the 1st imperial dynasty, in Persia, was established in 550bc. i arrived there on Aug 4th, 2016, around lunchtime. My 31st country (if you include airport transfers) – never really had much trouble before, paperwork had always been in order except once when i wasn’t allowed into Czech for the day, but came back to the border & got in a few days later. At Tehran airport i discovered there was no electronic access to cash, nor for paying for anything; tourist visa included.
Thankfully, Imam_Khomeini_International_Airport is the most relaxed, casual, unserious international gateway i’ve ever experienced, and that includes Norfolk Island. Apart from my initial encounter with a small man at a tiny “compulsory insurance” booth (Govt. run…. us$7 for 7 days), who insisted my insurance that definitely does covers Iran (but the print-out, i had, said the Middle East) did not include His country, everyone was most hospitable, helpful and calm. After friendly discussion of my situation with the 3 visa men (2 of them behind glass partitions) who stated clearly “either pay 145 euros, au$220, cash, or get the next plane out”, i handed the busy one my list of 5 or so contacts/friends & their telephone numbers, telling him to only call the 1st two on the list. He then rang them all.
For months i’ve known that the chance/s of surprising my best mate Damoon, whilst wearing his old shirt & busking on a cheap violin, outside his temporary studio in Iran’s capital city, were fairly slim. It was definitely worth a shot. The Visa man had rung all my numbers. Damoon’s sister said to him “bad joke” and hung up. So he finally rang Dammon, who was deliriously surprised to know i’d made it to customs at the airport (i spoke to him when ‘busy guy’ handed his landline handset over the glass) & as unlikely as it may sound, Damoon happened to be with an older woman, an international doctor, who happened to know someone in the President’s office, yes the President!, and 45 minutes later 145 euros cash appeared via a man in a silk suit who taken a taxi 60km to deliver it. My visa was soon ready (insurance man i think went into hiding). The visa control guy wished me “welcome to Iran” with a smile.
Damoon was in Rasht, 300km to the north. We first met in Istanbul over 3 years ago, then lived together often for the following 2 years. He’s a extraordinarily gifted musician, plays wondrous violin, and paints too. Now nearly 3o, he had tragic and woefully unjust experiences as a refugee, including attempting to flee Turkey by boat.
Due to a mixture of bad timing and ill luck, with visas in Georgia, he landed back in Tehran about a year back, returned to playing street music while being harrassed by police, then became a minor movie star, but has now settled in the north of Iran. His parents and sister, Ara, are resident in Tehran.
Outside Imam_Khomeini_International_Airport, a friend of Damoon was waiting, with a car. He gave presidential guy and me a lift to the city, booked me a bus & bought me a bag of mixed foods and drinks. After a bumpy jerky 6 hours bus travel, a taxi took me into Rasht, where Damoon was still waiting at Shabnam the doctor’s flat. We then took a taxi to his place, a free apartment in a building reserved for “footballers & movie stars.” He was excited about a big surprise he had for me the next day….