The Tarnished Charm of Tehran


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Middle East » Iran » North » Tehran
February 23rd 2016
Published: February 23rd 2016
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Dubai to Tehran


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Nice Lines
Day 30 Wednesday 17th February 2016



Organised ourselves, had breakfast, grabbed our bags and jumped into a taxi for the airport. Got there 3 hours before the flight as Fly Dubai Airlines suggests and then sat and did people watching. The terminal was packed with people some even having picnics on the floor, the flights in this terminal seem to be all the budget airlines flying to India, Pakistan, Sofia (Bulgaria) etc. One of the announcements was a final call for Iraqi Airways to Basra not something we hear in Australia.



We had to get a bus out to the plane on the tarmac and were finally in the air for our short flight to Tehran about 2 hours, in a blink we were landing. As we joined the queue to get through passport control there was a blackout so everyone was processed by torchlight. The lady in front did not have a visa so she needed to go to another section, we had organised our visas in Australia so were stamped in with a smile and “welcome to Iran”. It had been a huge process to get our visa in Australia but once in Tehran it was the easiest airport experience ever with not a single form to fill out. Then we had to wait for the bags so decided to go to the toilet and sent Scott first, he arrived back as soon as he left saying it was pitch dark in that section and men were trying to use mobile phone torches to see where they were walking or maybe aiming he did not clarify but decided to go back later when the lights were on. Eventually the power came on and the bags started to come through, changed some money and got a 10 million rials – we are rich, well maybe not, 100,000 rials is about $5 Aussie dollars.



The airport is a long way from Tehran city centre where we are staying and it was a manic drive so much so that the first thing I said to Scott when we arrived at the hotel was we are not hiring a car here. Our room in the hotel is at the back through a courtyard and has a balcony which is nice, the man showing us to our room grabbed my bag which was
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Scenic Tehran
a big mistake I thought he was going to have a heart attack he was wheezing so bad but insisted it was OK. Dumped the bags and had a quick pit stop and at 4.00pm hit the streets to check out the local area. Like other cities we have visited the traffic lights are ignored and the traffic meets in the centre of the intersection and somehow filters through. As a pedestrian it means taking that leap of faith when you step off the curb that they will not hit you, of course it does not help when the motorbikes go the wrong way up the street and ride along the footpaths. I (Michele) was having all sorts of dramas because wearing a scarf over my head was reducing my peripheral vision and I had to rely on Scott a lot to pull me out of harm’s way. There is a lot of stalled building work around Tehran and lots of run down and derelict buildings, which maybe is an indication the sanctions hit hard, and you do feel that things used to be and will soon be better.



We survived the walk and found a place
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Instant Millionaires
to eat which was a generic fast food place offering the usual suspects, had seen another place offering chicken livers etc on a skewer which was busy but decided on something bland for tonight. The bill was a bit confusing it come to 30,000 tomans, which is 300,000 rials it is the same money it is just the locals drop off a zero and call it tomans. So you need to ask if there are quoting rials or tomans, it will get easier I hope as we go on if it seems way too cheap it must be tomans.



Some dress code advice for women travelling here, in Tehran you have to wear long pants, it is OK to wear jeans (as long as they are not torn exposing skin) and something like a light trench coat or jacket that covers your bottom. The scarf is a must but the women here show their fringes and some hair so it is quite easy to dress appropriately. The biggest problem is everything indoors is boiling hot and that means restaurants, museums and hotels, so if visiting in the colder seasons make sure your long jacket is light and
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The Streets of Tehran
have a heavier one to wear over that so it can be taken off. If any of the cities are more conservative with dress code that we visit I will mention it in the blog.



