Oh yeah! It’s finally about to happen! After quite a rough night today I finally fly to Iran! Instead of my alarm-clock, friendly airport staff wakes me up and asks me to show my ticket. He kindly tells me the flight to Tehran takes of from gate one. Thank you sir! It’s still early and I have plenty time left before the flight goes. I thought about sleeping again, but returning to sleeping on the floor amidst hundreds of other passengers didn’t feel like a comfortable idea this morning. I get a fair share of stares from the international blend of people waiting in this hall. Instead I use the time to connect to the internet and send some messages for as long as the connection works.
Then it’s time to freshen up in the airport toilet and to slowly make my way to the gate. At Sharjah airport
I can already feel the difference in environment; head-covered woman wearing long dresses, beautiful and expensive shops at the airport and a currency that I don’t understand. There’s a different script and a different language. Unfamiliar with the language I keep making the mistake of greeting everybody with ‘Namaste’ I guess I’ve spend too much time in India and Nepal! Okay, back to the gate! As we had to wait just a little longer I remembered I had some basic Persian words on my phone. New country, new language! So I started practicing. I recognized a couple of words like ‘Salaam’ (sufficient
for greeting) Bradar (brother), Panj (five) and practiced basic phrases from my seat. It didn’t take long before Nasrin, a beautiful and intelligent lady addressed me and curiously asked me if I was
practicing Persian. She very much enjoyed my efforts of blending with her country and started to practice with me! She gave me some advice on pronunciation and the importance of knowing the numbers. We had a fun time! As we boarded it appeared that we were only one seat behind each other, and she invited me to the empty seat next to her. In the airplane we got to meet each other better and had good conversations about Iran. Nasrin has a PHD in psychology and works as a psychologist and a teacher in the university. Later she told me she also teaches psychology in the school of her youngest son. She is a mother of two and the oldest son had just applied for a study visa in England. This is why she and her son were traveling to Dubai, to arrange this visa. They are currently waiting for the approval. Exciting! Nasrin has a beautiful energy and is very friendly and interested in other cultures. We discussed about my plans in Iran before she suddenly invited me to her home in Tehran! Wow! I’ve heard about the
Iranian hospitality, but to be offered a home after a meeting at the airport is the next level! I kindly accepted this generous offer and warm welcome to Iran :)!
While we got closer and closer to Tehran Nasrin’s son pointed out we could see Iran from the window. A huge dessert appeared underneath us with endless mountains and sand dunes. Amazing! I saw salt lakes and smaller and larger communities living in the dessert. My excitement grows every minute. I’m so curious about this almost ‘forbidden land’
The flight only took 1.5 hours, but felt like forever! And finally we landed! Nasrin kindly reminded me to put on my scarf and helped me to get the visa. This turned out to be a piece of cake as other than the health care insurance and the online visa application no other documents were required. Not even one question was asked and the immigration officer never even saw my face when he granted me the visa. A little further ahead, where the visa was checked also not a single question was asked. Instead, all men gave me a warm welcome to the country and wished me a happy stay.
Barely 15 minutes after landing I was outside of the airport, complete with backpack, amazing travel company and lots of good travel wishes. A warmer welcome I cannot imagine!
The drive home took about 1 hour, driving on the propper infrastructure that leads to the city. Old and new cars and busses share the road with us. The scenery is flat and dry and the trees have already lost their colour as getting ready for the winter season. I’m quiet as I try to take in as much as possible. The crazy traffic doesn’t seem crazy yet compared to India and Nepal. I feel relaxed, tired and excited at the same time. The first sights of the city appear along with the brown colored mountains behind them. Tehran is a huge city! Then we reach the house; a beautiful appartement that leaves me speechless. Never before was I in a Iranian house nor did I know about Persian interior;
Two beautiful carpets cover the floor and many pieces of ‘carpet art’ hang on the wall in beautiful, big frames. There’s classical, decorative furniture on both sides of the space and the ceiling holds two extravagant chandeliers. A cosy, open kitchen connecting to the living room. The house feels warm and the space feels open. I feel like the luckiest person for being welcomed in this family and this house!
Nasrin invites me to take a shower and do some laundry while she orders in some food. The timing couldn’t be more perfect as the pizza and sandwich just arrived when I was clean and fresh again :)!
Together we ate the food and discussed about Iranian and Dutch food. It will be a delight to taste the Persian kitchen! Now that our stomachs were satisfied it was time for tea and conversation. Nasrin prepared a lovely tray full of tea, fruits, dates and sugar! In Iran the tea is drank sweet, but not by putting sugar inside the tea cup. Instead you put the cube in your mouth and drink the tea along with it. The soft sugary texture slowly dissolves in your mouth as the warm tea passes through it. What an interesting way of drinking tea! It’s actually very sweet and delicious! While Parsa goes outside to play with his new football, Nasrin and I drink the tea and eat the sweet fruits. We discuss many topics and quickly learn that the Western image of Iran is nothing like the real deal. Iran is a very safe and welcoming country and it’s painful for Iranians that the world has such a negative image about Iran. It’s also painful that because of the international relations, it’s difficult for Iranians to travel abroad and to expand their world knowledge. It’s therefore so important that international tourists help to open the world for Iran by
spreading their experience of this beautiful country.
As the evening falls Nasrin and Parsa invite me for a trip to the Milad tower. Tehran’s largest telecommunication tower and also the 6th highest in the world. It’s a long drive as even at this time the road is busy. It takes time, but then we slowly reach the tower. Now that the evening fell it’s cold in Tehran. We quickly move towards the huge tower and listen to the brief introduction. Then we take a super fast elevator up to the observation desk. I can feel the pressure in my ears as we go up. The sights of the city are already amazing! Then it’s time to go outside and enjoy the 360 view of the city! Tehran by night! It’s amazing! Red and white car lights mark the main roads which look like veins of the city. Numerous lights mark the size of the vibrant city. It’s a truly spectaculair view!
Inside the Milad tower (Milad means something like ‘birth’) I get many friendly smiles and greetings. My first impression of the Iranian people is that they are very kind, generous, curious and welcoming.
Fulfilled we end the day with an exhibition of great Persian thinkers and poets and a delicious Nutella shake. We conquer the icy cold weather on our way to the car and make our way back home. At the end of the day I’m super tired, but had a most wonderful, spontaneous, and informative day! I am one lucky
person as to meet such friendly and generous hosts. What a great way to start this Iranian adventure :)!