travel tourism village home in Seyyed Mahalleh near Sari Mazandaran province iran

Waking in a traditional Iranian village home
Deep unscientific analysis of sleeping on the floor in Iran

This entry is part 9 of 14 in the series Iran Road Tour: Tehran to Mashhad via the Caspian Coast

On our fifth day of unplanned, mostly aimless escape from Tehran, we woke up on the floor of a village home 30 minutes outside Sari (SORRY), the capital of the coastal province of Mazandaran.

There are no beds or dining tables in Iranian traditional homes. Everything – sleeping, eating, receiving of guests – happen on Persian rugs covering most of the floors wall to wall. In the evening, the bedding is rolled out on the floor.

In the morning, the bedding is rolled back up and stored in a corner. Automatically takes care of making your own bed.

bedding in a village home in Seyyed Mahalleh near Sari Mazandaran province iran
A traditional home in the village of Seyyed Mahaleh, near Sari, Mazandaran Province, Iran. Copyright © Ali Torkzadeh,

The kitchen is basic, at best. Sometimes there’s not even a stove inside in favor of something primitive outside to do away of with the problem of the cooking fumes.

The health (and politics) of sleeping on the floor in an Iranian village home

Like most Iranians, both Saeideh and I prefer to sleep on the floor, on the traditional bedroll – similar to Japanese floor futons – rolled out on Persian rugs.

Many Iranians believe sleeping on the floor is healthier because the body receives energy from the earth when it is in direct contact with the ground.

Saeideh isn’t totally convinced about this theory, “but then when I’m totally exhausted and my back hurts, I recover faster when I sleep on the ground.”

Some Iranians, like Saeideh’s grandmother, eschew apartment living because it’s “without spirit” because of the lack of direct contact with the earth.

The Persian traditional home: City versus rural mentality

City dwellers in Iran tend to associate sleeping on the floor with backwardness. Other Iranians, like me,  associate sleeping on the floor with humility. I think my belief is from my childhood, 50 years ago, when Iranians were, lets say, more earthy.

The picture below in one of my school textbooks has stayed in my head all these years: a simple featherbedding of Reza Shah Pahlavi, the self-appointed king of Iran (1925-1941).

A simple featherbedding used by Reza Shah Pahlavi, the self-appointed king of Iran (1925-1941)
A simple featherbedding used by Reza Shah Pahlavi, the self-appointed king of Iran (1925-1941) Source: social media

And this was the bedding of his son, who lost the kingdom in 1979, partly because of avarice:

bedroom of mohammad reza pahlavi shah of iran
The bedroom of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the former Shah (king) of Iran
Source: social media

Reza Shah said he slept on the floor because he didn’t want to forget his roots.

Iranians yearning for all things Western

Cultural amnesia is exactly the ailment of many modern Iranians, particularly the ones living in the famous hellhole known as Tehran. This yearning for the West is so prominent that there’s even a word for it: Gharbzadegi. I know because I had to actually read a book by that title in graduate school.

City slickers shun the old world and the old way of doing things in favor of the Western lifestyles depicted on satellite TV.

Western tourists treated like rock stars by Iranians

They yearn for all things European and American, which is why Western tourists are treated like rock stars on the streets of Iran, leading the bizarre episodes of Iranians asking to do selfies with total strangers because the strangers happen to be Western tourists walking down the street. It really is a little embarrassing to watch. I wanna kick them, to tell you the truth. Kick the Iranians, I mean.

Please note: Iranians are also stereotyped in the West as being anti-Western! Nothing could be further from the truth. They hate you? They’d lick you if they could.

At peace in an Iranian traditional home

When I wake on the floor of a village home, I don’t mind the lack of comforts. Something in me is at peace.

Probably has to do with my childhood memories of staying at the traditional homes of my grandparents in Mashhad and Tehran.

Or maybe the peace just comes from the room being devoid of furniture! I deplore being chained to so many things at my own home.

“Things always end up owning you, not the other way around,” Saeideh often reminds me.

The sounds of waking up in an Iranian village

Rising in an Iranian village home comes with a cacophony of sounds I wrote about on my first day of this escape from Tehran: the predawn morning azan adhan (call to prayer), the call of the rooster and the bells of goats leading sheep to the pastures.

We had two of three this morning: the rooster and the azan. Actually, this village is filled with mosques, the source of the azan. We drove by at least three last night.

It’s 10 am and Saeideh is begging me to stop writing and get going. We have a busy schedule today. First stop is Badab Soort springs.

I step outside. The sun is shining, and the tank and our shoes are waiting outside.

But I leave with a heavy heart because of my love for this home. The interesting trip for me – and I know this would sound insane to family and friends in Tehran who prize the north for its shopping malls and beaches – would be to stay right here for a week and explore just this village and surrounding villages and maybe get lucky and get invited into some homes  – although shomalis (northerners) are not famous for their hospitality.

We headed to Sari, where a couple of shockers awaited us.


Ali and Saeideh plan their Iran roadtrips from their home in Mashhad. More about us here >>

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