Early days in Esfahan, and meeting an Iranian girl

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ November 15th, 2007. Updated on April 18th, 2009. Published in: Travel blog » Iran.

Travel Journal Overview: I was in my last hope for good travel in Iran, Esfahan. A chance meeting with an Iranian girl sparks a better day, yet I am again frustrated with my Lonely Planet guide

Imam Square at night, Isfahan (click to enlarge)

Imam Square at night, Isfahan (click to enlarge)

By 10am I was woken by the clatter of annoyingly load voices outside in the courtyard, it seemed my room was beside the breakfast area. By 11 I had quit the idea of sleep. They had a western toilet and I removed two days of kebab and bus food build up, had a shower and headed to reception to see if my Iranian luck had changed and I could get the single room.

By about 11.15am I found myself handing over 100,000 for the 4 hours sleep I had last night. So no, no Iranian luck change. Indeed for only 80,000 I now had the added luxury of being housed in a room the size of an above average closet. With wood paneling thinner than cardboard. And a hint of used sock storage in the air.

I headed out and dined on a simple beefburger, fries and sickly sweet Bipsi. Actually the drink was ok, bar its name resemblance too Pepsi, which was a turn off in my books. Still it filled me for next hour while I searched Chahar Bagh-e Pa’in Street for a different hotel. Here once again I found myself suffering at the wrong end of Iranian hospitality. Hotel receptionists were none too friendly. It was like they were banning tourists from staying there. I thought crossed my mind about the hotel in Tabriz and how they wanted to keep my passport for the police. And I wondered if it was just too much hassle for them to register a tourist. At the last hotel on the road Tous Hotel I met a nice receptionist, who did not shake her head at the mere sight of a foreigner. But she did try say the room was 180,000. And Although I want to leave the box room, it was a price about me.

I headed off to the tourist information office to see if they had another listing of hotels, only to find it was a public holiday and all was shut. It still did not stop the carpet salesmen approaching me anywhere near a touristic road. What’s more, I had wasted a good hour plus wandering around the lower portion of the long Chahar Bagh-e Pa’in St in search of the office. I stared indefinitely at LP’s map, and circled around the place it was meant to be. Nothing. Later that night by casual glance I noted that the legend actually said Tourist Police, and nothing mentioned about Information. Hmmm, there is an information office, I found it, why not put it in the Bloody Lonely Planet?!!!

The famous Arched bridges running over the nearby Zayandeh river sparked my interest as did the refreshing Pomegranates juice store across the road. I headed over to the blood red and gory plastic pomegranate decorate peep hole in the wall store. A short chubby girl dressed in the typical black chador stared at me. Then shuffled to the back. Hmm, not even a drink. Then to by surprise she emerged again with one of her friends, a slender version with the same black chador. I asked for a juice, and the slender girl went to work grinding down pomegranate fruits in the blender before handing me the lush red liquid. I have to say the juice in Iran is the best in the world I have tasted.

I handed over a 50,000 note for the 3,000 drink, and was met with all kinds of change spurred searching. During this time a yellow Esfahan taxi pulled up and a tall slim Iranian girl got out, approached the counter, got change immediately and paid off the taxi before ducking inside the shop.

She turned to me immediately, her blue eyeliner sparkling in the sun, “Do you speak English?”

“Yes, just like you.” I responded

She blushed a little, and my day was made. The conversation was much like another travelers small talk, where from, where going, how, when. But it was my first social interaction in a long while, and it didn’t help that it was with two stunning Iranian girls. They may have been dressed to cover up in black like every other woman. But one could easily see through the light black material that they were wearing fashionable jeans and t-shirts underneath. Couple that with impeccable make up, and you have quite a delight to cheer one up. Second that with grade A conversation and you have a happier guy.

AtoosA continued on her boost my ego day. “You look Iranian…”, I frowned, “This is very good.” I smiled. And on the inside I was rolling over like a dog getting its stomach scratched. “And you have German blood?! This is good, you are Aryain like us!”

Now I was a King. We talked some more, and I ended up promising to come back the next day. What on Earth could stop me!

It’s strange how one’s day can be turned around by a simple conversation, oh yes, and over zealous flattery. But it is good that it can happen. After that I somehow enjoyed my walked along the river. The taste of pomegranate in my mouth, and blissful thoughts breezing by did wonders to forget about the countless male offers of good carpets. Near any Mosque, ancient building or touristy sight Iranian sales people emerged in strategic manner, usually starting off with gentle friendly conversation. Then diverting into offers of tea, or information on ancient artifacts. Then digressing into either promises of lifetime friendship, or the best offer on a carpet.

They were friendly chaps all in all, not nearly as aggressive as their Moroccan counterparts. But what was on offer was of little use to me. Giant Carpets are of no use to someone without home nor house. Put it into your friends house, until your luck changes, was one smart remark I got.

That evening I walked into a local fast food kebab joint, it could also have been the set of Faulty Towers. Shahab’s Place was like any other diner. Glossy pictures of menu food lined the walls, and the seats were hard plastic. There was a scattering of customers, a few scrawny disheveled looking waiters and a slight smell of grease in the air. The owner was a tall moutashed man seated behind a big desk near the entrance who shouted at me a lot. That is until he started pointing at the photos of his food on the wall, and proceeded to shout even louder. The scary thing was he was actually shouting in English! More amusingly still was that once I pointed to Kebab on a sword photo he proceeded to shout into a microphone attached to a loudspeaker system that screeched loudly throughout the restaurant.

