Iran: Diary of a Journey

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#1 Iran: Diary of a Journey

Postby fountainhall » Mon Oct 23, 2017 10:06 pm

Part 1

For those expecting details of gay encounters, best to skip this. It is purely an account of a 13-day trip I made to Iran earlier this month, although as I mention I did find some of the Iranian boys very cute. Hopefully some may find it interesting. Perhaps one or two readers may even consider making a similar trip, possibly on a stopover from Europe to Thailand. That's what I did, although I was traveling in the other direction. I have divided the Notes into four posts. There was just so much to see and absorb.

At the end of last year, I had booked a mileage ticket to the U.K. on Qatar Airways with stop-over in Doha. Wondering where else I might travel, I was having dinner in Bangkok with some friends from Shanghai when they suggested I must consider Iran. They had been twice and loved both visits. Since I love Islamic architecture and wanted to know more of the history of that part of the Middle East, I booked a tour with their recommended Iranian travel agency.

Whilst it is easy for Thais and many other nationalities to enter Iran with a visa on arrival, British, Canadian and American nationals have no such luck. We have to fill out a very detailed application form months ahead. This is then vetted by the Foreign Ministry in Tehran, a process that in my case took about 10 weeks. A visa can then be issued which here in Bangkok cost just over Bt. 8,000 - high by any standards but in the end worth every Baht.

I started the trip with 3 days in Qatar. Not much to see here apart from some very impressive modern architecture -

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- and a stunning Museum of Islamic Art, the building designed by I. M. Pei. The exhibits take in the entire Islamic world and show the influences from many countries, including China.There is also a fascinating Museum outlining the history of slavery in the Gulf, something I had thought little about, although I should have realized that when it eventually came to the discovery of oil, the Anglo Iranian Oil Company would pay its labourers slave wages.

Three days later I am up early at 5:15 to repack, grab a cup of coffee and then off to Doha’s sparkling airport for the 8:00 am flight to Tehran. Biz class check in is like checking in to a 5-star hotel. Porters to take my bags and smiles and welcomes all round. QR really does put so many airlines to shame. Being a Middle Eastern hub, the airport is heaving with tired bodies just arrived from goodness knows where and rushing to find connections to goodness knows where else.

As my 737 crosses the Gulf, the coast of Iran below seems just like mountainous white dust with hints of light brown. The further we fly north over the country I wonder who on earth can live in this barren land. Eventually small squares of green and brown appear, indications of civilization, but the clusters are few and far between. This barrenness continues for around 45 minutes until the land changes but only to flat desert and further signs of life in the form of towns start to appear. Yet this still looks pretty uninhabitable terrain. I wonder: where does the water come from? This could be the moon only it's a sandy white rather than a chalky gray.

Soon I wonder again: I have deleted all evidence of gay photos from my iPad and iPhone, but have forgotten to delete the apps. Too late now as we are at the gate. I’ve heard that Customs is pretty relaxed here now. I live in hope!

Immigration is a breeze, fast and no questions like ”Have you been to Israel?” A positive answer would have seen me immediately back on the return flight. Customs also ask no questions and bags str merely x-rayed - I imagine to check for bottles of booze which are one of the few things totally verboten. 2 minutes and I am through, meet my guide/driver and start my trip. Unbelievably simple! Re my water question, he tells me that Tehran gets loads of water from the mountains immediately to the north of the city. Iran also has a huge water table underground, in parts 100 meters deep. You live and learn. En route into the city, we visit the Mosque where Ayatollah Khomeini is buried. An impressive start, even though it remains unfinished 28 years after his death. I am surprised at the colour green but discover later that this is common in Shi’ite shrines. Apparently it represents Paradise! I hope Khomeini is enjoying his virgins!

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In the afternoon, we visit a few parts of the city including the famous Azadi Tower built on the instructions of the Shah’s third wife. Although I'd seen photos, the real thing is especially impressive in the afternoon sun.

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One thing I had not been told was that Tehran virtually closes down today and tomorrow for the humungous Festival of Ashura, the holiest in the Shia calendar. The main Festival commemorates the day on which in 680 AD Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, was martyred at Karbala in Iraq. Despite restaurants and cafes being closed, everywhere it seems everyone is giving out free meals, coffees, teas and soft drinks to everyone else, including tourists.

