December 20, 1999
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
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.