When we arrived at the border in a minibus (coming from Dogubayazid), there were several busloads of Iranians on the Turkish side, jostling, shoving, shouting and swearing around the two open counters, waving their passports…. It took hours until we finally got the exit stamp in our passports. I was a bit annoyed that today of all days, on the first beautiful cloudless clear day (yesterday Ararat was not visible at all and a few days later it will be hazy and dusty again because of the wind) we spend waiting and taking the bus instead of hiking.
On the Iranian side, the big sliding gate was closed at first, but after it opened, everything went very quickly. A warm “welcome”, a short typing, stamp, done.
We went straight on to Tabriz, a city known for its bazaar. Here we are somewhat surprised that the women are not completely covered in black, as expected. The headscarves are worn far back so that some hair is visible, the black robe is often short so that the jeans are visible underneath… Among younger men, full beards are frowned upon, but we see many with goatees, occasionally long hair and colourful trousers…. Some Iranians even emphasise that this is a free country, which is a bit exaggerated. After all, it’s still a case for the police if an unmarried couple is caught holding hands (of course, you can’t shake hands with a woman to greet her) and boys and girls can’t meet undisturbed either. But in any case, a lot has changed with the reforms a few years ago.
Another surprise is that prices in Iran have risen sharply recently, everything costs about 3 times more than it says in the LP. This is important to know because neither EC or credit cards nor travellers’ cheques are accepted in Iran. Only cash is accepted, which you have to carry around in large quantities. Another thing that takes some getting used to is that Iranians always omit a zero from prices: if they say a hundred, they mean 1000 rials, and so on.
Red neon lights seem to be “in” in Tabriz, hardly any shop windows are without them, and whole streets are decorated with red arabesques at night.