Waiting for a Meal
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Coffeed-out, more than one shop owner seems genuinely disappointed that I will not accept their offering. The Festival includes all manner of street parades, with drumming, chanting, wrestling displays and prayers along with groups indulging in a fair bit of self-flagellation! Black is everywhere and will stay that way for a week.

One benefit of the Festival is that traffic in this city of 15 million is a vast improvement from its normal dreadful crawl. In addition to a few sights like a mosque beautifully decorated in glass mosaics just off the bazaar and the still closed US Embassy of “Argo” fame with anti-US murals on its exterior walls -

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- we visit a couple of parks with excellent views. Lots of young Iranian men are playfully holding hands and happy to smile at this aging adventurer! While virtually all Arabs are a turn-off for me, some of these Iranian boys are really very attractive - but of course totally out of bounds. And yet: again I wonder. With such a large population, despite the restrictions of the hardline religion, there surely must be quite a number of practicing gay guys here. I learn more later.

By my third day, Tehran is back to normal and we pack the main sightseeing into a busy schedule that includes the impressive frontage in the National Library buildings. A feature almost unique to Persian architecture is the muqarnas, a decorative honeycomb-like structure at the top of most entrance arches. These are found in almost all mosques from the 10th century onwards, but they are also seen in palaces and the homes of rich families.

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We also visit the Gorefar Palace with its various ornamented mirrored rooms -

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- and then finally to the Jewellery Museum. This utterly stunning and gorgeous collection is housed in a bank vault open only for 2 hours 3 days a week. Many go bananas at the sight of the second largest uncut diamond in the world. Not me, though. It looks just like a piece of glass! But the fabulously encrusted throne, the various headdresses, the jewel-encrusted scabbards and hundreds of other pieces here are quite breathtaking. Not surprisingly, this small Museum is Tehran’s most popular tourist spot. Sadly security to get in is as strict as at airports and no cameras are allowed - not even mobile phones.

These few gems (sic) aside, I can’t be very enthusiastic about Tehran. It is so spread out and I did not find enough to justify more than a day and a half. So I am more than ready for my 6:20 pm flight down south to Shiraz.

A footnote. My guide in Tehran had spent more than 20 years living in countries as far apart as Japan, Canada and Germany. He is pretty worldly wise. At one point as we drive through some of the wealthier northern suburbs, we discuss the 1979 Revolution and the corruption of the Shah’s regime. My assumption is that corruption is now much reduced. “Reduced? It's now much worse,” he exclaims! “Look at all these houses and apartments. The smallest at about 80 sq. meters costs a minimum of US$500,000. Most are several times larger. Who do you think owns them?” He answers his own question. “Ministers, civil servants, the army, families of rich individuals. Everyone able to squeeze cash out of deals.” He then surprises me. “Corruption is everywhere now.” He even alleges that the Supreme Leader pockets US$13 million EVERY DAY!

Is this actually true? I guess I will never know. He also tells of the authorities’ deep-rooted fear of another Revolution. “The young people want more freedom. They are faithful Muslims but they are fed up with all the restrictions. Another clash like that in 2009 will happen, probably sooner than later.”

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#2 Re: Iran: Diary of a Journey

Postby Gaybutton » Mon Oct 23, 2017 10:14 pm

As always, your photos are spectacular. Thank you for posting them and your trip report.

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#3 Re: Iran: Diary of a Journey

Postby fountainhall » Mon Oct 23, 2017 10:21 pm

Part 2

Shiraz

The pleasant 75-minute flight south costs around $60 and a proper meal is served as part of the price! I am met by my new guide, Vardan, who will be with me for the rest of the trip driving me to various towns and cities as we wend our way slowly back to Tehran. 41 years old and supremely gym fit, he tells me he has spent much of his life in one of the Gulf States where he has an apartment. He also makes it clear that he is a womaniser, having just spent the earlier part of the evening with a hooker. I mention Islam. “Fuck Islam!” is the reply! I hope tales of his exploits are not going to follow me all the way back to Tehran! The bellboy at my very nice hotel could not be more different. A slightly mincing queen, clearly gay but a touch on the heavy side for me. I quickly notice that the apps work here whereas they were banned in Tehran. I also note that gaybuttonthai.com is the only one of the three main Thai chat rooms I can access!

