Couchsurfing in Iran: Revealing a Hidden World

Couchsurfing in Iran: Revealing a Hidden World


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Included in the 2018 summer reading list by New York Times Books

A modern-day glimpse into the surprising reality of life in Iran.

Iran: A destination that is seldom seen by westerners yet often misunderstood. A country that simultaneously “enchants and enrages” those who visit it. A place where leading a double life has become the norm.

In Couchsurfing in Iran, award-winning author Stephan Orth spends sixty-two days on the road in this mysterious Islamic republic to provide a revealing, behind-the-scenes look at life in one of the world’s most closed societies. Through the unsurpassed hospitality of twenty-two hosts, he skips the guidebooks and tourist attractions and travels from Persian carpet to bed to cot, covering more than 8,400 kilometers to recount “this world’s hidden doings.” Experiencing daily what he calls the “two Irans” that coexist side by side—the “theocracy, where people mourn their martyrs” in mausoleums, and the “hide-and-seek-ocracy, where people hold secret parties and seek worldly thrills instead of spiritual bliss”—he learns that Iranians have become experts in navigating around their country’s strict laws.

Though couchsurfing is officially prohibited in Iran—the state fears spies would be able to travel undetected through the country—more than a hundred thousand Iranians are registered with online couchsurfing portals. And thanks to these hospitable, English-speaking strangers, Orth gets up close and personal with locals, peering behind closed doors and blank windows to uncover the inner workings of a country where public show and private reality are strikingly opposed.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781771642804
Publisher: Greystone Books
Publication date: 05/01/2018
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Stephan Orth is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author. For nine years, he was online travel editor for Der Spiegel, one of Germany's top news magazines, and he has contributed to National Geographic, the Courier-Mail, and Time Off magazine, among other publications. His next book, Couchsurfing in Russia, will publish in fall 2018. He lives in Hamburg, Germany.

Table of Contents

At the border 1

Welcome to Iran! 6

Down with the U.S. 15

Long live the shah 23

Couchsurfing for beginners 29

Torture 33

Freedom 41

The Persian Gulf 52

Lost in transportation I 60

Aryans 64

The genie 69

Lost in transportation II 74

Earthquakes 82

Art 87

The desert 93

Bureaucracy 100

Fake marriage 105

Lost in transportation III 114

Hide-and-seek 117

Poetry 123

Hiking 129

The red Persian carpet 133

Nuclear power 136

Lost in transportation IV 144

War 150

Backgammon 161

Music 168

Smugglers 171

The police 176

The prince 183

Love 187

News 197

A river without water 200

Dictatorship 207

Drunk to the imam 215

Religion and money 219

Party 223

Lost in visa application 227

Green, white, red 234

Fun 238

Orwell 243

Life's caravan 250

Country of surprises 256

Happy ending 261

Acknowledgments 266

Notes 268


"A breezy narrative that offers a couch-level view of Iran that you won't find in travel guides."— Kirkus Reviews

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