Posted by: Sheridan Flynn | March 25, 2008

Tabriz (Iran)



Tabriz is the first major city we hit as we make our way east across Iran. Located 250km from the Turkish border it was once an integral part of the silk route and today is considered to be a gateway city to Europe.

It’s dark by the time we enter Tabriz. As always, when we arrive at major cities the bus crawls at a snail’s pace through the dense urban traffic. Slowly we travel along in a sea of strange looking vehicles. Swarms of small square cream coloured cars that have a cold war East German look about them buzz in and around us. Large bulky pea green Mercedes trucks, with smooth round edges, the likes of which you’d only see in an old 1970’s B-movie take up most of the road. Our progress is painfully slow. But that doesn’t matter. The fact is, were in Iran.

Straight away I’m amazed at how developed this place is. A quick glance outside my window reveals flashing neon signs, rows of shops selling laptops, cigarettes, carpets, and suits. Billboard advertisements displaying nice, happy, vacuous smiling faces. Just the same as back home. It’s late in the evening and there’s a real sense of energy in the air. After dumping my luggage in the hotel lobby myself and a few others go out in search of some food. Out in the street eastern music and the aroma of slow cooked food pours out from the various restaurants. The pavements are busy with people. Women dressed from head to toe in black gather together and chatter with smiling eyes. Well dressed men in tidy looking suits weave their way in and out of traffic. Everywhere there are street traders selling all sorts of stuff. Mostly cheap looking tobacco products. Crossing the road for us westerners is almost like a form of  suicide. With no apparent rhyme or reason cars, motorbikes, and trucks appear from every angle. The locals effortlessly and gracefully make it from one side to another without hindrance or death.

A few hundred meters down the road a brightly lit fluorescent coloured eatery catches my eye. Instinctively I take a sharp ninety degree turn and find myself sitting in a pizzeria. I sit down, look around, and realize this is exactly the kinda place I do not want to eat in. A fast food joint you might find in any English or Irish town. I curse myself for driving 7000 kilometers and ordering a pizza. A moment later I’m joined by some of my co-travellers. Their intrepid nature has also failed them. They have [like me] succumb to their western instincts. We all laugh about it. As we chat, eat, and relax we are being eyed y some locals. A group of young Iranian women, in total black dress, possibly sisters, are scrutinizing us. They shyly peak from behind their head scarfs to catch a quick glimpse of us then immediately retreat as soon as they catch one of our eye’s. After a few minutes the least shy girl of the bunch asks us where were from. Her English is slow and slightly broken but improves greatly as the conversation develops. She acts as an interpreter for the others, fields more questions and translates the answers. It felt like these people have heard of westerners but have never seen any.

Later on that evening I sit in the hotel lobby, drinking tea, thinking to myself how friendly these people are. Already Iran had made an impression on me. Exhausted yet excited I went to bed. I could hardly imagine what the next week was going to be like.

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