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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


December 20, 1999

Kish contradictions

I have just got back from Kish island in the Persian gulf. It had been many years since I last visited and I was keen to see the changes. I went there for a few days with 14 other colleagues from various nationalities. We stayed in the Shyan Hotel that was built in mid 70's. The decoration, carpets, curtains and everything else apart from few small items were all in the 70's style. But they have not been maintained. I was told that the hotel was closed for 10 years during the war. You could see that the building has many sad stories to tell.

The whole island looks like one big building site. There is a huge development by a private investor by the name of Sabet who is constructing a theme park. I was allowed to see it; he has good ideas. Like all Iran there are few foreign tourists that are prepared to wear the scarf and tolorate other difficulties and travel to Iran. Kish was no exception. But most Iranians go there to buy duty free goods. In the hotel most were carrying goods: TVs, computers, radios, cosmetics, etc. In a beautiful island with a crystal clear sea and corol reef; there's hardly anyone on the beach. It almost look deserted; no swimmers in site, not even with the Islamic dress!

But the tide is changing.Our group was able to swim in an enclosed private beach; men, women, children, all together! Yes in Iran, but only for foreign visitors at the moment. I met Germans, Russians, Brits, Canadians and a couple from New Zealand! It started to look like a island holiday. In the baazars, the women did not have to wear the manteau, only a long dress or just trousers with a small scarf on their head and for the most part not even that. No visas are needed to enetr the Island which makes life much easier.

However the road ahead is long and it is not smooth. For starters the same ideological problems in the mainland persist here. For example they refuse to fill the pool at the hotel with water! It's been empty for 21 years! All the workforce needs basic training in the English language. Immigration control needs a complete restructuring.

I was told by the tour operators that there are no problems with Iranians who have dual nationality; you show your Iranian passport as you enter Kish and your other pass when you enter the other country. It was not as easy as that! My passport was confiscated and I was told there is a "new" directive from Tehran that both passports have to be sent to Tehran! You can imagine the nightmare! I was stopped for 45 minutes and the plane was delayed. It was with help and intervention of a few other officials that I was allowed to board the plane! God bless their soul.

Tomorrow I am going to the Iranian embassy to find out about the new directive which will affect millions of Iranians. I will keep you informed.

Reza Mousoli

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