Tehran, Iran, August 2012
About a midnight dance, Ramadan in Tehran, cycling on those bikes, being treated like kings and a really hard self-experiment
As soon as we settled down we contacted our friends Danny and Kim, the “Odd Dutch Couple”, as they call themselves. In October 2011 we met them at Vinko’s place back in Croatia. Few days after our arrival, we already were invited to visit their adoptive home for dinner the next day. It was only one of many dinners we cooked or ate with old and new friends in Tehran.
Dancing in the moonlight
So we went over to Kim and Danny’s for the long awaited reencounter and met their couchsurfing hosts and friends Omid and Sonya. Danny had made sweet sour chicken for the six of us and some more of Omid’s and Sonya’s friends. We had a lot of fun with them, talked and smoked water pipe. We even danced at midnight under the stars on the mountains watching over the lights of the city. In the end their friends gave us a ride to our home.
Regular customers at the Embassies
By the following day we started our visa marathon. In order to apply for the Tourist visas we needed support letters from our respective embassies. So we have to mention the following: not only did Roberto have a great welcome in his embassy, but we got to meet the Ambassador of Mexico in Iran. Roberto was a little nervous but had the opportunity to talk to him about our project, promoting travel as a means to strengthen social empathy. We were very honored and the Mexican Embassy helped us with all the papers he needed. Overall Roberto has had good reception in his Embassies in Turkey and now here in Tehran.
While we were the only visitors in the Mexican Embassy we were a little surprised when we saw the amount of waiting people outside the German Embassy. Fortunately my Nationality allowed me to enter quickly. It did not take long and I held my papers in the hand too.
Every morning we had to get up early and cross the city with Tehran’s public transport in order to arrive at the Embassies as early as possible. We made copies, visited Embassies, looked out for bike shops to upgrade our old rusty vehicles, met plenty of old and new friends and even managed to do some sightseeing.
Some rest from the city life
Friday was coming up and Mortezar invited us two, his friend Sami, Majid and Toumaj to one of the the biggest highlights in our Iranian travel. We visited the loveliest family in a remote town 150 km from Tehran. We ate Ghormeh Sabzi, talked, watched the family produce sour grape juice, relaxed in the garden and watched some of the guys jumping into the village’s public pool. We had so much fun and we were treated like kings in this wonderful home.
As soon as we came back we kept on going with the Visa Marathon but somehow managed to meet our friends Danny and Kim for some sightseeing in Tehran. We visited the National Gallery, home to very interesting pieces that belong to the great and powerful Persian Empire. The Museum had important pieces that started to heat up our curiosity to visit the mighty Persepolis in Shiraz and the entry was practically free.
After the museum walk we had another dinner on our schedule. Daniel and Ali had been very curious on Mexican food and so we decided to cook for them in Daniel’s place. Kim and Danny were invited as well.
Since it was the first day of Ramadan, Roberto and I wanted to taste for at least one day how it feels like to fast in this time. The main reason why we chose to do it was because we found out why Ramadan is celebrated and among other things it is a way to understand the hunger that people less fortunate as us have to go through in real life. In my eyes this is a great way to empathize with the suffering of others. We have to confess that fasting in summer is very hard. The law says nothing should go through your throat while the sun shines, that means around 17 hours. Thirst was the first challenge we had to overcome.
In the late afternoon we all went to buy the ingredients and after two hours of cooking the food was ready, but Ramadan was not. We had to wait for one agonizing hour more to be able to feast on what Roberto had prepared, Picadillo con Papa, Mexican Beans and a Red Salsa. I kept watching the clock and the minutes seemed like hours to me. After 30 minutes of just heating the food we heard on TV the prayer that signified the end of the first day of Ramadan. Roberto and I went straight for the water and felt the cooling freshness that satisfied our 17 hour thirst. Then it was all a big food feast.
After the great food Ali and Daniel invited us for water pipe at the legendary Darband neighborhood, the hiking start to the North Mountains of Tehran and the place where young people go to smoke and eat. And again we arrived home again late at night.
Arts and movies
The next days were a little bit more relaxed. In the early mornings we had to arrange stuff for the Visas and in the afternoon, when most Embassies were closed we visited Danny and Kim a couple of times more to hang around and talk. During the nights we hanged out with the boys at Mortezar’s and talked late at night. We also watched movies and Toumaj and Mostaba took us for a day of Art, as we visited the Contemporary Museum of Art in Tehran. Roberto had a photographic revelation when he saw the exposition in the museum. He even met an Iranian photographer and was amazed with the quality of the exposition.
“You cycle on those bikes?”
We left our bikes at the Pooya’s bike shop. Hadi, the owner of the shop has cycled the world himself ten years ago. Bikes are his passion and we felt that our bikes were in good hands. He was very surprised when we told him that we started cycling in Germany. “On those bikes?”, he did not even try to hide his surprise. Then he looked over to Roberto, down to his bike and again to Roberto: “You must be really strong”.
We explained our problems and wishes and he offered us a good price for each two front- and back racks, panniers for the front, a new kickstand and a new speedometer for me, one proper handlebar bag for Roberto, some tools, bottle holders and the repair of a few things.
After a while of sharing great days and nights full of talks and water pipe Roberto and I moved to Sepehr’s a friend we made through Sona, a Couchsurfer in Tehran. So we left our cozy home and our good friends to go to another one. Of course we stood in contact with Mortezar and came for visits.