Many of the main sights in Shiraz are easily visited with a day’s brisk walking. They include the bazaars where I'm told almost all of the jewellery comes from Thailand, a madrasah currently under renovation but with a lovely courtyard, and the splendid Masjed-e Nasir-al-Molk mosque with its exquisite tiling and a colorful stained glass winter prayer hall.

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Vardan then takes me to a delightful old restaurant for an excellent kebab lunch before we visit two more modern houses each featuring what I realise is now quite common in Iran – beautifully decorated reception rooms with sparkling glass and mirror mosaics. The glass originally came from Venice to be made into stained glass windows. But someone dropped the first few panes and so mosaics were created instead.

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We end the first day at the city’s Citadel where the nearest corner looks a bit like a Leaning Tower of Shiraz and many of the decorations are much older.

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As I decide enough is enough for this first day, Vardan and I sit in a small orange grove within the Citadel. He is remarkably open about life in Iran. Earlier I noticed an impressive dome and wanted to get closer for better photos.

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The call to prayer had just started and so he went up to an older man en route to a mosque to check the best directions. When he returned he said the man was a devout Muslim but hates the regime. Vardan returns to this theme in the orange grove. Anything is possible in Iran, he tells me, as long as you don't criticize the regime. “You can fuck as much as I do, gays can fuck in private, Islamic laws are broken all the time (the next morning he even brings me a small bottle of very passable Shiraz wine his father makes), and you can speak your mind on almost any subject.” I ask what percentage of the population might feel as the man he had earlier spoken to. At least 60% he reckons.

Day 2 involves more exercise than I bargained for. We drive 100kms south to see the ruins of two castles, the start of extensive background information on Persia’s extraordinary history packed with various civilizations and various “Greats”, including Darius, Cyrus and of course Alexander. If I had realized the first excursion involved a 1,000 meter climb uphill in the late morning heat, I'd probably have cut it from the schedule. Correction: I would have cut it! But we were there and so I made the effort with numerous rest stops for me to catch my breath. At the top, it all seemed a bit of a waste. A few interesting architectural features are evident in this area typical of the ancient circular city of Gur, rebuilt after being sacked by Alexander. Yet I was keen to make my way down as I was more concerned with the effect of the descent on my knees. Close by is a more interesting ruin whereafter lunch was my primary concern!

Refreshed and well fed, we return to Shiraz. Occasionally we pass a stretch of road being widened. “It's been like that for 15 years,” says Vardan. “Each year a budget is allocated and each year most of it disappears. So the budget is included again the following years, but still the road widening is at a standstill.

Back in Shiraz we visit one of the most famous of all Shia mosques. Foreigners and cameras are not usually permitted even into its large courtyard but Ali has contacts and I get in to the huge courtyard and sneak a few photos on my mobile phone. Very impressive.

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The following day we visit another holy shrine that is much smaller but in its own way even more impressive. A delightful small courtyard with an imposing dome and a truly amazing, glittering interior entirely of small glass and mirrors with arches, a tomb, chandeliers and the interior of several domes. I could have sat for hours watching the light change and the constantly varying reflections as the ordinary folk of the city come to pray.

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Back at the hotel, I drink Vardan’s father’s passable wine to refresh me before dinner. Vardan had spent part of the day telling me of more advantages of living in Iran. As the Ayatollah Khomeini had described it, the 1979 Revolution was an “explosion of light”. Vardan preferred to call it an “explosion of shite.” From then on, our catchphrase each morning was, “Welcome to Iran, the Islamic Republic of Shite!”

The highlight of any visit to Shiraz has to be an hour's drive away at Persepolis, the huge series of palaces constructed more than 2,500 years ago that lay buried and forgotten until the 1930s. This was the capital started under the reign of Darius the Great. It was also to result in the end of the Achaemenid Empire when Alexander the Great burned most of it to the ground and made off with its vast treasures some 200 years later. Today it is like any other massive archaeological site - loads of ruins peppered with some extraordinary sights, including near complete statues and fascinating bas-reliefs. It is also almost certainly where the 1979 Iranian Revolution started. It was here in 1971 that the last Shah held an outrageously extravagant party for around 60 heads of state from around the world, each with their own tented city that included marble bathrooms and food flown in from Maxims of Paris. Intended to put Iran firmly on the world stage, the excess so angered many of the more conservative Iranians that oppression to the regime quickly intensified.

