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Vast crystal blue skies
200 kilometers of open shores lining the Persian Gulf
Part 1, II

By Shabnam
July 17, 2002
The Iranian

After twenty days in Tehran, where the average square footage per person is so nominal that it must violate some human rights rules somewhere, you consider squeezing into a city cab with only 4 others a lucky break, crossing a street is more of a health hazard than downing a liter of bleach.

And yet worsening your claustrophobia is the lack of personal space, where people comfortably discuss and ask about any and every aspect of your life, and you have to bare that "buyer's gaze" at every party you attend, where well meaning mothers varandaaz (check out) the latest import, and refer to you as their "aroos" (bride) before the end of the evening.

Right about this time, I found heaven in the Persian tropics! With over 200 kilometers of open shores lining the Persian Gulf, vast crystal blue sunny skies, processions of magnificent palm trees, amazing cuisine, and a vibrant culture, Bandar Abbas was infinitely more than I had expected.

Upon our arrival we were unexpectedly greeted by an acquaintance, which had heard of our visit, and for the next 48 hours we sampled true Bandari (port) hospitality. My host, Homa hotel -- a souvenir of the prior regime, with its well kept gardens, the palm and eucalyptus trees, the willows, the huge court yard, the sign that directs you to the namaaz khaaneh (prayer room), the evening dinners and pool side live concerts, and that Homa emblem sitting proudly atop the building, is indeed exquisite!

Although I had heard much about Dokhtareh Bandar (girls of Bandar Abbas), seeing them in person was a different story. They have the hot tropical weather to thank for their slim built and tanned skin. Some wear the traditional burqa (vs. the religious kind that women wear in Afghanistan). Some wear silk colorful chadors and bangles. Some balance their day's purchases flawlessly on their head. And all walk tall with perfect posture and stride. (NONE let me photograph them!)

The highlight was my afternoon trip to the island of Qeshm. We traveled across the intoxicating Persian Gulf by a lenj, as the sun was setting, and the humidity was perfect enough as to just make the air fragrant. As I was standing on the deck of the boat and having a titanic moment, for a second I could hear the song Khalij (Gulf), in my head... "Nafasam raa az khalijeh hamishegiye Fars Migiram" (I get life from the Always Persian, gulf)!

Qeshm, the largest island in the Persian Gulf, is a free port, which went under development in the past 7 to 8 years, as yet another way to improve the Persian economy, and for foreign goods to enter Iran via the gulf. At the time, hopefuls using loans at 35% interest rates, built supper malls and boutiques and restaurants, waiting to cater to the rush of shoppers.

However, something in this scheme doesn't quite work. As millions of dollars worth of the latest electronic equipment, textiles, and foodstuff enter the island, there is a restriction on the amount of goods that can actually be taken off. This bottleneck effect has ruined many affairs, but it has also become a source of income for others in this ever-creative society.

"Parachuters" are large families, natives of the province, that get paid to go shopping in Qeshm for businesses in other cities, as they are permitted a larger buying quota than visitors. At the end of the day, thousands of families with over a dozen kids, exhasted, line up at the customs to load their goods on to the boats. It's interesting that a family that appears to be at poverty level, leaving the island with 17 identical large screen TVs, doesn't even raise the customs officers' suspicion.

We ended the night at Olive Park, on the shores of the Always Persian, Gulf, embraced closely by the beautiful mountains... the indescribable smell of air was intoxicating: humidity, sea salt, cool spring breeze, and apple flavored tobacco from the water pipes. I then joined the men, on the carpeted beds, and drank the best tea I have ever had, in cups which I'm sure were not washed ;o)

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