieves (who want to steel their cattle or other things) and other people with intentions no t in the interests of the locals.


Tell them that you like to know them better. Involving people in where you come from and what you are doing is a good idea.

Locals may be interested in photos from your home place.

Both children and adults will appreciate small gifts, but wait until the right moment for the delivery.

Photo. Children from the Bactrians nomad tribe. 

Children in general are of course always keen go get gifts, and they appreciate so much.

Since many often understand the value of money it is a better idea to take presents such as tobacco, cigarette papers, salt, sweets and simple toys for the children. Often I take a football with me (my favourite sport), and soon all the locals want to play with it. It is so great fun. The focus will change. Instead of looking at you as a stranger they will be busy with how they are going to play together with you. And then you can really experience that you are a part of them!
But the most important: by showing them that you are genuinely interested in them; your friendliness, sincerity and goodwill are the most precious gifts you can offer.

The White Man's burden - bad behaviour reduce your opportunities

In some places I have been to, the natives are sceptical because visitors have created bad feelings. They have been clumsy and sometimes downright rude, especially people from the western part of the world. If you go to certain areas you can not expect that everything is just the same as it is in your own country, like air condition, electricity, beer, Coca Cola, McDonalds Hamburgers, and so on. It is really what the famous explorer and author call the White Man's burden in his well-written poem. Then is probably better to stay at home.

I like to go to other places exactly because they are different, and I appreciate what I see and hear. I tell the local people that I am glad to be there. And so they will do the best they can for you, show you around to their "secret" beautiful places and involve you in their own daily activities.

Some general tips about how you can be liked by others:
- Be genuinely interested in other people's customs and life.
- Use their names. It wills sound well in their ears.
- Be a good listener. Remember you have two ears. It is because you shall listen twice as much as you talk yourselves.
- Encourage others to talk about themselves
- Talk to others based on their premises.
- Get others to feel important, and do it honestly.
- Be friendly in any situation. Smile to the world and the world will smile to you!


Photo. Women from the Bactrians nomad tribe in traditional costumes. They are from of Iran`s over hundred nomad tribes.

Especially guidance for meeting
nomad tribes in Iran:

1.      Find the chieftain or other central persons in the tribe first (clan, group) and talk to them. They will give you the necessary commitment for being their guest, looking around and permission to take photos and film. Don't take photos before you have become familiar with the people. Ask for permission.


2.      Take your time and let them invite you in to their privacy. Don't be impatient and push. You will just harm them and make it difficult for other visitors later.

3.      Don't start with giving gifts. The tribe people don't expect that you give them something because they like to honour you as their guest. If you give them something in the beginning they will probably feel that they owe you something, and that they have to give you something back. Let it all happen in a natural way. Take it easy and see what's happening. The best timing for giving gifts is after you have been talking to them for a long time, or when you say goodbye.


4.      Take off your sun glasses when you meet them for the first time. Let them see your eyes clearly. As other places around the world the eyes can be considered as the "mirror of your soul" and tribe people like to see your eyes for making an opinion about you.


5.      Of natural reasons people are curious of you as a person. When getting questions speak in generally (diplomatic) terms, but be sincere about what you are saying. Make it easy for them to understand. If your guide have to translate for you is even more important that you make you comments short and clear, so you can reduce the risk for misunderstandings. Here are some questions you should be prepared for: Do you believe in God? What is your religion? What do you think about Islam as a religion? What would you do if you come in trouble, and no one could help you (not even your family and friends)? What do you think about our children's` skills compared with the children in your country? Are the children happier in your country than here? Which nomad tribe do like best?


6.      Your main responsibility as a visitor is that you should listen to advises from your guide(s). If you don't do it you can cause trouble both for yourself and your guide, and make it difficult for other visitors later. Remember your guide is your adviser. He or she knows the area, language, people, lifestyle and culture, and will make the best out of it for your exploration and adventure.


