Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tehran, Tehran...'s not a wonderful town. I'm back here to apply for a new passport. First I have to collect our visas from the Turkmenistan Embassy, which is tucked away in the leafy northern suburbs of the city. I have taken a night bus from Magi, where Gayle has sensibly stayed, joined the sweaty mass on the metro to cross the city and ended up at the embassy in good time. There's no-one there. I form a queue. After a while I notice some information in English on the noticeboard. It tells me that I am at the payment stage (I have a crisp $100 bill in my hand) and that I should have the original application forms (I have) and two photographs (I haven't). With a few expletives I have to retrace my steps until I find a photoshop that can scan the photos in our passports and produce new photos. This takes an hour. When I get back to the embassy there is a queue of four people. The queue does not move and the 11am closing time is reached. I feel like crying. In desperation I wait and finally I am allowed to submit the forms and money. "Come back tomorrow" they tell me.

I spend a very pleasant afternoon with Saman, whom I met in Magi, at the English institute where he works. He is the most un-Iranian Iranian we have met (in a nice way) and very good company. A self-taught English-speaker, who winged it into university, he is now enthusiastically managing a small language school in Tehran. I am invited to stay with him and his wife, Rahalla, in their little appartment up on the slopes of the mountains overlooking the urban sprawl. On satellite TV we watch a Farsi programme, broadcast from the US, discussing women's rights in Iran. Iranians phone in to discuss the case of two women stoned to death for adultery. As Saman explains, their husbands forgave them, but the State didn't. In the morning I'm back bright and early at the Turkmenistan embassy for my fifth, final and thankfully successful visit. I hurtle back across the city to the big walls of the British embassy and submit my passport application with my current passport and two and a half million rials. It feels like a lot of rials for such a small thing.

Iranian streets are named after islamic revolutionaries, ancient poets, and folk heroes. This street is next to the British embassy.

Saman keeps me company in the afternoon before my nightbus back to Magi - we walk the tree-lined streets of northern Tehran, take tea, and talk. Sometimes Saman is mistaken for a tourist - he likes to pass himself off as an Irishman. When he was a youngster in Esfahan, a carpet-seller once tried to sell him a carpet because of this. He got interested and for a couple of years worked the bazaar in Esfahan, before going to university. He takes me to the Film Museum where I pick up a DVD of Secret Ballot, a souvenir (thanks for the recommendation Robin). Iranian cinema drew our interest to visit Iran, so it seems appropiate. We talk a lot more and then we say goodbye. Within 12 hours I'm back in Magi.

1 comment:

qunfuz said...

glad you got Secret Ballot. You've probably seen the Mohsin Makhmalbaf film "Gabbeh" (carpet) - I saw it last night for the first time. A beautiful film.