I had made it to the port by 10a.m on Sunday morning. The ride in early was a very good idea but as I
got to within one hour of the port I hit what I can only describe as a wall of humidity. It was bizarre. The change was that sudden. Luckily I didn't have that far to go and I patted myself on the back for getting up early to avoid the worst of the heat. I had expected to spend the next two days sorting out paperwork for the bike before sailing on Tuesday to Dubai. It turns out I was to leave Iran that night.
I entered the processing machine at Bandar Lengeh preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. I got something in the middle. It was actually all very bearable and the only issue was the heat and the riding gear I was cooking in as I went from one office to the next and back again for several hours. However, just 8 hours later and I was in the departure lounge, bike loaded and ready for the off.
Getting through customs was amusing. I was first pulled out of line and taken to a small room with a rather scary looking black clad woman with rubber gloves on. I think she had practiced looking mean and she grabbed my Kreiga bag before shutting the door behind me. I felt another bead of sweat trickle down by neck as I wondered why she was wearing rubber gloves! She checked my baggage and satisfied, she sent me on through another door, but one of the officials still had my passport! I went back to ask where it was and I was told to keep moving! A little odd but OK I guess I will play the game for now and see what happens. There was little choice at this stage.
I sat in the departure lounge and waited obediently before being called over to another customs official. He started questioning me "Where did you go in Iran?" I listed the cities I had been to and then, expecting more official questions was suprised to hear the it turn in to a friendly chat and of course the same old question "What do you think of Iran?" followed by a big smile when I told him I love the people. Then came the next common question "And what do you think of the government" I replied that I think the same as the majority of Iranians. He smiled knowingly, handed back my passport and wished me a safe trip.
Despite being soaked through and looking terrible I was still met with some unwanted attention in the departure lounge. Some random guy made a beeline for me and within minutes had planted himself next to me and was edging closer by the minute. He kept trying to make conversation with me but it all really came out as rambling as he leaned in closer and closer. I suspect his english was not as good as he thought. At first I was polite but I was tired by now and had little patience so as soon as he started doing the slight touches (my hand first, then my shoulder) as he spoke, I turned to him and said quite loudly "Please stop touching me". It worked but he didn't move away or stop talking and so I started reading my book. He continued to babble on in my ear. People started to move towards the exit point to board the ship and he too got up and instructed me to get up too. I told him I would go when I was ready. After walking to the back of the queue he decided to come back and sit with me again. I got up and said goodbye (get the hint!!!) before joining the queue myself.
After a few minutes of waiting I suddenly heard "Lady!" and saw the official at the front was looking at me "Me?" I said. He gestured for me to come to the front and passed the barrier. I obeyed as he pulled up a chair and offered it to me! What? I sat but I felt rather uncomfortable getting special treatment as now I was the centre of attention with 200 odd Iranians looking at me from the other side of the barrier! One woman decided this was not fair and grabbed her own chair, pulled it up next to mine and sat down. She had balls and luckily the official agreed! He laughed and let her stay. Despite only her eyes showing under the black shrowd, I was impressed by her free thinking! I smiled at her. Her eyes smiled back.
This lounge was the only place I have seen the women who wear what at first glance, can only be described as torture masks! Metal masks over their faces that was quite shocking at first! After some research I have found out that this mask is called a Batoola and these days tends to be worn only by the older generation.
Once on the boat I was directed to a seat away from the crowd. As others tried to sit in this row, they were moved on. Turns out I was being given a whole row to myself so I could sleep comfortably and with a thumbs up from the crew I took it gratefully!
I was sleeping soundly when suddenly I felt my toes being crushed. I came too and realised someone was sitting on my feet. I half looked up and thought it was a woman. Perhaps she had decided that this was unfair and had come to protest. I decided I needed the loo anyway and got up only to see it was the guy from the departure lounge who had found me! I quickly told him to get lost and go back to his seat! Eventually he did!
The Iranians it seems, love the British, despite their governments rants. It would appear they do have their own mind and love to be loved. They all want to know what people think of them back home, being conscious of what the media say, and most want to do their best to make us welcome here. This comes from people across the board, from people on the streets (Nearly broke in to a Queen song then!), to customs officials and even judges!
As a woman travelling alone, I certainly felt welcomed and cared for in Iran and I hope that one day
I could not have put it better than the 9 year old I met at the judges house. His only bit of english was
"Nice to meet you too" and "I think therefore I am"!
Iran is a beautiful country and one worth visiting (if you can get the visa!). Riding here is not always easy, particularly at this time of year. I would recommend coming during the spring when the air is cooler but the roads are good, the people are great and the food? Well, I prefered Turkey for that one but you can't win them all!
Next...Arriving in Dubai