Moving to Qom? Part 2

Moving to Qom? Part 2

So the decision has been made. Do you feel butterflies in your stomach? 

I don’t know how one can explain the feeling – to be honest, I was quite apprehensive. We had 2 little girls and nothing felt sure except this decision. But it’s been a beautiful journey so far, I’ll tell you that. Details of that story will come another day! 

Besides gearing up for this new chapter of talabeh life, one can’t avoid dealing with the mundane materialistic issues of this world. Hey, it’s normal.

So what do you bring? What do you leave? 

First things first, if you can, it’s nice to be able to come to Qom for ziyarat and get a feel for the environment and culture. I know that helped us a lot. 

Now for the lists:

(3,500 tomans equals $1; 3.5 tomans means 3,500, 600 tomans means 600,000, etc.

Please note prices/conversions are in USD and up to date as of this post. Check the conversion rate for any updated change as it tends to fluctuate.)

If you’re like me and bringing children with you to Qom, a few key points: 

  • Kids clothes – are not so great. And if you want good quality, you’re going to pay for it. You’ll find good stuff but mostly in boutique-type stores. (Ex: 13-15 tomans, or around $5 for one pair of cotton infant pants) Pack up to a year’s worth of clothes, and take growth spurts into consideration.
  • Kids toys/books – you aren’t going to find lots of English children’s books. Bring them with you. Good quality toys aren’t cheap. I wouldn’t bring everything, but pack those favorite toys, sets of blocks, stuffed animals, etc. It helps kids feel a bit at home seeing their things.
  • Infant gear – don’t bring it all. Space is usually limited, so if you’re going to use something for only 2-3 months and then be forced to store it, don’t bring it. Usually there’s someone who has what you need that you can borrow from, or maybe a relative can take something back with them. 
  • A good stroller – is essential. Often you’re not going over paved roads, but instead rocks, pebbles and gravel. Get one that is strong and can withstand the bang-ups of travel.
  • Kids essentials – like cups, plates, feeding chairs, etc. Don’t bring a suitcase full, but if they work and you know your kid will use them, bring them. You don’t want to be looking around Qom for a replacement sippy cup.

Now for the list of things not to forget: 

  • Medicines – while you can find pretty much everything you need, pack those specific medications that you are used to, and have tried 
  • Lotions/creams 
  • Vitamins 
  • Special spice mixes (ethnic)
  • Chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, cinnamon chips – if you’re a baker, stock up on these because you can’t find them here.
  • Special baking pans/dishes 
  • Knives
  • Utensils that have served you well and are good quality
  • Silicone baking mats 
  • Maple syrup (it’s not found here, although a few sisters have been successful in mixing up a very delicious substitute)
  • Special drink mixes/fruit snacks/ cereal powders that you and your family prefer

I asked a few friends who recently moved, and they helped me gather some recent costs of general household items –

  • Vacuum (Samsung brand, 300 tomans, or $88) Prices ranged from 250-600 tomans
  • Fridge (Samsung brand, 2.6 million tomans, or around $700) Iranian brands also ranged from 1.6 million tomans and up 
  • Oven (Iranian Snowa brand, 1.3 million tomans or around $380)
  • Washing machine (front loader, a little over 1.3 million tomans or around $400)

So the other common things you’ll be looking for are: 

  • Rugs
  • Sofas/cushions
  • Armoires/dressers/chest of drawers
  • TV
  • Study table
  • Dining table
  • Dishes, pots, pans 
  • Small kitchen appliances 

Since many of us are only living here temporarily, you, or someone you know, will often run into a fellow talabeh who is moving back home and needs to sell their things. is also a Craigslist-type site of locals selling their things. It’s in Farsi, though.

Speaking from experience, I wouldn’t dwell too much on making the perfect house. As long as it works, inshallah it will serve your needs. 

You can find almost everything here that you need for your everyday life – from cereal to cocoa powder, sandwich bread to chicken nuggets, frozen veggies to frozen French fries. You can also find foreign brands here but naturally, you will pay the price. 

