Good bye Iran

21 10 2010

And so ends Iran (maybe). We have arrived on the Persian Gulf. We swelter.

We have been weaving our way through the endless dry brown of central Iran for the past 30 days to finally be unceremoniously spat out on the glittering coast – the ubiquitous black blobs that shadow over the rest of Iran now replaced by peeks of silver and gold trim dancing on the ends of piercing purples, pinks and oranges of Indian salwar kameez; the men darker, thinner and decidedly more 70’s in their helmet-esq crowing hair doos, tight flared trousers and broad collared shirts sticking to them in the wet heat.  Surely we will miss Iran. If we ever leave.. which is by no means assured. We were hoping to catch a night ferry to Dubai this evening but 5 minutes after confirming us a place, the boat has been cancelled.. maybe.. or maybe it will still go.. maybe tomorrow morning at 7am.. can we get a ticket for that?.. *shrug* maybe. So we sit. And swelter.

Iran has been… complicated. Unfailing in its hospitality, unwavering in its interest, undeniable in its   outstanding rugged sexiness. It promised nothing and delivered everything – if you ever dream of Istanbul then really you are dreaming of Esfahan. Nowhere have I ever been in my life where the people have been so genuinely interested in talking to me (more fool them!), more honest in their critique of their own situation (albeit in hushed edgy tones) and more realistic about their place in the world.  Nowhere have I ever been so helped or so welcomed – everywhere and in the middle of nowhere; from the pomegranate farmer who took us in for the night and stocked us up with eggs and bread for the next day, to the truck drivers who use their trucks of give us protection as we try to cross turnings on busy roads or fill our water bottles when we are getting low; to the many people who have given their time to lead us to whatever rough and ready bit of lodgings may be available, or offer us a safe patch of ground for our tent. And never have I had so many free lunches and free cups of tea. But never have I been to a country that has been riddled with so much fear.

After the hysteria that fogged our decision to come to Iran and the relief of finding it so …‘other’, it would be easy to become romantic about it. It is divine. But fear underpins everything here – the girl on the bus who wanted to chat but faltered to a whispering stop when she realised she was getting just a bit too political .. ‘you never know who may be listening’, to the mountain biker who asked if we could eat lunch together in an almond grove .. ‘if we eat in a restaurant someone may report me to the police’ .. his crime? An unmarried man talking to two unmarried women while wearing shorts. A male unmarried student who wanted to invite us to his house to look at some HIV/AIDS clips he had about people with HIV in Iran.. but it was getting dark and he didn’t want the neighbours to ‘inform on him’. It was 5.30pm. And so the list goes on…

The paranoia of American Radical Feminism would have a lot in common with the gender narrative here.. all men are potential rapists and never to be trusted – who knows what lewdness their uncovered legs might lead too?   As one women told us .. ‘ the evil eye is everywhere’ .. this is why she chooses to wear the chador.  The tent.  And there is an undeniable hunger in the eyes of some men we have come across; everywhere we go we are followed by calls of ‘Hey Missus – I love you’, and the giggling harassment of pea-cocking young men is wearing. But so is the inevitable sadness of it. As one man explained to us – ‘it’s like water, if you live in an oasis you don’t think about it, you can take a sip or not.. It’s up to you.  But the minute you are in a desert it becomes all you think about and all you crave’.

One of our more surreal experiences in Iran was being interviewed for Iranian TV, a culture programme, we were told. It started with the usual questions about why we were doing this journey (a great opportunity to mention HIV/AIDS – fingers crossed it didn’t get lost in translation, we have full faith in our translator, a slightly bewildered local shop keeper drafted in for the afternoon….), where we had cycled, what we had seen etc But then it started to focus more on the Iranian family.. What was our experience of the Iranian family?  Which was better families in Englistan or Iran?  Aren’t Iranian families stronger than those in Europe? .. as we tried our best to tactfully tiptoe our way through the growing Political mine field we had just been plopped into we began to suspect we were taking part in an anti-western propaganda film!  Though to be fair I haven’t yet seen an hour go by on Iranian TV that isn’t flanked by some news strap about the evil US or the marauding Zionists. So maybe it wasall  just par for the Government sanctions course.

Sadly then, goodbye Iran. Hello….. the next bit… whatever happened to our straight route to Thailand? We appear to be heading south….next stop Oz???



2 responses

3 11 2010
More women on two-wheels -

[…] is what the team had to say about cycling in Iran: Iran has been… complicated. Unfailing in its hospitality, unwavering in its interest, undeniable […]

29 07 2013

Good info. Lucky me I ran across your website by chance (stumbleupon).
I’ve saved as a favorite for later!

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