It can only be Iran

20 October - Mashad, Iran - Janneke

We are amazed by the hospitality and welcoming feeling of the Iranians. Never leave without having your chai and yes, we are from tulip country. Live slow, ride fast like our favourite podcast from Laurens ten Dam taught us. We have 30 days to let us indulge in Iranian culture, lets make the most of it.

We walk out on the streets, spotting for a nice cappuccino. A young student approaches us, can I help you? his name is Farzad. We are a quite flabbergasted, why is he talking to us? When we explain our quest he takes us to one of the best coffee shops we have seen in a while. Sipping that mild warm cappu was pure bless. The coffee culture in Iran is actually quite big, before the introduction of tea, Iran was a true coffee loving country. You just keep your eyes open en try to spot the professional Italian coffee machine. The big machines hardly fit in the small inlets. Our new friend is chatting with us while he takes small scoops of his chocolate ice cream. He is very talkative and open about Iranian culture. It feels great to talk some proper English after all the hand and foot work in Central Asia. We get an insight in the complicated islamic rules, about not touching woman, getting married or having a girlfriend, most of them really hard to understand to us Europeans. It turns out Farzad is not that religious at all. No mosque, not prayers but girlfriends and alcohol. Guess we just hit another layer in this country. In fact he is rather curious how he should approach the young girl at the back of the coffee shop. Just dropping his phone number didn’t work last time, so Tim gave him some European casanova tips. The part of taking time to build a relationship seemed like a lot of work to him. A hint to me that confirms most Iranians are quite impatient. A thing we will later experience when we cross the bustling traffic. After a million goodbyes and ghodavis, with an impossible way for us to pay for all the coffee, we sit down for dinner, another place Farzad found for us.

The menu is in Farsi, bugger.

Before we can get google translate out, Farzad is already back and translating the menu for us. He knew we needed help he said. More goodbyes follow. But he is unstoppable! Within 10 minutes he is back again, with his laptop. He overheard us talking about Iranian bollywood style movies and the lack of wifi to download them. Farzad has a zillion on his laptop he ensures us and willingly to share with us. Great! Again, the kindness is extreme.

At our dodgy hotel, we introduce Farzad and walk to our room. Then, the weirdest thing happens, our friend looks sad, says his laptop is broken and he will meet us out outside. What the fck is going on?! Are we in an episode of Homeland? On the street he explains that that the hotel owner thinks we might be spies and load secret information onto his laptop. No joke. I did got a bit scared, so you can imagine Farzad isn’t his real name in this story. We get invited to his home, have more chai, and we try to copy some movies to our hard drive. Unfortunately a wrong format, so we can’t copy them. But such an adventure. At the hotel we need some time to process what just happened. Culture, girlfriends, coffee, spies!, this country is a rollercoaster.

Hard to realise, but I even forgot to take a picture!
Luckely we went to see the shrine of Iman Reza, no 8 of the 12 imans, a huge complex that is a true pelgrim destination for muslims. Impressive.