Trip to Iran. Part I
February 19, 2004
Exactly nine months ago, as I am walking through
the dark, cold corridors of
our department, a flashy brochure catches my eyes. I eagerly grab
brochure and notice that it contains information on an upcoming
conference in Ahvaz, Iran. I tell myself that I have not been in
Iran for the last
nineteen years. If my research abstract is accepted, my travel
accommodations will be paid for. I send my research abstract and
it is accepted.
my supervisor about the conference.
"Where is this conference
again?" he asks
expecting to hear Hawaii, Boston, Sydney or London.
that?" he eagerly asks.
"Southern city in Iran" I
say. "This will give me an
opportunity to visit my country."
I think to myself,
who in the right
mind is going to give you money to go to a Middle Eastern country
when you can
go to a conference where your research can have an impact.
great idea, but will you have any problems returning," he
no, I am
exempted from military service; I should have no problems," I
Eight months later, I find myself days away from
my trip to Iran. This is
not just a trip to Iran but I am also moving Montreal back home
Canada. I am tired of not understanding French and the cold nights
temperature could get as low as -45C.
My last days are spent packing
my suitcase and
also shipping my stuff back home. Eventually the day arrives. I
Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt. The seven hours transit is tiring
but somehow it
passes and a second Lufthansa flight is ready to take us to Tehran.
It has been
long since I shared a flight with so many Iranians. The flight
comes across the isle and greets everyone. "Good morning" he
passenger behind me replies "Chaakereem". I smile and
realize from this moment on I
am entering a new world.
Finally, we arrive at Mehrabad. The airport doesn't
seem like it has changed
much from nineteen years ago. I enter the passport check line up.
officer greets me and reluctantly looks at my passport.
sure you get your
exit permit few days before you leave from the Passport Office" he
I go in a few days?" I mumble. "No, go to some Mehmounis
first, you can go a
few days before leaving". I tell myself that at least he is
a nice guy. But
spending a day or more in the Passport Office frightens me. Oh
well, lets not
worry about it now.
Down the escalators I find myself at
the baggage claim. The
first thing that attracts my attention is the number of ads and
foreign goods. After fifteen minutes the baggage finally arrives.
Behind me are
two British citizens. One of them points to small oval shape object
rails that seems to be part of the wheel of a suitcase. "That
looks like a
grenade," he mumbles to his friend mockingly. "They say
as long as you don't
interfere with politics things are OK here," his friend replies.
I smile; the Brits
are indeed a smart bunch.
I finally find my luggage and come out of the gate.
I am amazed at the number
of people waiting to greet their loved ones. I must have seen at
Finding a taxi is hopefully the last stage of my
trip. In finally negotiate
a good deal with a driver. He puts all my luggage on his Peykaan.
I have not
ridden in one of these babies for so long. Surprisingly, this one
seems to be
a new model but it doesn't look much different from the model from
years ago. In fact I think the Peykaan is the only car where the
perform much better than the newer ones. The driver seems nice.
I tell him I have
not been here for 19 years. "Be Shahre Hert Khoshaamadid," he
says (welcome to
the city of chaos).
As he is driving away from the airport, I see
glimpses of the city, past the Azadi Square into the Hemmat highway.
I do have vivid memories of 19 years ago and at least this part
of town, has
not changed much. I am surprised at the volume of traffic at
3am. The traffic
this time in the morning is worse than the rush hour traffic
eagerly report my observation to the driver.
"You think this
is bad, wait
until tomorrow at 9am, you can lose a camel in these streets."
I love these
Persian expressions, they are funny. The very fact that they
are true make them
funnier and more interesting.
Finally, after forty minutes I arrive at the Saee
Hotel apartments which
actually situated in the center of town close to Vali-Asr Square
Square. After checking in I enter my room on the fifth floor. I
go to the
window and get a nice view of the city at night. I can barely see
Mountains and even some satellite dishes are visible on some roofs.
am finally here in Tehran. After nineteen years, I am back. The
lights can be
seen as far as the base of the mountains. I turn in as tomorrow
will be a busy
day and the day after I have to go back to the airport to catch
a plane to
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