Part of the Persepolis site
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Bas-Relief showing tributes being brought to the King of Persia from the country's 19 conquered lands
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I remember my first visits to the Soviet Union when foreigners were regarded with a heavy dose of suspicion. I had assumed Iran would feel the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone I met over two weeks was extraordinarily friendly (apart from the surly staff at a couple of the hotels). Having coffee and a piece of rich chocolate cake late one afternoon in Shiraz, the smiling pretty waitress wanted to know where I came from, how I liked Iran, what could they be doing better . . . and so on. Returning to the hotel, 4 boys who all looked around 15 stopped to say a rather embarrassed “hello” and immediately in fractured English peppered me with various questions, all the time smiling. After a few moments they left, wishing me a good evening and more happy times in Iran.

En route to Persepolis, Vardan starts again on his recurrent theme about the regime. We have just passed an encampment for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. He tells me of the various militia groups, the most fearsome owing allegiance only to the Supreme Leader. We talk a bit about the more liberal Presidents the country had elected. The previous one, he told me - the one before Ahmadinejad - had earlier been the Head of the notorious secret police! His smiling face and sweet words masked a heart of steel - Iran’s answer to Putin. He shows me a video of the Guards training. It is laughable, worse than first-year Cub Scouts, he said! Apparently all those from the Guard sent to fight ISIS in Syria have been killed! The following day we see some Guards on the road. I manage a quick photo before Vardan turns the car around and we take a different route.

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We end my Shiraz trip with a visit to the small memorial and tomb of Hafez, one of Iran’s most famous poets. Leafing through a small volume of love poems, I find many very moving and purchase a copy. Whilst most refer to the love of man for woman, some can be interpreted as of man for man. Later, I will end this journal with one such short example, even though it is not by Hafez.

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#4 Re: Iran: Diary of a Journey

Postby fountainhall » Mon Oct 23, 2017 11:06 pm

Part 3

Yazd

From the sophistication of Shiraz, Yazd is a totally different experience. To get here, Vardan drives for 8 hours with just a couple of short stops, the second half over the barren Central Iranian desert and then up and over the equally barren and dramatic Zagros mountain range. The desert allegedly had the highest temperature ever recorded on earth at 70.7 Celsius! Definitely not a place for a breakdown! En route we stop at an old village to see a mound-like structure. This was where ice used to be made.

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As we are about to enter Yadz, in the distance we see the “Towers of Silence”, two rocks with flattened tops where dead bodies were placed for the vultures.

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For Yazd was not merely a Centre of the Zoroastrian religion, it was here where the religion was founded. Now, though, few in Yazd continue to worship this oldest of the monotheistic religions and the Towers are no longer functional. Zoroastrians who wish this form of burial must now request their bodies be sent to Mumbai where the last similar Tower remains functional. But there is still a thriving Zoroastrian temple here. Fire is one of the religion’s important elements and within the temple is a log fire which has been continuously burning for 1,500 years.

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The old part of Yazd hasn't changed much since Marco Polo’s time - low-rise buildings of sun dried mud-brick. Indeed, some believe Yazd boasts another near first in being one of the oldest towns on the planet. Interrupting this sea of sun-drenched brown are hugely impressive and richly decorated mosques with much taller minarets than are common elsewhere. Also dotting the skyline is an array of tall badgirs (literally “wind catchers”). Summer here sees temperatures in the 50s. These tall towers catch whatever wind exists to direct a breeze down into the houses. They are also used around wells and cisterns to prevent algae forming in the water and in winter to create ice.

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We have a buffet lunch at a traditional restaurant which is a first for me sampling amongst other dishes camel stew. And very tender and tasty it was! This is a deeply religious community and minarets here tend to be considerably higher than elsewhere.

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Woman Kissing the Mosque Wall
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Two nights and one day here have been enough for we have another desert crossing tomorrow to one of the jewels of the Middle East, the ancient city of Esfahan.

