Part 7.2 (8 July - 24 July) Iran chapter 2



In the mean while the Ramadan period had started and we were anxious to see how it would be experienced in Iran. We were told we could be sent to jail or be deported from the country if we were caught eating or drinking in public. For the same ‘crime’, Iranians would be punished by whiplashes. We were amazed to see that so many people didn`t participate in Ramadan! People were eating and drinking in the parks or cars, and so many told us that although they are Muslim, they drank water and even had some food during the fasting period between sunrise and sunset. This is something that was unheard of 5 years ago!


Of our journey through Iran we liked Esfahan as a city the most, it truly is the jewel of Iran, incredibly beautiful! The main square is lined with ancient mosques and the nicest bazar in all Iran.

We met a nice jewel-seller who we had dinner with, while later that evening we met a very nice family in the central square with whom we shared fruit and stories until 1am at night. Travel in Iran during Ramadan is not that bad at all.




After Esfahan we did a 500km drive south to the city of Shiraz, where we wanted to visit the ancient capital of Persia; Persepolis!

That day with 42 degrees it was blistering hot, especially when you are officially not allowed to drink during the day. Nicolette did a nice imitation of a ‘walking shower’ in her Sharia-approved dress and we managed to spend a nice couple of hours exploring the beautiful ruins.


Back in Tehran to pick up our Kazakh visa, we first paid a visit to the former US embassy in the center of Tehran, now named the ‘US Den of Espionage’ by the Iranian government. This is the place from where the US helped to keep the Shah of Persia in power and where angry Iranian revolutionaries kept 50 Americans hostage for 444 days… the graffiti on the walls speaks for itself, the Iranian fanatics really don’t like the Americans.

At the Kazakhstan embassy for some reason we got our visa, but with a validity of 30 days instead of the regular 90 days…. which would come back to haunt us in Kazakhstan in a very bad way. But we were too excited to pay much attention to it and started to prepare for the much feared Turkmenistan transit visa application!


The Turkmenistan visa lottery


The next day we went to the embassy at 8:30. Don`t think the consulate is a nice place where you can come in and have a chat with the consul about the needed documents etc. As an unworthy and annoying tourist, you are directed to a 30x30cm hole in the wall where a grumpy guy hands you some forms to fill out. He then closes the window until 10.45 and when opening again, he takes the forms and checks them. If something is then wrong, you will have to come back the next day because the consulate is only open until 11.00am. We were told it would take 10 working days for the visa to be ready… and our Iranian visa was about to expire in 9 days, so we had to request an extension for our Iranian visa. More bureaucracy, yay!

It`s the Po-lice


If the visa would be approved, we could pick it up in Mashhad close to the Turkmenistan border, so we would not have to wait 10 days in Tehran, very nice! On the way to Mashhad we decided to go via the Caspian coast again, we parked in Mahmudabad close to the beach and went to bed to watch a movie. After an hour or so there was a knock on the window, which we ignored, shortly followed by a short burst of a siren… uh oh…

Before entering the country we had to submit the route that we would follow, including dates and hotels where we would stay, but obviously we didn`t stick to this plan. 

In his underwear, Jeroen opened 1 of the rear side windows of the car and was greeted by a very surprised but relaxed army officer. A police officer was visible in the background (they always travel in pairs) furiously talking on his phone and waving his arms. The army officer spoke English and with a faint smile asked us what we were doing here. ‘Sleeping!’ was our reply, to which his question was why we didn`t go to a hotel. ‘The car is a better hotel’ Jeroen replied and with a short laugh and a wave the army officer ordered the police officer back in the car and they drove off, leaving us a bit shaken but not stirred :-)

For our next stop in the city of Damghan, we decided to use a hotel after many nights in the car. The hotel we wanted to stay in was fully booked so we went to the other hotel in town. Big mistake, as the staff acted like we were the first tourists ever to stay here. The next morning a guy knocked on our door with a telephone in his hand, ‘It`s for you’, he said to Nicolette. Completely baffled because no one knew we were in Damghan, she answered the phone. It was the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, checking up on us… Fortunately we were in Damghan according to our submitted plan and after asking Nicolette dozens of questions, the Iranian interviewer was satisfied and we never heard from them again. 

On to Golestan national park!


