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Published: September 27th 2014
Arrived last night, headscarf and modest mid thigh length top firmly in place. Cleared immigration after a prolonged line up in the Foreigners queue. I had chosen to pre-apply for my visa from Canberra rather than risk the VOA, so it was a very smooth process and then "Welcome to Iran". I had a taxi driver waiting for me so after changing some AUD from the booth upstairs and getting a SIM card from the booth downstairs we were speeding (like really speeding- 140 km/hr) off to the Golestan Hotel ($44/night for twin share inc own bathroom, wifi and breakfast- they didn't have any single rooms $27/night).
The hotel is located on an office furniture street, it has a street front door that leads into a glitzy little reception area complete with fish tank, flags of the world, lots of mirrors, photos, posters, paintings, Persian carpet, armchairs and artificial flowers. The receptionist is a nice guy who yells for "Rahman" to come get me and my bag. Room 118 is compact, faces the street and has the promised attached bathroom complete with squat toilet. It has shiny gold curtains,shiny gold bed spreads, scenic picture, decorative light,green night light,
wardrobe, plastic slippers, a bar fridge, TV and air con (sort of) - perfect. The wifi works and it seems I can access email, Facebook, Instagram, words with friends and face time! No twitter, no big deal! Best bit- it's super clean, really, really clean! Perfect.
The day begins with breakfast down in the basement- a help yourself affair of flat bread, boiled eggs, tomatoes, cucumber, feta, juice, tea (no coffee) and dates. It was really good. The dates were fantastic- soft, sweet and velvety- really different to our imported ones. Spoke with the day receptionist who was very helpful drawing me maps, giving me directions and writing various instructions in Arabic to give to the phone shop people- SIM wasn't working! Headed out into bright sunshine about 9 with the mission of:
The phone shop
National Jewels Museum
National Museum of Iran
What I actually achieved:
The phone shop
The glass and ceramics museum
The telecommunications museum
National Jewels Museum.
Finding the phone shop was easy, it was less than 100m on the left. The security guy took me down to the shop and they sorted
it out with 2 employees, a random customer and the security guy- they are a very helpful people. The Sim would be active in an hour - long story short- it wasn't. So 2 sims and a recharge card and I can't use the phone away from wifi- geoff called iinet who told him the iPhone 5, Australia and Iran are incompatible. Ah well.
Continuing on down the road towards the national museum of Iran I thought I was on a roll, I was on Si Tir St, my scarf was still on (albeit it slipping from time to time)- easy. Stumbled upon the Glass and Ceramics Museum which looked appealing - Qajar era building, fountain in front and trees. A nice garden retreat away from the dust and concrete. Ticket price $3.50 (100 000 IR), Lonely Planet lists it as US 50c. Interesting collection of glass and .... Surprise... Ceramics from 2000 BC to the present (ie the gift shop). Quite diverse designs - took lots of pics, really nice building- took as many pics of the windows as anything else. Big wooden spiral staircase, massive chandelier. It was the Egyptian Embassy up until 1976. LP recommended cafe
across street closed so continued on. Luckily so, a big tour group arrived as I was leaving.
The National Embassy, despite being not far on the same street, had vanished. I couldn't find it! Seriously, I went up and down that street I don't know how many times, so despite "being one of the more modern buildings in Tehran, blending Sassanian principles such as ....", I missed it, and it's " small courtyard cafe". Things from here went completely awry, but mostly in a good way. I found myself in a giant plaza full of large buildings including the Foreign Ministry. At one end were the Bagh e Melli gates- fabulous structure, lots of mosaic, angles and colours. Highly photographic and the light really lent itself to some great shadow shots. Next to the gates was The Museum of Post and Telecommunications. Random choice I know, but it turned out to be a quirky find. It was 35c (10000IR) to get in to this one. Massive collection of historical photos of postal services and postal routes through all parts of Iran, the Middle East and Finland (?????). Lots of printing and franking machines, postal seals, radios, post boxes, weighing
devices, telephone sets, morse code machines... And a massive hall of domestic and foreign stamps. There's also a "post in war" exhibition of martyrs photos of the postal workers shot by the enemy in the "imposed war". Piece de resistance was the private tour Mr A Nasrabadi - Head of Supreme Council of stamps, gave me of his wood burning exhibition in the Conference Hall upstairs. His hobby is wood burning and he has done a series of villages and trees and time as well as architectural works and important people. Pretty different. I'd actually recommend it!
Met a French woman as I was leaving who invited me to tag along with her to the National Jewels Museum. Geida is originally Persian but left in the 70's, she now lives in the south of France but still has a house in Shiraz. She was travelling with her nephew, Reza. Together we went to see the jewels, stopping on the way to buy fresh pistachios- you peel them then open the shell- very diff to ours. The museum is only open between 1400 and 1630 Sat - Tues and is housed in the Central Bank of Iran on Ferdowsi St.
Looking onto the front garden
Glass and Ceramic Museum, Tehran
Admission for tourists about $6 (150 000 IR), locals pay 20 000 IR- even ones who currently live in the south of France! You go through XR screening and 2 or 3 metal detectors to enter and have to lock all your things including wallet, passport, phone in a lock box. The vault holds the Iranian Crown Jewels which include 30 tiaras, swords, shields, capes, dishes, goblets, pearls, gold coins, etc from the Safavid dynasty 16th century on. There is one item - a golden, jewel encrusted globe that has 10's of thousands of stones. There are also thousand of emeralds, diamonds, rubies, etc - all very dazzling and VERY well guarded- the guards are all really pumped up and alarms go off regularly if the cases are touched. There are continuous multilingual tours going on which are well worth joining for background info. We were there bang on 2, and got straight in, when we came out there were huge queues. Said goodbye to my new French friend and nephew with an invitation to stay with her in Shiraz, or at least spend a day - exchanged contact details and kisses- we were now firm friends.
lost getting back to the hotel, found myself back at the post office museum so sat to consult the map with my cough, cough- superior map reading ability. As I was sitting a guy came up to ME to ask for directions! Surprisingly I could help because one of the hotels I asked for directions gave me a highly detailed map which I then gave to him. In return he gave me a Metro ticket which after getting on at Emam Khomeini station I was only 1 stop away from the hotel- took like 5 mins after an hour of walking round in circles- thank you Jorge from Holland- I hope you made it to the antique shop!
Back at the hotel they made me tea and offered to pick up dinner from a place nearby - brilliant plan. Enjoyed my chicken kebab with rice and char grilled tomatoes, passed on the raw onion.
Successful first day.
ps- Facebook blocked- they must have found me!
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