Esfahan

Like many other Middle Eastern cities, Esfahan flourished as a key trading centre on the Silk Road. Indeed, for centuries it was one of the largest and most beautiful cities in the world. Its main feature is the huge 400-year old Naqsh-e Jahan Square, one of the largest anywhere, constructed when Esfahan became the country's capital city. Here are two stunning mosques, one at the east and the other at the south sides and the Ali Qapu Palace in the west. All around is one of the most extensive bazaars in the country. Naming mosques and other buildings is too confusing and so I will just let some photos speak for themselves. Given their age, it is not surprising that each feature different architectural styles from the city’s Greek, Arab, Islamic, Mongol and other periods, and include the ancient Indian swastika symbol and even the Star of David.

All major mosques are built around a central courtyard with four iwans or massive entrances on each side. You can tell the difference between Shia and Sunni mosques as those of Shia always have two minarets whereas the Sunni structures have just one. Inside the mosque on the east side there is a unique feature in the ornate domed ceiling. In its centre is a tiny peacock. Looked at from a certain angle the sun will create a long peacock tail. Both mosques are of the traditional style with four huge arches on each side dominating a central square.

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The Palace on the west side has several stories providing magnificent views of the square. Narrow staircases take us up to a small music room at the top with stunning carvings in the walls and ceiling depicting musical instruments of the time.

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Not far away is the last of what used to be many pavilions in a magnificent garden named “Forty Columns”, 20 for the actual number supporting the front of the pavilion and 20 for their reflection in the pool! Palaces and gardens used to be a major feature of the city. Close to the Square, the main room of the Palace in this garden has many wall paintings, including one which seems to be of a young man offering the other tea (some Persians used to wear their hair longer at the sides rather as the religious Jews wear their ringlets). Might this have been a prelude to something more intimate?

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Esfahan also has an Armenian community which worships in several richly decorated churches quite unlike the city’s mosques. The best known is the Holy Saviour Cathedral dating from the second half of the 17th century. This reminded me much more of some of the Cathedrals in Moscow and St. Petersburg than anything else I was to see in Iran.

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Finally, Esfahan is also known for its elaborate bridges - now rather strange given that the river running through the city has completely dried up apart from a few winter months! The best time to see them is lit up at night. But not the best time for clear photos unfortunately.

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Following 3 nights in Esfahan it is a shorter two-hour drive back across the desert to the city of Kashan where I stay in a delightful boutique hotel created from old dwellings set around two courtyards.

Kashan

Kashan has an interesting mosque, a lovely old public bathhouse typical of those found in other cities, and some rich families’ dwellings, none of which particularly interest me apart from a few rooms with relatively rare decorations.

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Lounging Area in the bath house. Clothes are stored in the lit areas beneath
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I guess my main interest was taken up earlier with two of the young waiters when we lunched at a rather upmarket restaurant. Neither seemed to have Iranian features and both were in the aggressively handsome category! I would gladly have enjoyed the company of either one! Sadly neither showed me the remotest interest!

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#5 Re: Iran: Diary of a Journey

Postby fountainhall » Mon Oct 23, 2017 11:23 pm

Part 4

For my final day it is another drive back to Tehran’s international airport but with an added bonus of a few hours in the ancient holy city of Qom. Qom is Iran’s second most important religious city, the first being Mashhad much further to the East. The mosques here are breathtaking.

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But this is also a city of pilgrimage rather as Lourdes is for Catholics, and it is sad to see pilgrims from several countries with their sick and dying relatives. Many people, obviously desperately poor, make their way here from neighboring Pakistan and Afghanistan, some sitting beside the road in to the city probably wondering where their next meal will come from. The main mosque also has regular funeral processions so bodies can be quickly blessed before burial. Surprisingly, non-Muslim foreigners are permitted in to the main complex where a guide is provided. Mine is a professor of English whose insights are fascinating. Even with so many people milling around, he takes time to introduce me to two mullahs. As I had found throughout my trip, these relatively young men could hardly be more warm and pleasant. At no time do I ever feel intimidated in what is an extremely sacred Shi’ite shrine. The ornamentation at the top of the arch is pure gold. I forget now how much it is said to weigh but I think it is around 30 kgs.

