Recently I made a two week trip to Iran. I decided to join a package tour by Intrepid Travels which was to start from Tehran and after visiting various towns terminate in Tehran.
I looked for the cheapest flight with the least waiting time and booked myself on Oman Air. The flight was Delhi to Muscat and then after 3 hours Muscat to Tehran. Delhi to Muscat by air covering a distance of 1201 miles in about 3 hours. Flight by Oman Air was comfortable.
At the Muscat airport I went to the area designated for passengers in transit. After a quick security check-up we were ushered into a huge departure area. I had been told that Middle East countries are traditional and conservative. That alcohol is a taboo, did not disturb me as I drink maybe twice a year! I was prepared to wait for the next three hours in a dull place.
But as soon as I entered the Hall, I saw her. Julia Roberts. Or more correctly, a poster of Julia Roberts for the cosmetic firm Lancome. I froze and looked at her spellbound. In my view her toothy smile is much more winsome than the so called mysterious, over rated, almost constipated and depressing half smile of ‘Mona Lisa’. OK go ahead call me culturally uninformed, but I say what I feel, not necessarily what is fashionable to be said.
I took a couple of photos of the poster, as if it was the real Julia. Just look at her:
Quite unwillingly I left Julia and moved in to the Big Departure Hall which was bursting with people, or in fact with Indians. There were Indians from all parts of our beloved country jostling to take flights to various destinations. I did not see, or at least notice any Non-Indian in that crowd. And if Indians are there, then can Indian food be far behind? Take a look at the Food Court there- totally Indian.
Soon it was time for another friendly security check and round of boarding formalities. Muscat to Tehran, a distance of 1500 kms was covered in around 2 hours and 20 minutes.
At the Tehran airport, the Immigration formalities were amazingly quick- as I was the only person in the window meant for ‘Foreigners’. Coming out with my bag I saw the first signs of Navroz or the Iranian New year celebrations. A small corner had been tastefully and colourfully decorated by the airport authorities.
For a detailed explanation of Navroz please read the following article by Anurag Chatrath at http://peripateticously.blogspot.in/2012/05/nowruz.html
I came out and was surprised to find a number of taxis vying to get the attention of the travellers. Unambiguous large boards indicated the exact price of the taxi ride to anywhere in the Tehran city- a modest equivalent of less that 15 US dollars. I felt cheated as my Tour Operator had quoted 80 USD for this taxi trip and utimately I had booked with another Tour Operator for USD 40. But this had nothing to do with the Taxi Drivers who quietly took passengers at the fixed rate.
I waited and waited for my elusive booked Taxi. The local Taxi drivers were amazingly helpful and tried to help me. Since my mobile was not working they repeatedly rang up the three numbers that I had, but to no luck.
Ultimately I just stood there tired and exhausted. Then I saw an Iranian family standing not far from me. I asked the gentleman if he spoke English, he smiled and said ‘No’ and then added ‘but yes’. He told his wife, who knew good English, to take over. She understood my problem, took the phone numbers from me and asked her 10-11 year old son to handle the telephoning part. A few attempts later I was told by the lady that my booked taxi had been located, it was a white Puegeot and the young tall driver sported a small beard. Within seconds the taxi arrived the the young 10 year old boy made me dumb with his affection and regards by quietly carrying my bag to the taxi. Yes, the Iranians are very friendly and it is not a put on.
This was my first view of Tehran. I was just not prepared to see the city next to the snowy mountains. But more about that in the later articles.
I reached the modest hotel where I was booked about an hour later and noticed a small table with the Navroz decoration in the centre of the Reception area.
Sowing of barley and letting it grow for 9 days and then disposing it off with grace is a part of Navroz celebrations- quite like what some do during the Navratras in parts of north India.
More and many more photo articles on my trip to Iran would follow on this website.
Photos, text & copyright: K.J.S.Chatrath
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