06 June 2017

Impressions and Images of Iran: Exit Iran

So, it's been an amazing three weeks. I must say that so far, my trip to Iran has been the best trip I have taken so far, and something I would be more than happy to repeat. This trip perhaps was the richest, the most educational, the most three-dimensional, and the most enjoyable trip I have ever experienced. It took me 8 months to describe and narrate it all, and still I feel like there are portions of it that I cannot put into words. Anyway, after three weeks in the country, it was time to exit, and go back home.

I woke up early from my hotel in Tehran, and sure enough, at the appointed time, the taxi that I ordered the night before was there, waiting for me to take me to the airport south of the city. We started early, the sky was still dark, and the city was still asleep. As the taxi cut through the city, it was definitely a different experience, since Tehran typically is a chaotic and traffic-heavy city, and driving through it without the traffic was just something very different.

After 40 minutes, we reached the airport, and I found myself on the place where it all began, on Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport. It was a bizarre fuzzy feeling indeed, being there again. Three weeks before, there was this small part in the back of my head worrying about this trip. Iran for beginners is something scary, it is irrational I know, but Western media hasn't been kind to Iran. So no matter how much one has tried to educate oneself, there are still things that are unknown and raises some doubts in one's head. But three weeks later, all of that is wiped out, and now I find myself at the opposite position of wishing my trip went further. Unfortunately, I had to go back home, after all, someone was waiting for me.

I found the British Airways check in counter. I already checked in online, but nevertheless I had to queue up at the counter to drop off my bag. They had some trouble with the system, as they just opened Tehran as a base and therefore still had teething issues. Nevertheless, I got my boarding pass after 30 minutes.

I still had some Iranian rials with me. Unfortunately the money changing counters were all outside security, and I saw the line at passport control and it was relatively long. So I just opted to hang on to them. I later counted it and it turned out I still had about 50 EUR worth. I spent almost all of it at the duty-free and souvenir section.

The passport control was interesting. There were several lines for Iranian citizens, and two lines for foreigners. However, the line for foreigners were faster and shorter. It seems that this country doesn't want its citizens to leave. This is the first time I have seen something like this. In the USA, the lines for Americans were shorter. In the EU, the line for EU citizens were shorter. And in Thailand, the lines for ASEAN citizens were shorter. Here in Iran, it seems that there's a high level of scrutiny to any Iranian leaving the country. I suppose that says something about its government.

Anyway, after ten minutes, I got through passport control, and I received an exit stamp. I then went to the duty-free section and bought 50 EUR worth of gaz. Gaz is Persian nougat, and Isfahan is the best place to get it, they say. I bought several boxes of it, and sure enough, it was a hit back home.

I didn't realize that the sun was already up. My flight departed at 7:25 in the morning, and so I saw the sun slowly illuminate the airport. It was slightly cold that day, and our aircraft had to be de-iced before we were cleared for take-off. I got a window seat. After boarding, it was interesting to see all the headscarves more or less disappear, as the women took them all off and put them away.

I watched the world go by through the window. I was sitting on the right hand side of the plane, so I saw the mountain ranges south of the Caspian Sea, as we were flying from Tehran to London. 5 hours later, we landed, and I was in Heathrow in a bus, being driven through the massive airport to catch my next flight to Berlin.

So this closes this chapter. It's been a wonderful 3 weeks, and digging up my memories and gazing at my photos for the past 8 months as I slowly narrated it here in the blog was a wonderful experience as well. Iran is a place that I will definitely remember, and a place that I would want to visit again sometime.

2 comments:

  1. I did a double take on "gaz" before reading the sentence following!

    Crazy to think that the flight was only five hours, probably not nearly long enough for you to digest the experience and readapt to a completely different life.

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    Replies
    1. Zhu,

      Five hours definitely is temporally short, somehow not parallel to the cultural differences I saw. It's like I almost wanted to make the flight a little longer just to be in proportion for the experience!

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