In our last article, we left you just before boarding on the ferry from Dubai to Bandar Abbas in Iran! Due to our visa issues, going from the Arabic to the Persian world was not the easiest experience. We were eager to discover a brand new culture for us.
After a night in the ferry, we arrived in the morning in Bandar Abbas. We had looked forward to disembarking and head to the immigration office to have the proof that travellers can now get the visa on arrival in Bandar Abbas. Before leaving the ship and take our first step in Iran, we checked our appearance. In the ferry, all the women wore black chadors, these full-body-length clothes that cover all the body. For most of them, we could see only their eyes. It was a bit impressive for me. Even if I had worn my headscarf for a few months, I was not very happy with being forced to have it covering all my hair all the time. Indeed in Iran, women have to cover their hair, arms and legs. And the black clothes that all the women wore in the ferry made me feel ashamed to wear my flower dress with my legging and my pink sweatshirt.
When we left the ferry, we entered the terminal in search for the immigration office. We found a counter where it was written “Visa” in brand new letters. But… nobody was inside, the computers were not plugged, plastic still covered the chairs. When we tried to ask for the immigration officer, we realized nobody in Bandar Abbas harbour spoke English. They took our passport, saw there was already a visa on it, stamped it and leaded us to the exit. When we insisted to meet someone from the immigration, they looked suspiciously on us and said firmly “Welcome to Iran, now go out”. Ok we thought the best attitude was to leave without making any more noise. For our first minutes in Iran, it was not the moment to get into some troubles with Iranian police.
The second thing we had to do was getting Iranian money. Indeed in Iran, you cannot retrieve money from ATMs as they are not connected to the global network. You need to bring in advance all the cash you need for your trip. In the ferry terminal, we looked for a place to change our UAE dirhams and our euros into Iranian rials. But there was no money changer. We went out and started to walk towards the exit of the harbour, ignoring the taxis that looked like they hadn’t seen fresh tourist flesh for ages. We were 5 kilometers from town, it was super hot and we had no Iranian money. We really hadn’t prepared our stay in Iran, not at all. We believed that in Iran letting things go would lead us to interesting situations. We knew that people are nice and that planning would make us miss some great opportunities to meet them.
Outside the terminal, we found a bus stop and wondered if we should wait there without knowing if a bus would come or if it would go to the city centre. A man stopped in front of us with a car which was not a taxi. He started talking to us in Persian. We knew some people who are not official taxi drivers give some rides for money. So we showed him we were not interested in a ride. We wanted to think about what to do before jumping in the first car. But he insisted to talk to us and put us on the phone with someone who spoke English and happened to be his son. We explained our situation to him and we agreed that his father brought us in town next to a money changer for 10 UAE dirhams.
The father put our bags in his car and started to drive us across the city. He told us a lot of things in Persian! Then he started to take a side route that was not on the way to the city centre. We wondered if we were right to be confident in him… We arrived in front of a house. A young man came out and jumped into the car. It was his son! They drove us around the city, looking for a money changer. With the son, Mohammed, speaking English we could finally express what we needed to do: change money, buy a Sim card and take the bus to Shiraz. But as it was Friday, and in Iran Friday is holy day, everything was closed. The money changer would open only in late afternoon (at least it would open).
So Mohammed and his father invited us to have lunch with their family and spend the afternoon together, waiting for the money changer to open. We accepted. We were curious to have our first Iranian experience. Mohammed’s mother welcomed us and cooked a great lunch! Like in Oman, we all sat on the floor. But we didn’t ate with our fingers. Also we were surprised to see that unlike in the Arabian countries, the house was open to foreign males and females (meaning Alex could meet and speak to Mohammed’s mother freely). We spent a great afternoon with Mohammed and his family. Alex and him played games on the computer. I played with his little brother and sister.
At night, after finally finding a money changer and having a last walk by the sea side, we got in the night bus to Shiraz! Our first day in Iran had been full of surprises. We were eager to see what was next!