My British friend says..
i fatema, It's my last travel story from Iran for your weblog , I hope it's o.k.. It is my biggest regret that I did not keep a diary as i travelled in nepal,india,pakistan and iran....
ESFAHAN,QUM,TEHRAN APRIL 1997 --- I have been on the road for four months and I have yet to have a conversation with a woman.Hotel and restaurant workers,taxi drivers,bus drivers and tourist guides are all men.As the saying goes.......IT'S A MANS WORLD.In Iran especially,girls smile as you pass them on the street but none will stop to talk.I'm aware of the implications for a girl to be seen talking to a man in public so I don't engage in conversation either.It's a pity as I'm curious about whats life is like for a girl in Iran.I think as well that a person has fonder memories of a country if you get chatting to the people.A couple of years ago I was travelling around vietnam,enjoying it immensely,but I never had a good chat with anybody.Admittedly,very few people speak english in vietnam.Now when I think about vietnam,I've got no warm feelings towards it.So now I've got my chance.I am in Esfahan,enjoying the Eman Mosque with its gorgeous blue tiles,when two girls wave at me to come over to them.I'm not sure what to do as I do not want to get them into trouble.I decide to go and as I begin to walk over a group of schoolboys,on a school trip from Mashad,appear from nowhere and surround me,wanting to talk about football!!!What bad luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.
Next on my list was the Holy city of Qum,155km south of Tehran.I was not allowed to enter the Masumeh Mosque but it was fantastic just to look in.At the entrance a man,smartly dressed in a suit,approached me and asked to see my passport.He was polite but firm asking where I was staying and where I was going to next.
The taxidriver taking me to Tehran told me he was from the secret police.I like cities the best and the bigger the better.So arriving in Tehran was very exciting.I remember thinking as I walked around Tehran,here I am in one of the safest cities in the world and yet I decided not to tell my family I was going to Iran.I did not want to worry them.Over the next five days I visited many of the sights in Tehran including the Holy shrine of Eman Khomeini and the cemetery,Behesht-e Zahra.My travel guidebook says "the graves go as far as the eye can see" .It is true.Many of the graves contain photographs and personal things of the soldiers.It was truly shocking to see so many graves.
The hotel I was staying at also had two Malaysian girls.One was a Malay muslim and the other was a chinese Malaysian.They were travelling around Iran only.We went on a day trip to Tochal mountain,taking the cable car.On arriving at the base we got something to eat and as we went to board the cable car a woman in uniform approached us.She told one of the girls,quite sternly,to close her jacket as underneath she was wearing a loose fitting tee-shirt.She got a fright as I did also.We had a marvellous day on the mountain.There was no skiing, as most of the snow had melted, but people were sliding down on plastic bags.All of us were given chances to slide down by people we met there.In my three weeks in Iran they were the only tourists I met.One evening at the hotel I went to their room for a chat and to decide on what sightseeing we would do the following day.About fifteen minutes later the Hotel Manager knocked on the door and said I should leave.He told us that it was O.K for me to talk for a few minutes but not too long as somebody could report it to the police.
My Iranian Odyssey was coming to an end.I had two days left on my visa.One would take me to Tabriz and the other to the turkish border.I have been to many countries since but Iran will always be my number 1.The reason why ......its people.When you meet fellow travellers many stories are exchanged----which countries you been to and what you saw there.Very,Very few people have been to Iran and when I say I have been there,invariably,they say WOW, what was it like?This is where I do my ambassadorial duties!!! come in and I tell them it's the best country you could visit
This post is writen by Mr Sidney Phelan