7.      When talking to the tribe people you should find something in common interest to talk about. It will be useful for "breaking the ice" and building trust. For example saying that you have a friend that has his own farm with cattle, or that you have been grown up in similar place with beautiful mountain landscape as tribe people live in.


8.      It's not accepted to say hello to a woman you don't know. It can cause you a lot of trouble. You can do it if you are invited to her clan or family's home. In general as it easy in Iran, is inappropriate to shake hands with a woman, or to be even more clear: it's illegal in Iran!


Trust is the keyword
The tribe people make up their minds in few seconds if they will trust you or
not. They will find out if you are a good or bad person. Bear in mind that you never get a second chance to do a first impression. Within few minutes their hospitality will be shown in a great way. You can sometimes get very close. They will look at you as you were a member of the family. The way they talk to you will sometimes give you the feel that you have known them forever. They will be your "relative": their father will be your father, their mother will be your mother, their brothers will be their brothers, their sisters will be your sisters etc.


Photo. Women shepard from the Lor nomads taking care of their cattle.

Quote from the holy Quaran 16:125:

"Call unto the way of your Lord with wisdom and good exhortation, and reason with them in the best way. Lo! Your Lord best knows those who go astray from His path, and He knows best those who are rightly guided".


Don't worry too much about misunderstandings and mistakes. Hospitality is deeply rooted in the Islamic religion. People believe that every foreigner is a friend to God (Lord). By showing others hospitality they will be rewarding. Something good will happen in their life. Just try to do your best and behave natural! The tribe people will invite you for tea in their resting tent and they will take good care of you.


Nomad tribes as the Bakhtiaris, Qashqais and Lor as I visited in July 2004, will be eager to show you their best hospitality if you approach them in the right way. These people are really great. I hope they will stay strong in the future so they manage to retain their unique lifestyle and culture. Visiting nomad tribes (as rest of the people in Iran) is like feeling how to be a real guest! The more effort you make to know the people, the richer your experience will be.


It is said that nice and friendly people can walk everywhere. Will you be a friend of the world who can walk straight in almost everywhere? I hope my reflections and advice can give you something to think about, and that can make your contact with other people rewarding. Good luck! Now it`s up to you!!!

Stein Morten Lund,
22 July 2004

Additional information

I would like to thank my excellent guide Ali Hussein Manoochehri (from Pars Tourist Agency (P.T.A), Shiraz, Iran) for his contribution with advices and information to this article.

For additional information about Iran`s culture:

·        Lonely Planet guide book about Iran (see also their website www.LonelyPlanet.com)

·        Culture Shock - Iran (Guide to Customs and Etiquette), Maria O`Shea.



Presentation of our associated partner in Iran:

Pars Tourist Agency (P.T.A.), Iran.

It`s a private Persian incoming agency. It's located in Shiraz under the license number 1/47026 issued by Iran Travel & Tourism Organization (ITTO) (www.farstourism.org). They organise a wide variety of tours for individuals as well as groups such as inbound historical, cultural, anthropology, mountaineering, trekking, adventure and natural excursion tours.

Speciality - exploring nomad tribes:
For real adventurers P.T.A. arranges expeditions in to rural areas to search for nomad tribes in Iran's high mountains. Some of the tribes are Bakhtiari, Lor, Qashqai. They live in a beautiful landscape that will take your breath away. You will be able to explore the tribe's daily life and unique culture in a natural way. Sometimes you will experience a wedding, birth, fighting game, dancing, festival or other things. Take your time and see what happens. Then it will be an experience of a lifetime.

Contact info:
Phone: 0098-711-2223163 and 0098-711-2240645. Mobile Phone (around the clock) 0098-9171118514.
Fax: 0098-711-2229693
Letters: Pars Tourist Agency (P.T.A), Zand Street 71358, Next to Iran Cinema, Shiraz, Iran.
Website www.key2persia.com
E-mail: info@key2persia.com


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