Day 31 Thursday 18th February 2016



Braved the streets again in search of train tickets the first two travel agents could not help then third time lucky at Sireh Tour & Travel Agency at 239 Somayeh St. There were 5 people working in the travel agency and all of them joined in to help us get our train tickets. It seemed like they don’t get many tourists here and they were all having the time of their lives practising their English. They were all so helpful and after a long discussion we have changed plans and are going to the city of Yazd next not Mashhad as the train timetable did not work out, may pick it up at the end of our time in Iran. Next it was onto the National Museum it was a long walk with all the crowds. The buildings are rundown and the streets are congested, there are hawkers on the footpaths
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Lifelike Mastiff Dog
selling all sorts of things from the usual fake Raybans to selfie-sticks (oh no we can’t escape them). The museum has doubled in price to 300,000 rials, not sure how long ago but we each got two tickets stating 150,000 stapled together so it added up to the correct price. The museum is over two levels but not huge it has some great artefacts, including the head of a man who died about 1,700 years ago found in a salt mine in Chehrabad which is well preserved, who said salt was bad for you. It only took about an hour to walk through, which was lucky because Scott has picked up a cold and was feeling like a bag of unwashed potatoes (his term because he did not want to swear) and if we stayed any longer he would have been potato fries, it was so hot in there we were cooking. He hadn’t been feeling well this morning but after walking for 6 hours, he finally hit a wall. We stopped at a chemist on the way back and the lady behind the counter took one look at him and thought “man flu & I know you won’t go
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Pieces from Persepolis
to the doctors” so here are some tablets and lozenges. It was 4 in the afternoon by the time we got back to the room so Scott just took his tablets and hit the bed and slept till 6.30, still wasn’t feeling well but decided food would probably give him some energy so we returned to our restaurant from last night for an easy feed.



Day 32 Friday 19th February 2016



Went to bed feeling like crap and woke up the same way. Just didn’t feel like eating but had some toasted flat bread and lots of tea, as well as my (Scott) medication. By the time we were ready to step out the door my condition had improved and so rather than spend the day in bed we opted to see the sights. Being Friday just about everything is closed and from the hustle and bustle of yesterday the streets were now almost ghostly quiet. We had planned on going to the Bazaar today, but of course being Friday it is closed; great plan. Instead we decided on some of the smaller sites starting with one that was only 3 blocks
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Capital from Persepolis
down the road from our hotel, the ex-US Embassy or as it is called here the US Den of Espionage. Wouldn’t have travelled across town for this one but it was so close we had to see it. The US Embassy is famous for the 1979 take over by Tehrani students and the subsequent international crisis that had over 60 American held hostage for 444 days. Some say that the event cemented the position of the new spiritual and political leader Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran whilst destroying the presidency of Jimmy Carter and ushering in Ronald Reagan. The building is now a museum of sorts except that no one is allowed inside and the perimeter walls are covered in anti-American graffiti. The main reason we came was to have a glimpse at a piece of history and to photograph some of the murals. With the sanctions being lifted on Iran and the relations between Iran and the US warming to a little above freezing, there may come a day when these murals may be covered over. We had been warned that we may be hassled for photographing them, but other than an older man giving us an odd look there
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Going potty
wasn’t a problem. On a corner a few blocks away while we were waiting to cross the road a policeman in a car called us over and we had that moment where you think “did someone report us” or was it the security camera showing us taking photos but no it was just hello and where were we heading and he said be careful of pickpockets.



For our next adventure we decided to give the Tehran metro a go, figured as it was their weekend and there really wasn’t a lot of people around the metro would be a bit quieter. The first metro line was completed in 1999, they now have 5 lines with 70 stations and move 2.5 million people a day, and when the metro is completed in 2031 it will be larger than New Yorks. We managed to get our return tickets for 50 cents each and wandered down to the platform to wait for our train which arrived 10 minutes later. The train was a bit crowded but not too bad but I could imagine on week days it would be sardine material. What was amazing was how clean the train and
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Ancient Ipad
stations were. The train station platforms were actually polished marble with no sign of chewing gum or graffiti anywhere.



