Close up 1
(Provided by Zurken © 2003, from Europe. He went by van, via Turkey.)
There’s a lot of commotion at the border to Iran, construction is taking place: men, cars, bulldozers, mud pools, dirt, ditches, containers. I forgot to throw out the last bottle of Turkish beer, “big problem”! No alcohol permitted in Iran! I tell them I could drink it really quickly (!) No, the bottle is now a customs violation, it’s being confiscated and plenty of forms are being filled out, including plenty of signatures. 6 important men in gray suits are taking care of this. (…)
I ‘m arriving in Marand with a delay of four hours, to meet up with a traveller friend; it’s already dark. I’m asking a lady veiled in black about directions to the train station. I show her a photo of a train station, she smiles and tells me in English.
The Iranians are extremely polite, almost delighted about our presence and keen on talking to us, helping us, inviting us. (Unfortunately not many speak English, I make do with pictures) (…)
Each day provides me with the gift of new friends: I’m sitting on the roof of a tea house with 4 young Iranian ladies, all veiled in black. From here you have a view on the big Meydan-e-Iman Square. (…) I’m allowed to hold Fatima’s hand with those long white nails. (…) She says: “Love is like snow”. I write into her notebook: “No, my love doesn’t melt like snow, if I love, I love forever and I will love you forever.” But they’re already planning to fix me up with Wida’s mom because she lost her dad at an early age.
Mechdi Azizi, violin player and street musician approaches me and accompanies me to the tailor. Yesterday I ordered a needlestripe suit, material and the works for 80 US$. We’re ascending to the first floor, the tailor’s shop looks more like a carpenter’s shop, with work bench and tool store room. I’m standing in the middle of the room, my pants down for the try one when Mechdi starts scratching on his violin as if he wanted to play at a wedding. It’s moving and funny at the same time: I want to laugh and fall on my knees out of sentimentality. That I lived long enough to experience that!
I’ve stopped to give a hitchhiker a ride, he advises me to get married: A woman warms the body of the man, he say, so that he doesn’t catch cold. 2 miles later I start sneezing. “You see!”, he says. (By the way, In Iran I experienced no problems with hitchhikers whatsoever) (…)
Hadi has got a pretty wife, Efett her name, and she is pretty voluptuous. After breakfast she plays on her Japanese organ for us: With her right hand she plays Iranian tunes, with her left hand she coordinates the bass and rhythm: it sounds odd, but not bad at all. She usually only plays for her friends, Hadi translates, and they dance to her music. Women are not allowed to sing in public in Iran, and so there are radio and TV stations abroad (US, Kuwait) beaming Iranian singers and their music into the country via satellite.
Behind Mashad I’m running into another traveller, we spend the night near a river bend, at full moon, further up the hill there is an old black oil pump nodding its approval. It’s a very cold night— and I am very happy.
Iran is the most beautiful country I have ever seen—with respect to its landscape as well as to the humanity of its people; I have also never felt as safe anywhere else as I felt there.