Iranian Youth join wave of Ecotourism

He responded, “Of course, it’s natural that they are more from the richer class, because if you want to enjoy being in nature you need to have a car that can drive uphill during difficult situations. Of course, there are also people who come with ordinary and cheaper jeeps. Usually, though, those who come on these trips have cars like the Toyota Land Cruiser, FG Cruise, Prado and Hilux — or Mitsubishi SUVs.”

On average, given the steep import tariffs, these vehicles cost about $50,000-$70,000 in Iran. This is while the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Welfare puts the average monthly salary of a common laborer at $230. Yet, the luxury pastime of ecotourism is not restricted to youths and older people, with some families joining tour groups, too.

To become more familiar with the social backgrounds of these adventurers, Al-Monitor went to one of their gatherings in a cafe in downtown Tehran and encountered a group of about 20 people who said it was their usual meeting point the first Monday of every month. Asked about the damages their cars face each time they go on one of these journeys, Ali — who seemed to be among the older members of the group — said, “It’s natural that when we go on these difficult routes, our cars will need more regular inspections, some of which are very costly and may even lead to the need to change one’s car earlier than planned. But the joy of experiencing raw nature is worth it.”

As Majdabadi noted, people from different backgrounds can be seen in these groups, and although there is a wide wealth gap between some of them, nature — and their shared love for it — is a common factor leading to friendships that may not have emerged otherwise.

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