The Resort Island of Kish
The Islamic Republic’s version of paradise

Just a few miles off the coast of Iran, in the Persian Gulf, Kish is a sandy, laid-back coral island.

In the 1970s the last Shah of Iran turned the island into a luxury resort for the international elite complete with a Grand Casino (now known as the Shayan International Hotel) and an airport designed to handle the Concorde. After the Islamic Revolution the Ayatollah Khomeini put a halt to all western-style improvements, but after he died, the old vision for the island as a resort destination was revived — albeit under Islamic restrictions. Kish Island became a duty-free shopping center.

The first thing you need to know about Kish are the rules about the beach. You cannot go to the beach with a member of the opposite sex — not with a significant other, not with a spouse, not with a sibling, not with an offspring. There are separate beaches for males and females.

On the plus side, it’s usually so hot and humid there, authorities don’t have the energy to crack down on women wearing skimpy headscarves or overcoats.

Unlike other places in Iran, live music abounds. But don’t count on people dancing in the streets. Over the past year, authorities have begun cracking down on dancing. The most you can do is move around in your seat.

The reason they give for the crack down on Western behavior is out of respect for the martyrs who died in the revolution of the Iraq-Iran war – they’ve begun reburying the bodies of those who died on the island.

Kish is also turning into a mecca for films. The latest feature is called “Utopia.” It’s the story of seven Iranians from three generations who are fed up with their country. Each has their own reason for wanting to leave, but they all want the same thing: they want to go somewhere else – Utopia.