Entry to Iran – lunar Keshm and sweet-bitter sensations

by Ewcyna

After arriving at the port of Bandar Abbas on the southern shore of Iran in the Persian Gulf, I was immediately noticed and caught from the crowd of other passengers by a border guard.  I was allowed to pass a long queue of people and asked, to wait in front of the separate entrance. Men and women stood apart. I was the only foreigner there, but instead of getting a stamp immediately, my passport disappeared with the guard. Finally, I was invited to the room, in which a uniformed official was separated from me by a large desk. Young, but with a firm face without a smile. It reminded me of a similar scene of crossing the Thai-Cambodian border, although there were three officials there, but similar atmosphere. Icy. My passport went from hand to hand, and I got to fill the "tourist survey". The main column was "provide a contact to a friend in Iran". Even if I had friends there, I wouldn't reveal their details, bu I didn't have any, nobody believed me though. My passport was scrutinized, suspicion was raised, that pages are torn out, I was asked a lot of strange questions (are you going to work?) and still pressed, provideto contact my friends in Iran "for my own good". This is not how I imagined being welcomed to Iran. Honestly, I got scared.

waiting rooms at the port of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

The border guard appeared and disappeared several times. He also became interested, where I would sleep and suggested coachsurfing as an alternative to expensive hotels. Iran's currency was not already doing well at the time and hotels should not be expensive, so I was a bit surprised, but I didn't comment. Of course, I didn't want to talk about potential sleeping in the wild neither. He, however, continued the topic of using coachsurfing and encouraged, me to log in there. As I didn't have internet, he gave me his phone and started the application. When I started typing my name there, it appeared as recently searched. Someone was already looking for me there. Something was not ok.. Later on I had a chance to find out what it was. Coachsurfing, though popular in Iran, is monitored by Iranian authorities and Iranians, who give hospitality to foreigners might face severe penalties. During my entire stay I used CS once (although I slept many times in randomly met people) once, from the word of mouth and not using the application. I also tried a second time, but family, who wanted to host me canceled the invitation at the last moment. They contacted me two or three months later through another channel, apologizing, that it happened, but the police knew about my arrival and forbade them to see me. I don't know then, where does the conviction come from when traveling to Iran, to be so eager to use Coachsurfing.

Stars Valley
tourists on one of the Qeshm beaches
Bandari people from Salakh in Zinat Garden – the ceremony of banishing ghosts from the sick

There were a lot of people everywhere, I wondered where so many of them were from, small ferries departed one after another. I just found out on the island, that a long weekend just started in Iran 39 the anniversary of the Islamic revolution. It was 7 February. Crowds of tourists from northern Iran came to Qeshm.

Looking for a place to stay in the evening, I waited as usual, until it's almost dark, before I found a piece of shore that was flatter than a beach, I pushed the bike as far as possible from the road, hoping at the same time, that no one would think of taking a walk there at night.

first night on the island

Luckily it was just, as I wanted it, to be. The rock heated up during the day gave off heat, the rhythmic sound of waves crashing against the shore was soothing after a day full of emotions and a wealth of sensations. I washed the dirt off myself, I ate the supplies made for the road while still in Dubai and absorbed every minute of the evening. For such moments I love my life on the road the most.

Qeshm exceeded my expectations in terms of landscape. Moon landscapes, unearthly. The island is known for a wide range of ecotourism attractions - mainly unusual rock formations resulting from soil erosion - gorges, valleys, grottos and caves and mangrove forests. A large part of the island is protected under the Geopark under the auspices of UNESCO.

Chakhooh canyon
Valley of Stars
The longest salt cave in the world

I spent two days cycling slowly and enjoying the surroundings and talking to random people. Local people do not speak English almost at all, but tourists that have arrived quite often. Every tourist attraction was besieged, places to sleep in guesthouses nowhere to be found, which, after all, didn't bother me much, because the surroundings were perfect for overnight stays under the cloud.

Queshm by bike
Laft, Qeshm, houses with wind towers
Mangroves on Qeshm
wedding on the streets of Salakh, Qeshm

By the time, when on the third day THIS happened, what you could read about in my previous entry here.

After the assault and the crazy 4 days later, however, I made an attempt to continue cycling through Iran, I finished making a circle around the island, which still didn't cease to delight me. I crossed back to the mainland. I was attacked there again – which I also wrote about in the previous post – and this event completely destroyed my peace. I didn't know anymore, what intentions have all these men that usually slow-down or stop their cars or on motorbikes when they see me on the road. I stopped at the first point of the Red Crescent, equivalent of the Red Cross in Iran and I called the hosts from Warmshowers, with whom I was in touch before. Although I didn't even ask them, they got in the car and come to pick me up more then 100 km.

drugs Bandar Abbas – Lar

In Lar, I was looked after with care, I spent there 4 days. Jasmin and Mohammad are young, loving couple, bike lovers and members of warmshowers. In their description on the site I found the words "we gladly welcome bike travellers in our country, especially women, because they do not have an easy time in Iran ".

immortal skewers and funny bread

They lead a normal life. Mohammad has a computer store, Yasmin game store. Together with friends, they go cycling not only around Lar, but also in other parts of the country. With their hospitality they tried to overshadow the negative impressions of recent days. They showed me the city, bazaar, they made me meet their family and friends. I also attended a wedding, during which a wreath of women surrounded me – aunts, relatives, sisters and grandmothers. Men and women stay and play separately, and the sight of women dancing with each other is no longer so thrilling and joyful to me.  And unnatural.

 "You'll never going to like Iran" said Yasmin, when I departing. She was wrong. I got to like Iran, as soon as I got off my bike.

The following weeks made me realize, that Iran is not black and white, and what they most often present him. It is impossible to pigeonhole it, using just one color. Black - as a country, which has an Islamic regime, human and women's rights are violated, white - as the country with the most hospitable people in the world, architectural wonders – high minarets and temple fronts decorated with beautiful blue majolica, a country of honey for flowing visitors. There are simply a lot of other colors and shades there. And a palette of flavors. Before a week passed I tasted both sweet and bitter.

Yasmin i Mohammed “drop you” me by bike to the station

I didn't have the courage to continue further by bicycle, at least I didn't have it at the moment. I didn't want to leave and deprive myself of the chance, to see something more, I was finally here in Iran. Also, February is not a good month, to push to the Caucasus, because I was heading that way. With a great regret, because the next kilometers seemed to be very interesting, I got on the bus, who drove me to Shiraz.

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