Early days – Iran

20 09 2010

‘Pow! Pow!’ boomed Ramak, as he cut large crosses on our map, ‘takkka takka takka’ he juddered over our kebab, his eyes wide and urgent, ‘NO! Danger, don’t go!’  We both nodded wearily and resumed our disturbed mouthfuls.  Every time we mention our planned route the reaction is the same; are you mad, don’t go there, stay here, it’s safe here, there they are unpredictable and dangerous.  It is hard to skim the truth from the usual lumpy broth masquerading as neighbourly ‘love’.  In Turkey we were given mace to protect us from the Georgians, in Georgia we were warned about the dishonest Azeri, in Azerbaijan the Iranians were all branded a nation of war mongering loonies…  And in Iran the Pakistanis are all deemed a rotten pack of terrorists *sigh*.  Impartiality anyone?

We have been in Iran only two days so far and so know nothing. But the nothing we know is ours to tell.  There are unavoidable clichés that are littering our experience; the friendly smiles and waves, the ubiquitous  bottles of Zam Zam (Iran’s answer to Coca Cola- think soda-stream), the cavalier driving, the national obsession with picnics – a whole family, huddle like an abandoned delivery of sack-potatoes on a concrete slab only a metre or so from the motorway.  Cars bustling at the seams screech up to join them, pulling forth carpets, samovars, breads, cheeses and meats plundered from the unfathomable depths of car boots.  They spy us, and within seconds the sacks have sprung arms that wave furiously at us and gleaming white picket fence smiles lines our way.  It’s 8.30am.

In Iran young men ride mopeds.  As a cyclist, this is annoying.  They whizz by, slowing down, speeding up, cutting in.  Their slightly desperate calls of ‘hello Misses’ bubble lightly on the air around us and pop into fits of giggles, or flop to the ground as a hat gets whipped off in the wind, or a moped wheel hits a rock and wobbles into maroon flushes and jeers from friends.  It is easy to be annoyed by the sticky dampness of their need.  They are boys, and they are harmless.

The women in Iran are…. formidable.  They instruct their drivers (husbands, sons, brothers) to pull over; they wave us down and pull us in.  Two middle aged women, clad in traditional manteau and head scarves, their men hanging gingerly behind, held our hands and told us of their lives; both were nurses, one worked at the University, one had worked in Bam during the devastating earth quake of 2003.  Tough women, with tough jobs.  They asked about our lives, they gave us bread, they gave us wishes, and they gave us their smiles.  Two other women pulled beside us, beaming faces with plucked eyebrows and shimmering gold teeth strained out the window, a bottle of ice cold water waving urgently in the air. ‘Happy…’ faltering English, struggling to find purchase, landing with a thud on ‘Iran!’,  to which Liz uncertainly replied ‘Happy… Iran?’  Every one eager to offer a welcome, every one just wanting to say hello.  I don’t know if it is because we are women too, I don’t know if it’s because we look like raggedy sodden kittens, but we illicit full-frontal, disarming warmth from Iranian women.

PS – IN IRAN WE CANNOT GET ONTO FACEBOOK SO CANNOT REPLY TO FACEBOOK STUFF.

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2 responses

22 09 2010
nick rawling

sticky dampness!!! Sounds fun. Another gorgeous evocation of your travels. My old friend, Amanda is also in Iran at the mo with a coach tour..shes in a flesh coloured hijab and a mate of hers in also cycling In Iran..so I gave her your blog. You’re bound to meet up!!!!

Bring on Pakistan eh.

enjoy the Zam Zam

26 09 2010
oneproject

Obviously! .. who is this mate and where are they cycling??? – more info needed MR – I don’t think they are on our road – there are no cyclists for a month in front .. who knows what lurks behind>>!>!>!>!!!! GOOOOODDD LUCK TOMO!!

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