Saturday, February 12, 2011

Arrival in Iran

The things i recall, from airport to hotel:

1) The Lufthansa stewardess i talk to has never been to Iran before, either. The flight crew will stay one night in a hotel. They have the floor to themselves, so the women don't have to wear headscarves.

2) The airport is modern - soaring glass and steel. 

3) The line up for passport control is long, but I am processed easily and quickly. 

4) The man who meets me is pleasant, moustached and older. He smokes as soon as he gets outside. He offers me one first.  

5) Outside, the air is polluted. Smog is visible in the electric gleam of the modern airport (Imam Khomeini International).

6) My greeter is mostly on his cell phone. We exchange a few words, and he puts me in a taxi. He must wait for more international guests - from Estonia, i think.

7) I try out my Farsi on the cab driver. I tell him i speak no Farsi. He smiles. He speaks no English.

8) I think about the places i've been where i have had no frame of reference. The only one that comes close is Uganda, when i first arrived there. Here, the feeling of alertness is similar, as is the lack of any codebook to read what I see, but the terrain and the smells are utterly different. Africa was verdant, humid, fresh smelling. Iran, at least at night, seems desolate. A modern highway through a flat, dry land. Lights flickering by, haloed by smog.

9) And an electric palm tree made of orange light.

10) And two men dressed in dark clothes on the highway on a motorcycle with no back light.

11) And billboards floating by - advertising in arabic script, lit with extremely bright lights. 

12) And, gradually appearing as we approach the city, buildings - buildings that are boxy and stained in pollution. At least on the outskirts. As if the whole city was built in 1965, and never washed.

13) An enormous, seemingly deserted prison (?). An old police helicopter anchored to a small building - the entrance to a museum? Russian and Japanese and French built cars.

14) The streets are deserted - it is almost 3am, the day after the national holiday  commemorating the Islamic revolution. But I do see two men - first one, and five minutes later another - in fluorescent city-worker suits sweeping the sidewalks with huge handmade (i think) brooms. They look like witches' brooms, and dwarf the men using them. The city is stained, but the sidewalks are free of litter.

15) Ferdossi Grand Hotel. An oasis of light and cleanliness, in the pollution-stained street. I check in. The internet is down. I will need to wait to post this. My room has a king-sized bed, but also looks like it was decorated in 1965. Everything is clean, somewhat dilapidated and orange, brown, red and gold. I try to sleep. Tomorrow evening, I  will begin seeing shows. What happens to me before that, I have no idea. I assume someone from the festival has a plan for me. But no one tells me anything. All will be well, Inshallah. 

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