2,5 hours before our flight departure, Jan came back from The Hague. He had 3 passports with an Iranian visa and one without...he didn't get one.
But there was no time for thinking about the consequences of getting on an Iranian plane without a visa. We had our invitation from the organization, we had our contacts in Iran and we had a plane to catch, so off we went to Schiphol.
The moment we got out of the plane, a different set of rules were to follow. While Janneke and me were adjusting our headscarves every minute, Jan had to hold back when he wanted to give our Iranian friend, who helped him getting his visa, a big hug. “uh, you better not do that” she politely told him when he almost, being all happy about his visa, was about to kiss her.
The separate men’s and women’s entrances at the domestic airport for the customs (where we got a plane to Tabriz) were again something to remind us that we entered the Islamic republic of Iran. We don’t have to shake hands, we don’t have to bother about doing our hair, and we have our own entrances…
But here we are now, in our hotel in Tabriz. It’s weird being here without a bike, and in such different circumstances. All of a sudden I’m the tourist in a hotel, while before I was the traveler on my own bike. I can’t just go anywhere I would want to go.
I notice how little I remember from the last time I was here, it’s mostly specific things that I remember, but not these general things about Iran and it’s people. What did we eat? What do you say when you enter a shop, are there supermarkets, do you negotiate about prices? Slowly things come back to me, but to be honest, being in a city is so different from cycling through the country.
When I look out of my hotel window, I see almost the same view I had in New York a month ago. A bunch of yellow taxi’s blowing their horns, big signs on the walls of the shops, a lot of traffic and people on the streets. But you’ll have to look closely to see that the women on the streets are either covered with a headscarf or fully covered with a big black hajib. (ok, and the weather isn’t as nice as it was there).
In the meantime me and Janneke play the tourist (we went to this ‘cappadocia’ style village called Kandovan), Casper and Jan prepare for the tour, and Lex and Sascha (the other 2 riders) find their way to Tabriz.
This is gonna be serious, I’ll keep you updated.