The flight reached Tehran Imam Khomeini Airport at about 6 and boy was the landing rough and the runway patched up like a poor man’s quilt. It looked like one of the small town airports in India that has minimal traffic and planes are a rarity, much of it never seemed to have been renovated. Reminded me of how airports must have looked like back in the 80s. Out of the plane, the heat was evident as it rose from every object around me. The bus took us to the building and not a few metres into it, a line began that stretched a mile long and moved at snail’s pace. This was the line for immigration clearly. For those with visa on arrival, there is a separate counter for procuring it and also a separate counter for insurance which too was pretty crowded. Fortunately, i had both and stood in the longer line. After about an hour long wait amidst expats, loud Indian families (must have come for pilgrimage) i handed my passport to the officer who did not even look up to see if my face matched that in the document.
I was expecting a barrage of questions and had all my docs in the other hand waiting to start my rehearsed speech, but none – it was stamped and handed over. He didn’t even look at my face! I thought the questions might come in later at the customs like the experience in Georgia. I picked up my backpack and walked towards the customs ready to roll it through the conveyor but a cop standing there signaled me to not and let me pass!! Beat that, not a question. After some painful moments of trying to find the currency exchange office, i was guided to the first floor where i exchanged just 100 euros and then took a cab from outside. there are Toyota Camrys and Samands (their car) for 750K and 700K (about 10 usd) respectively to the city (fixed price), i paid the higher price and a plush camry awaited. The ride was over 45 minutes long to the city, thanks to the infamous traffic of Tehran, which surprisingly moves and has much less honking as compared to India’s.
First impressions, the city and its alleys are overwhelming – the streets, alleys, pavements are very soviet east european, not to forget the grey buildings. I reached the hostel by 8 and the sun was very much awake till then. A brief chat with my host Reza, i rested my bags in the 10 bed male dorm on the ground floor. The room had a kitchen, an Indian-styled toilet, a WC and a shower…pretty well equipped and clean. The hostel has an open area with tables, a shower, refrigerator, kettle and cutlery – nice place to chill and chat with other travelers.
Hunger beckoned and I set out in search of veg food. The area i was staying in at Enghelab Sq was a haven for book lovers, lined with shops through the entire street. Some scouting and i reached a falafel store where i looked into the counter with great anticipation of what veg food in the country looked like. Playing safe, i said ‘yek falafel’ (one falafel) and waited in the makeshift table cramped next to the refrigerator. A footlong falafel greeted me in a few minutes along with a local beverage called Hey Dey. The bread is much harder than what we have in India and they dont even heat it, so prepare to give your jaws some workout. Well, the meal wasn’t too bad a welcome dinner, that too for 40K (1 usd).
My walk back to the hostel was slower as i peered into the closing book shops attempting to spot at least 1 book in English but alas.
Stay: Dorm in 7 hostel
Transport: Taxi to city: 750,000 IRR