Segregation in Iran, on the buses

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ November 20th, 2007. Updated on April 18th, 2009. Published in: Travel blog » Iran.

Travel Journal Overview: It’s rare to experience segregation in most places these days. At least as part of the everyday life of a traveler.  When I came across it in Iran, it certainly had an effect. It was also during this time I was getting to know my new travel partner a little better.

Happy Children in Iran (click to enlarge)

Happy Children in Iran (click to enlarge)

My last day in Shiraz. I headed with Chicago and Christine to a local tour company that could supply us all with tickets. Two for Yazd and one for Tehran. This was all very easy to do, except Christine unleashed a verbal barrage on the poor tour girl for giving her a ticket at he back of the bus. Not good enough. This all meant that the three of us had to take a trip to the bus station. We took a local bus, which would not have been anything special except for the segregation of men and women. I boarded from the front while Christine entered from the rear doors. I did not even notice this until I had entered and looked at the back of the bus to see little Chicago’s face staring at me from behind two thick iron bars that ran horizontal across the the read third of the bus. I was hit wit the sledgehammer of experiencing real life segregation. There were all the women, jammed into the rear of the bus in their black burkas and chadors. I am quite sure Christine in here multi colored head scarf would have erupted had she noticed all this, instead she was ensconced with her LP again.

We arrived at the bus station and quickly made our way to the ticket booths. An Iranian girl took my written destination and time before asking if the ticket was for my mother. I looked at Christine and then at the girl, I could hear Chicago sniggering. I shook my head politely. Before we could get any further Christine launched into her verbal barrage of questions and demands sending the ticket girl off to get moral support from two male colleagues. By the time they got there, Christine had gone to the lengths of drawing out a seat map of a bus, inclusive of big crosses along the rear seats. She wanted a middle one, and nothing else would do. After several minutes the ticket operators gave in, and I could see them moving the names of other passengers out of the middle seats, and writing side notes. The two men left and the remaining ticket girl gave us the adjoining seats of 15 and 16. My eyes widened. As Christine rummaged in her bad for the ticket money I stood back and waved frantically at the girl, signaling for separate seats. The ticket girl stared at me in disbelief before breaking down into near tears of laughter. She called back the two men, and whispered to them about what I had done before they two broke down in laughter. And with that we all got our separate seated tickets.

Lone Girl Drawing

Lone Girl Drawing

On the bus heading back I caught a glimpse of Hafez’s tomb, it was enough I decided. I’d seen the grandest, and poetry was never my thing. Chicago moved here stuff into my room before we headed out for a lunch time pizza and a tour of the bazaar. We stopped of at a fancy café for a what I thought was a rice desert called a Dizzy, but instead was served up my old Tabriz meal of lamb chickpeas and a hammer to smash it up with. Later we met up with Christine for dinner, however Christine’s had a different idea of where we should go for dinner, and that delayed us for nearly 2 hours in locating the place meaning I no longer had time to buy a sleeping bag at the army store.

At the hotel Frenzi disappointed me with rude comments about Chicago now sharing a room with me. I ignored him as best I could, but eventually let loose on him before heading to the room and tell Chicago to be a little wary tomorrow when she was on her own. This led us to a late night conversation. I was at last traveling and sharing experiences with people. Though tomorrow I was about to be traveling with a 60+ year old German Lady with a tendency to scare people into submission.

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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