Our train ride today was to visit the Azadi Tower, a large concrete structure built in 1971 to commemorate the 2500th anniversary of the Persian Empire. Had often seen this structure in the background on TV footage (especially of demonstrations) and on anything promoting Iran. It was such a shame then that the whole thing is just falling apart and is in a really bad way. At present it is all fenced off and assumed that maybe they are working on it but it is more likely to ensure no one is hurt from pieces falling off it. It is actually an amazing piece of architecture I just hope they have the funds and will to look after it. Whilst here we spotted our first “morals Policeman” running round blowing his whistle if he saw any woman walking around exposing her hair or couples holding hands.



Got the metro back to the station we started from and since I was still feeling reasonable Shelley decided to take me on another 3 hour walk. Today’s walking
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Mr Salty head
adventure was to find the Golestan Palace but before starting I laid down the law and demanded something to eat, and so we got a huge Turkish kebab at a small diner near the station. On our walk we discovered an area where the streets were blocked so no cars could get through, and large numbers of Iranian families were walking around shopping and eating. Sort of guessed this may be just a Friday thing but it was so nice to be in an area away from all those cars. The occasional motorbike would still roar through the crowds, but at least there was no cars. On this walk we were stopped by a young girl who wanted our photo, so we have started the journey on becoming mega Iranian superstars.



Finally found the Golestan palace around 3pm and discovered that the prices for admission had gone through the roof. The Palace is actually a series of grand buildings that were built in the 1800’s and you have to pay to go into each building. The Lonely Planet claims the admission cost to each building would be 50 cents each, but it is now $4 each and
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Most Famous Mural
if you want to see them all it is $40 per person. Really shocked at the price hike and then discovered the 4 main buildings are off limits due to them being restored. They may be open when we return and so decided to walk away and think about if we will do it then. By now I was feeling fairly ordinary but managed the over 1 hour walk home for a bit of a rest. We had such a big lunch that we opted for an ice cream for dinner before getting stuck into our packing as tomorrow we have a 4am rise to meet a train that will take us away from this great city.


Additional photos below
Photos: 23, Displayed: 23


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US Embassy Tehran

Nothing Subtle
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Metro Station
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Couldn't recommend the builder
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Impressive from a distance
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Watch out for falling pieces!
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State of Decay
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Quiet Street with Mountains
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Milad Tower with Mountains beyond


23rd February 2016
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Iran--the forbidden land--not!
Good for you for going to Iran--I've heard nothing but good reports. The city looks lovely with those snowy mountains in back, but the traffic hideous. Loved the National Museums' offerings--Iran has such a rich history. And that Azadi tower--so photogenic from afar. I love the fun colors for Michele's scarf and coat--in Turkey and Morocco, the coat colors were so dismal. I've only seen the countryside from fabulous Iranian films, but it looks gorgeous--hope it is!
24th February 2016
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Thanks Tara, Most of the women in Tehran wear really drab colours so Michele is attracting a lot of attention.
23rd February 2016

Morality police...
I read an article a few weeks ago about a new app that alerted people to the location of the morality police - not surprisingly the app was quickly blocked but apparently lots of young people routinely bypass internet restrictions anyway. By the time you read this, hope Scott is feeling less like a sack of dirty spuds (I took your analogy and ran with it) :)
24th February 2016

Morality Police
We thought we would see them everywhere but only that once. The internet is heavily censored and it can be surprising what is blocked, but also surprising how good the news service can be. what came as a shock is that the US still has sanctions on Iran and therefore we are having trouble with Microsoft and Nortons (which now fails to protect us).
24th February 2016

Iran
A fascinating land you are exploring. Tehran looks lovely... Thanks for the fashion tips. When we go I'll be sure to take a light weight jacket. Don't you love going to countries where they want to practice their English. Love the term man flu...hope you are feeling better. Not surprised to hear of the censorship.
24th February 2016

For a blogger there is only one thing worse than Censorship and that is bad WiFi, and lucky for us Iran has both, its been a real battle.

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