Cost of common grocery/household items: 

(3,500 tomans equals $1; 3.5 means 3,500)

  • Loaf of bread – 3.5 t 
  • Cheese slices (pack of 8) – 4.5 t
  • 1 liter of milk – 2.5 t
  • Jar of jelly – 5 t 
  • Cream of cheese – 4.4 t
  • 250 g of butter – 5 t
  • Kilo of eggs – 4-5 t
  • Kilo of cut chicken – 5 t
  • Kilo of ground meat – 20-24 t
  • Laundry detergent – (small) 5 t
  • Toilet paper (4 rolls) – 3.5 – 4 t
  • Paper towels (2 rolls) – 4 t

A good rule of thumb is to pack those things that are important/special (i.e. a quilt made by your mom), and those things you can’t find here. Don’t pack your whole house. It’s wise to fill your precious luggage space with those things you won’t find readily here, or that cost significantly more. 

Once you finally come and start settling down, you’ll get a feel for what you don’t need to worry about, and those essentials you’ll be telling your mom to bring when she visits.

Soaking in the book fair experience

Soaking in the book fair experience

Yesterday we took an impromptu trip to Tehran on the last day of the International Book Fair. 

One of the motivating factors was the new venue – Shahre Aftab. It’s a bit closer to Qom – about 1 hour and a half. This place was constructed as the permanent home for the fair, right across from the araamgah of Imam Khomeini. It was a nice open air facility, with some stalls set up in hangars. I was quite pleased with the ample parking room and constant shuttle service to and from the fair. 

Other plus points: the clean bathroom facilities (with a Western toilet!), indoor and outdoor food stalls, water fountains, play areas for kids, and feeding tents for nursing moms.

We made our way through a few areas (kids, international, Iranian, digital) and liked the variety of books, although I think there could have been more good quality English language Islamic books. 

FZ is quite the bookworm, and enjoyed picking out a new Farsi language book on Imam Reza and one on rainbows, while Marium got a few sticker activity books in Farsi/English.

While my husband looked around on his own, the kids played nearby in the playground and gave me a nice break. 

It was a hot day, but there were lots of places with shade, and plenty of cool water. 

We ended our day with a trip to the Nutella Bar stall. And it was delicious! 10 tomans for a cup of Nutella ice cream topped with bananas and strawberries. 

It was a nice experience and made for a pleasant outing with the kids! Although it helped that we went in our own car, so we weren’t forced to follow a bus schedule or look for a taxi.

We hope to go again next year!

Moving to Qom? Part 1

Moving to Qom? Part 1

Often I get emails from people who are planning to move to Qom regarding life, culture, housing, what to bring from home, etc. 

These are all valid questions. Especially if you’ve never visited the holy city of Qom. 

I’ve decided to write up a post on what you should bring, what you should not waste valuable luggage space on, and what you are able to find here. 

But that will come later.

I think before we worry about starting the physical journey as a seminary student in Iran, we should prepare ourselves spiritually.

So here’s a short checklist of important points: 

1. Why are you coming? – Yes, to study. But what do you hope to gain from it? There is no right or wrong answer. Just remember it’s a whole experience. 

2. You will be tested – So get out of your comfort zone. Iranian culture is a different culture for most of us coming from the coddled West. Waiting in line? Customer service? A salesclerk who cares? Yup – there will be some trying moments. But don’t let it bother you. You have to remember why you’re here.

3. Learn to deal without – It’s a tough test. How can I live so far from my family? How can I live without the comforts of home? How can I live without bagels, shredded cheddar cheese, maple syrup and chocolate chips? (Yes it sounds lame, but it’s still a test.) 

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff – So your new home means a slightly cramped bedroom, a second-hand dresser and no room for your ironing board. It’s ok! I’ve found that once I moved past caring about trivial things, my mind and soul were free. 

5. Finding the beauty in Qom – it’s one thing to visit Qom, and it’s one thing to live here – even if temporarily. While the first year was a struggle for myself personally, I can honestly say that I now consider this city as my home. There is a beautiful feeling that comes from attending Jummah prayers, or standing in the haram of Lady Fatima Masooma (s). Or turning on the TV and listening to prayers and Quran. You can’t harness this feeling anywhere else. 

This isn’t a complete list, but it does help to get an understanding of this new journey you’re undertaking.

You’ll find a whole community here of folks who have left their families, jobs, homes for the opportunity to learn more about our faith. We are brothers and sisters, and we all know what it’s like. You won’t feel alone.

I pray the adjustment is easy for you, and through the help of Lady Fatima Masooma, I pray that you grow closer to Allah (SWT) through this process.