It's a little horrifying to note that nearly all flights into and out of Tehran are around . This however doesnt stop every family member in the country from greeting their arriving relatives.
Tehran airport is great. It's like something straight out of a cheesy 70’s cop show.. complete with fat smoking men in bad business suits, dusty shop stalls selling goods no one could ever need, and all finished in a comprehensive palette of brown hues…
Everything pretty much went without incident from there other than a lot of odd stares at my unfashionably torn jeans. Girls were openly giggling. I was actually warned that the fashion police were out in full force this summer and it is no joke.
There are literally police driving around in trucks arresting anyone who doesn’t conform to the strict clothing codes.
The streets were pretty quiet and the driver soon had us in the hotel which continued on with the delightfully nostalgic sepia theme of the airport.
After a quick day in the Tehran office it was off to Ahwaz near the Iraq border, just east of Basrah. The Australian government labels this area at its highest rating of security as a ‘DO NOT TRAVEL’ location.
There have been several roadside bombings and shootings in the region already this year. So I knew it was gonna be a good trip! Our journey to the rig passed through numerous machine gun checkgates and also through numerous fully blossoming opium fields.
The site was filled with an array of interesting characters from Iran, China, India, Pakistan and England. The equipment wasn’t anywhere nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be.… but anyway, enough of work.
I learned a lot from my overly friendly colleagues and other befriended guides. For example, the easiest way to pick up a chick is to simply slip your number to her from your car window while you are in traffic along another car. Hordes of youngsters actually lap around the major highways all night doing this to build up a tally of numbers. Apparently, also, the girls are so incredibly forward that almost no effort is required and you are always guaranteed to get what ever result you are after.
I was assured that westerners are almost immune from any crime and having a wallet of money can only further assist this. The black market is alive and not only thumping but keeping the country alive. All music and dvd’s in the country are totally counterfeit. US products are mostly banned however the entire nation is running on totally pirated versions of MS Windows and in fact all software is unpaid for.
I even saw ATM’s (bank machines) running on Windows XP! The country is also filled with satellite dishes that are all totally illegal and have unpaid for subscriptions.
It seems that although the whole country is tightly regulated, the locals have found ingenious and adventurous ways of getting around almost everything. The insanity of the driving is second only to the Vietnamese - with the major difference being a lack of bikes/scooters. Women are still required to wear the hijab head covering and most cover their entire bodies in long flowing black robes. As a result the girls have only their face to advertise their beauty and what a fantastic job they do at it. I’ve never seen such an ubiquitous plethora of diligently manicured faces coupled with such exotically applied makeup. And they have certainly mastered the art of the alluring stare....
The nation’s devotion to Allah is astounding and his comprehensive infiltration can be humorous at times.
All aeroplane briefings are prefaced in the name of Allah, as is the warning message from the telephone Operator… should you attempt to call an incorrect number. Pictures of the Ayatollahs (the first and current) are posted literally everywhere. The English Persian newspaper is also a fantastically biased read and full of anti-american, anti-jewish and pro-‘Iran is the greatest’ propaganda. Today’s edition had a review on the newly release Shrek 2…
The highlight of the trip was certainly my visit to Isfahan city. This was truly a city to experience. Thanks to a strong Christian Armenian influence the city is quite multicultural and beautifully architectured.
There are several magnificent mosques and churches, as well as a thriving market/bazaar scene. The city is also situated along a river which is canalled throughout the city making it a very lush, green, pleasant feeling city and a hive of activity.
I also must admit that persian food is incredibly delectable. Given the lack of any other meaningful and legal past-time, eating has evolved into a seriously fun ritual. There are several courses and everything is fresh and full of taste. I think the fact that Saffron has narcotic qualities and is splashed liberally on most things also helps considerably.
Persians are thoroughly beautiful people. Everyone wants to know you, talk to you and do their best to impress and befriend you. This does wonders for an ego that has been severely bashed over 10 months by a total failure to even maintain more than a 5second interaction with any Viennese stranger. My time was totally filled for the entire trip with all levels of entertainment and spoiling.
Surrounded by Chinese tourists at the centre of the echo chamber in the great Mosque
Gifts were literally thrown upon me. In Isfahan we were befriended by the town property developer given his personal driver and car for the day, shouted a massive buffet lunch, and then taken to his house for beer where he proceeded to advertise his daughters to me (they were all hot and Master degree students!). This whole day was totally free of charge. Everywhere we went, people were bending over backwards to treat me like royalty. I actually never spent a cent for the entire trip other than the few souvenirs I purchased, and even then, most of the souvenirs I came away with were gifts.
So here I sit in Tehran airport, in the complimentary VIP lounge, wandering what the hell I did to deserve this truly epic adventure.
And I’m really just thankful to Allah the all merciful to be on this magnificent round chunk of rock we call home and to be able to travel like this to experience it…