I sat down and looked on as the scruffy waiters in their grease stained white t-shirts scuffled around as more barks directed at them through the speaker system came. Trays crashed in the background, and the sound of clattering plates accompanied my meal. The food came, shriveled beef, cold rice and a yogurt with strange specks in. Designed to up lift my limp salad no doubt. I tried ordering a Bepsi. The waiter spoke no English, but his boss overheard and roared into the microphone again to send the young lad flying to the drinks cooler. I wondered how sick I would be after the food, and settled on the thought that it might be worth it for the amusement factor alone.

I headed back to the rip off hotel to get an early night, only to find that the sheets in my room were still baring the evidence of the previous occupant. As I waited for the resemblance of clean sheets to be placed on my bed I ran into a Korean guy. He was trying to get home overland too. My lack of companionship spurred me on to indulge him in overland travel conversation. Alas, he was addament that Pakistan was too dangerous due to Musharif’s Emergency rule. He was convinced I would die once I crossed the border. The police will shoot you, you white. Coming from a very pale Korean, I was not impressed.

Although the feelign of Emergency rule had me concerned it did little to quash had the overwhelming feeling that Iran was not doing it for me, so much so I was switching to a more cynical view of Esfahan. One that let me enjoy it a bit more. Still I had decided it was better sights and get out quickly. I headed to bed and fell asleep, fast.

Some related links from this website that  you might like: (including a lot more photographs from Iran)

Stories: Feeling Low on the Road, in Iran

Stories: Iranian women, and the others I met in Iran

My Iran country guide

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2 Great responses to Early days in Esfahan, and meeting an Iranian girl

  1. Carlos López Ferrer says:

    I have a very strange privilege, that of beign the first (ethnical and legally) Venezuelan guy to ever marry an (ethnically and legally, born and raised into adulthood) Iranian girl. This according to every record in Venezuela or Iran.
    Our 3rd anniversary was on avval-e farvardin and I’ve been there several times.
    My comment in this case is related to what you already noticed about men and women in Iran. It is now just the fact that I’m straight and there are many gorgeous girls, but certainly there’s a HUGE difference in the way women in Iran relate to other people, to the world, etc., Off course they are proud of their country and their culture, etc. but certainly girls are more open, tolerant, and have a wonderful curiosity that shows deep respect for everything and everyone.
    Guys are just not like that. Nowhere, no matter how well educated they are, generally they show a very boastful attitude, disrespectful towards girls and other (non-western)cultures. I’ve had to stand many unconfortable situations both in my country and in Iran because of their too many times abusive behaviour.
    Pride is ok, but these guys are like to much, and not just that:

    It is clear to me that those “aryan” lies of the nazis were too popular over there, and they still seem pleased to hear they’re in some way linked to the europeans, especially the germans (by the way, Iran’s largest trade partner).
    Ok with anyone or anything white enough, THEY ARE HORRIBLY RACIST. Not in a violent way, but a disparaging, patronizing way… the people from the south know it very well: It’s very common to see fair skinned people from the north anywhere in the country, marrying girls and boys from different regions and homogenizing the iranian “gene-pool”, especially in Tehran, but the darkskinned people from the south are limited to their traditional areas, and rarely mix with their “whiter” fellow countrypeople.

    That said, however, after meeting many girls both in my country and in Iran, all of them born-and-raised-into-adulthood, many professional (university graduates) and some of them even independent (lol) iranian girls. I’ve discovered that actually too many of them are really curious and even seriously attracted to darker-skinned men (but still dislike asians)… I don’t know if it’s too many hip-hop videos or bollywood films from their FTA TV channels, but certainly girls are not racist AT ALL.

    If they had power to decide, I’m pretty sure the average iranian would be darker in a couple of decades and that society would be as open as any western country.

    While many hope they are given or granted freedom, I think things would change deeply and more definitely if only those girls taught these values to their children, the next generation of iranians.

    • -Carlos López Ferrer- You certainly share many view points here.

      I certainly agree that if the Iranian people ever did get the right to decide, things would be very different indeed. Included in this would be a more open approach to many things that are currently off limits.

      I spent many an hour on Iranian buses seated next to male college students who seemed to have an over enthusiastic interest in knowing everything about western women. Far too detailed for my liking.

      I certainly don’t have your level of in-depth and personal knowledge about “Aryan” roots. I got the impression from my discussions that it had nothing to do with the “Nazi” meaning of Aryan, but rather it’s deeper Indo-Iranian European ties.

      Is there a social or even a racial, class of people in Iran? Is there racism in Iran? I’d say yes. But no more than in any other country, at least from what I saw.

      One just needs to walk around Asia, or parts of Africa and see the amount of “skin whitening” soaps to see the perceived notion of the preferred skin tone. Then again, look at the amount of sun tan seekers there are in other countries. And so the circle goes.

      Racism is found the world over. Europe is full of it. And not just towards other nationalities, but also within their own circles. Parisians are often noted as treating others as an underclass. Whilst other French will view them as also “thinking” they are from a better place, or in having better roots e.t.c.,

      There are many things going on in Iran that few people have seen, fewer still have lived it, nor understand the circumstance within it.

      The fact that a large percentage of women are walking around with the after affects of nose jobs is staggering. That may be coming in on several levels of reason. 1) Only the face is uncovered, make it as beautiful as possible. 2) Rebellious act against the powers that be 3) All else considered and open to debate.

      Certainly Iran is a fascinating place. I found the women there to be the most beautiful I have come across in my travels. They were also some of the most “academically” educated, and amazing people to talk with. The men on the other hand, less so. There must also be a reason for this?

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!