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General Thoughts

Iran is one of the most extraordinary countries for the tourist, so it is a pity that its negative image in the west results in many deciding it's not somewhere they wish to visit. If you are traveling to Bangkok from Europe, Shiraz is just a 45-minute hop from the three main Gulf states. Sanctions have clearly had an effect on the country and the inflation figure is one guide. Vardan said it has been officially around 10% but unofficially closer to 50%. As usual with international sanctions, it is the poor who really suffer. According to a recent statement from the IMF chief, though, real growth is now in the 3-4% range. Sanctions have clearly not prevented the import of many western and other goods. The streets are packed with Peugeot cars from France and many Hyundai and Kia models from South Korea. Chinese-made cars and SUVs are everywhere. Every day I noticed a few Volvos and Mercedes. Samsung televisions seem universal. Most restaurants have Coca Cola, Pepsi and Heinz Ketchup, the former mostly canned and shipped from Malaysia via Dubai.

My two guides were clearly not typical Iranians as both spend a lot of their time overseas and privately were highly critical of the regime. As I noted earlier, I do believe their comments and that these views on the regime are almost certainly reasonably common, especially amongst younger people - younger meaning those who did not take part in the 1979 Revolution and its aftermath. Neither could predict what might happen in the next decade or so. And, understandably, I could not - and would not - talk about politics to casual strangers. What I can just say again is that everyone I met was incredibly kind and welcoming, genuinely interested in where I came from and what I did. Tea and coffee were offered to me in many places even though I was a complete stranger. Despite their black dress, young Iranian ladies are very beautiful, something Darvan alluded to every time he passed one! And since his evenings in the main cities were spent in the company of a different one, he must be something of an expert. Going through the Museum attached to the Armenian Cathedral in Esfahan we both noticed two middle-aged guys holding hands. Probably not Iranians but certainly from somewhere in the region.

My trip had cost $200 per day, this including visa processing (but not the visa fee), 4-star hotels with breakfast, flight from Tehran to Shiraz and my own personal full-time driver/guides with a private car. In total we travelled around 1,800 kms. Additionally I spent about $400 for lunches and dinners, lunch on almost all days including also for my guide, and entrance fees for all mosques and historical sights. By no means cheap, but on the other hand Iran is really not all that expensive compared to quite a few other countries I have visited. Tips to the guides are optional. Given the personal attention and problem solving throughout, I tipped accordingly in US$.

I loved most of my visit. With a bit of prior knowledge I would have tinkered a bit with the itinerary and spent longer in some cities. In general, though, I am thrilled I was able to see some of the country in extremely good weather and with such knowledgeable, interesting and fun guides. Would I return? At my age I think that is unlikely, alas. I have been hugely fortunate in seeing a lot of the world and there is still more I want to see in due course.

So I'll end this journal with a very short Persian love poem that perhaps in a way sums up the feelings that many farang experience in Thailand -

Why do you ask the colour of his eyes?
When did the colour of his eyes ever capture me?
The fire that sparked from his eyes
Was what ensnared this mad heart.

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#6 Re: Iran: Diary of a Journey

Postby PeterUK » Tue Oct 24, 2017 10:33 am

Thank you so much for such interesting trip reports. How lucky this board is to have someone prepared to put so much time and energy into contributions. As always, the photos are the highlight with some simply stunning examples of the beauty and intricacy of Islamic architecture. I loved the painting of the two bashful young men having tea, the tree trunk wriggling sensually behind and between them - the whole thing homoerotic without being explicit. You have whetted my appetite for a country I haven't given much thought to visiting.

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#7 Re: Iran: Diary of a Journey

Postby firecat69 » Wed Oct 25, 2017 10:25 pm

I agree with all the other members about your photos and willingness to share your trips with us. Things would be a lot better in the world if we could kill all the politicians and let normal people talk to each other.

You started off with praise for Qatar Airlines which I have heard many times. In truth they should be better because they can lose as much money as they want backed by the Government.

So I was expecting quite a bit on my recent trip to S Africa and then Kracow,Poland. I was severely disappointed in Business Class. ATL to Doha was an older 777. The power plug was inoperative . The seats and storage were nothing special and the service I was experienced was no better then UA. Food was just ok and I cannot comment on champagne or wine since I rarely drink on long flights. My layover in Doha was more then 10 hours so I was provided with a Hotel Room. ( Nice Touch ) But the transfer was long and complicated by the size of the airport.

