Tehran is different from the rest of what we’ve seen in Iran. The traffic in the city centre was crazy. In Vietnam, at least when you cross the street you know people will avoid you. In Tehran you’re not sure they’ve even noticed you’re here. It’s like your transparent for car and motocycle drivers. And you’d better run when you cross the street!
But before arriving to Tehran, we made a quick stop in Qom, one of the holiest cities in Iran, with Mashhad. At first, we wanted to spend a night in Qom but we didn’t find any accommodation. So we decided to go there by bus and catch the train to Tehran at Qom station. The main place to visit in Qom is the Fatima È Massummeh Shrine, the burial place of Fatima È Massummeh, the daughter of the 8th Imam Reza, and three daughters of the 9th Imam. We had read that non Muslims cannot enter the shrine alone. We showed up at one gate with our big backpacks. Despite the heat, I put my tchador on me to show that we were willing to show respect to the place. The guardians at the entrance filtered the people. They told us to wait and a mollah came to be our guide and make us visit the shrine. The place was huge: it had three courtyards and three prayer halls. Quick note: a mollah for Shia Muslims is a religious man, a bit like an imam for Sunni Muslims. For Shia Muslims, the name “Imam” is only given to the twelve Prophets.
After that we took our first Iranian train to go to Tehran. It was a short ride but the train was very modern and comfortable, and moreover it left us right in the middle of Tehran, the capitale of Iran.
We found a hotel next to the bazaar. It was the less expensive hotel of Tehran, very spartan, but ok for the price of 12 €! The bazaar was the most impressive one we ever visited. It was so huge! We looked for a restaurant inside, the famous Moslem Restaurant, and we got lost several times. Hopefully nice Iranian people lead us to the right way every 50 meters. But the quest was worth it as we ate there the most delicious chicken with cranberry rice. Then we just walked in any direction to discover the different areas of the bazaar. It is distributed in different areas according to different businesses: the carpet business, the spice business, the kitchenware business… The carpet area was the most impressive, with tons of luxury carpets stacked up one above each other. When we know that a Persian carpet can cost 3000 €…
In the afternoon, we payed a visit to Azadi Tower, the symbolic tower of Tehran with its 45-meter high. Originally built in 1971 to celebrate the 2500 years of the Persian Empire, it was named “Azadi” which means “freedom” after the Revolution of 1979 that made Iran the Islamic republic it is today.
During our stay in the desert, we had met two Brazilians who had recommended us to visit Darban, a neighborhood that was famous to be the relaxed part of Tehran. To escape the chaotic traffic we went there one evening. We found nice restaurants, people selling dry fruits, but it was quite empty and not very lively. When we got back from the area to take the metro back to town, it was 10.30pm. As we entered into the station, people told us the last metro had already departed! Damn it! We were stuck 12 kilometers from our hotel! We found a bus going to town but we didn’t know exactly where it was going and no bus driver was able to speak English with us. We ended up missing the right stop to go back home. So we walked 3 kilometers at 1am in the middle of Tehran! It was a bit scary, the area of the bazaar so lively at noon was dark and empty. At least we saw the “no traffic” side of Tehran and I guess not a lot of people have the chance to see it!
To escape the rather tiring atmosphere of Tehran, we decided to move on and carry on our trip towards Turkey in the North West. The question was: should we go North to the Caspian sea and than West, or West to Kurdistan and then North?!