We found a nice spot near Loveh waterfall. We were asked by some young guys to join them for a shaslik BBQ including a shisha, which was very nice, until at one point our hosts started rolling little tubes from plastic foil?! We were pretty clueless what on earth they were doing until they pulled out a bag with some brown paste in it. They laughed, pointed at it and said ‘Afghanistan!’…. so this was either heroin or opium and they started happily smoking it away. Remember, this is Iran and they hang you for possession of over 30 grams of narcotics! So we decided to make a polite but very quick get-away and headed back to the car to spend the night in nature close to the waterfall. Despite the encounter with the druggies we liked it a lot at the waterfall and the next day we spend chilling out and swimming in the freezing waters (again fully clothed of course). We attracted a lot of attention as the Iranians had probably never seen this before and were staring in disbelief at these 2 blue-eyed idiots playing in the freezing waters of the waterfall.

Delayed culture shocks

In Mashhad we found a nice guest house (Vali`s) in a side street close to the city center where we were allowed to sleep in the car next to the entrance of the guest house if we would buy dinner there. We happily did this as Vali`s wife undoubtedly is one of the best cooks in Iran! We got to meet many other interesting travelers and as we had to stay 6 days before our Turkmenistan visa was ready, we got to know Vali and his family very well. His children even took us to a swimming pool in the evening to escape the heat of the city. Of course men and women would go separate. That evening to our surprise we discovered Iranians really can`t swim!

While Jeroen and our new Polish friend Jacek were doing some laps in the pool, the Iranian guys attempted something that resembled controlled drowning. But the men`s pool was nice, with full spa facilities and a gym, all included. Just don`t run bare-foot on a tread-mill as Jeroen`s feet found out the painful way.

The women`s pool was a much bigger culture shock…. Nicolette was not allowed to wear her 2-piece bikini with a T-shirt over it, but had to wear a 1-piece outfit. So Vali`s daughter Sanaz and her cousin took Nicolette to the swimsuit shop which led to some hilarious situations! First of all the girls suggested Nicolette should buy something as shown here, amazingly this is completely legal as it is a 1 piece outfit and many of the Iranian girls were actually wearing it! When Nicolette suggested she found it way too sexy the girls burst into a giggle… apparently it is not-done for a girl to say the word ‘sexy’. Jeroen and Jacek soon found out it is no problem at all for men to say this about a woman. Nicolette asked for a nice Speedo swimsuit, but the item the Iranian girls came up with was way too small, Nicolette again caused a lot of giggles when pointing this out. It is not done for a lady to talk about her body, especially not the size of certain body parts! When Nicolette finally got to the pool she found out all the girls had to hand in their phones (no photo`s!!) and put on her swimsuit in a small closet-like space to prevent anyone seeing them naked… even though there were only ladies present…

In the women`s pool it was even worse than in the men`s pool, no attempts at anything resembling swimming was made, all the ladies were just standing in the shallow part chatting with each other! And then there was the swim cap. Absolutely no hairs were allowed to appear from under it, so every time a few hairs dared to pop out, a loud whistle from the life guards sounded and the hairs were hastily put back in place.

Holy Shrine visit

We visited the Holy Shrine of Mashhad together with a Swiss girl Elena we met at Vali`s guest house. At one point we accidentally entering the area reserved only for Muslims. At each entrance men and woman are separated and then Jeroen lost Nicolette and Elena in the massive crowds. When the girls started looking for him, they attracted attention… a lot of attention, of very angry chador-clad women. Instead of offering help or guiding them to the exit, these women were yelling and pulling on Elena and Nicolette`s chador to a point where things got scary and a guards wanted to takethe girls away for their own safety. They escaped and fled back to the entrance where Jeroen was waiting for them, completely oblivious to what had been going on…



The next day the Turkmenistan visa were supposedly ready for pickup and upon asking the guy at the consulate, we got a positive reply, the visa are ready!



Yay, Turkmenistan here we come!

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Commentaren: 1
  • #1

    Maarten (zaterdag, 03 september 2016 19:22)

    Lekker om te lezen weer! Mooi mooi! Onwijs succes verder en hoop dat China Visa ondertussen ook helemaal oké is voor de rest van de mensen. Enjoy!



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