Next flight was to CapeTown on a 787. Better flight in all respects , more storage, better seat, better food and of course shorter.

My return trip again went through Doha with a 90 minute connection. The 787 flight was fine but then A340 flight to Warsaw was one of the worst BC Class seats I have ever had . Uncomfortable, narrow, no storage, privacy etc.

So needless to say I won't be looking for any future flights on Qatar except possibly on the A380 which does seem to get uniform praise.

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#8 Re: Iran: Diary of a Journey

Postby fountainhall » Wed Oct 25, 2017 11:51 pm

firecat69 wrote:I was expecting quite a bit on my recent trip to S Africa and then Kracow,Poland. I was severely disappointed in Business Class.

I do agree the aircraft makes a big difference. I have been on several 787 flights which have been extremely good and one A340 which, like you, I thoroughly disliked because of the lack of space and angle-flat seat. I believe these are on the way out, thankfully. I really like their A380s, although I prefer the greater privacy of the Emirates layout. I also am quite happy on the 777s. My one beef is the movie and vdo list. It's relatively short and I still find their control system almost impossible to work!! As for food, I have noticed a slight decline in standards in recent years but it still beats almost every other airline I have taken since then. Unlike you, I do drink - and not always in moderation! With Brut and Rose champagnes, three whites and three reds - including on this recent trip Chateau Branaire-Ducru, a superb Bordeaux - Qatar again beats most others.

Also agree about the airport and sometimes the need for very long walks even with a plethora of moving walkways. But for anyone wanting cheaper deals, Qatar now has special 48-hour sales almost every week, presumably because of its political fight with Saudi Arabia and several other countries which won't let it fly over their air space. Not only does that add a lot to its costs flying south (but the Europe flights are only a few minutes longer), it must also be affecting passenger loads. I note that it has replaced some A380s on the Bangkok route and this must be due to reduced traffic.

From early December the airline starts flying in to Chiang Mai. With its other flights from Krabi, Phuket and 5 daily flights from Bangkok, it might be worth checking economy fares out of the other destinations for even cheaper deals.

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#9 Re: Iran: Diary of a Journey

Postby a447 » Thu Oct 26, 2017 8:54 pm

I also would like to join the others and thank you for your superb reports and amazing photos. And, of course, the effort involved in publishing it here. We are so lucky!

Unfortunately, I doubt if I would go there after having visited Dubai - at least, not alone; maybe a group tour would be ok. I was constantly wondering what I would do if I ever had the chance to have sex with a local who say, approached me in a shopping centre. Of course, given the laws, I wouldn't dream of doing anything remotely gay. The trouble is, what if I couldn't resist the temptation? I know if sounds stupid but sometimes we do silly things when we are horny. I don't want to ever put myself in that situation. The consequences don't bear thinking about.

I remember checking a gay website when I was in Dubai. I looked up and saw a camera. I nearly had a heart attack.

fountainhall
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#10 Re: Iran: Diary of a Journey

Postby fountainhall » Fri Oct 27, 2017 9:49 pm

Many thanks for the nice comments. I had hoped I could include many more people pics. But I felt there was an invasion of privacy issue that I'd better keep clear of, especially in mosques. And if you ask someone if you can take their photo, usually they then adopt a somewhat artificial pose.

As for gay sex in Qatar, I know what the law states. But I was amazed at the number of Asians who clicked on me on the apps, including two handsome young Thais. Almost every one said it was no problem if they came to an upmarket hotel. But I was just not prepared to put that to the test. There was recently a case against a Scot in Dubai who had put his hand on another man's hip in a crowded bar allegedly to steady himself as he was carrying a beer in the other hand. That dragged on for over a month whilst he was in jail, cost him a huge amount in legal fees and he lost his job. He has now received some sort of pardon. But I for one found his story hard to believe. Moving in a crowded bar it is surely more likely that both hands are at least at shoulder height. So how come one wandered down to hip level? But that is just my take on a very tricky situation.

There were only a couple of guys I would have happily "offed" in Iran. But no way would I have dared to show any interest!


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