On Tommy’s suggestion, I booked a room in the same homestay as him in Tehran. On the bus ride from Kashan, I saw the impressive Imam Khomeini Shrine through the window and had to google it right away. The building was very beautiful and still under construction, and I visited it a few days later.
Right after getting off the bus at the terminal, someone who looked like they worked at the station stopped me and opened his arms in a semi-menacing way, like asking me “what’s up?”. I said “hello” and he kept doing the same gesture. He was the one who stopped me but he was also the one acting like I was bothering him. I asked him “did you want to ask me something?”, and he muttered something in Farsi and then in English: “You know what (what he just muttered) mean? Fuck you!”. I turned around and walked away. It was a very strange episode, and the only negative interaction I had in the country. I think two years ago I would have been quite bothered by this, but after traveling for so long I just ignored it and moved on.
After traveling through the rest of the country for three weeks, arriving in Tehran was like arriving in another country. While all the other cities in Iran I had visited had a tranquil vibe, Tehran’s traffic was crazy, as was the noise level. Another thing I noticed is that people dress more liberally and more western, especially the women.
We took the metro and arrived at Iran Cozy Hostel, our homestay. The couple who owns the place (Mehdi and Forough) welcomed us with open arms and treated me like a son. It was also very strange for me to see a local woman without a headscarf for the first time when we were indoors. I got to enjoy some excellent home cooked meals. They told me some crazy stories of them fighting together in the Iran-Iraq war. Tehran would be my last stop in the country, and I was very glad to be spending my last three days with locals.
On the first night, Mehdi took Tommy and I to Nowrooz Park and Abrisham Bridge. It was full of people picnicking on the grass. Like in the rest of the country, many people came to say hello with a friendly “Welcome to Iran!”.
On the advice of Mehdi, Tommy and I went to check out the Imam Khomeini Shrine the following morning. Like I mentioned, it had caught my attention during the bus ride into the city, and and I was gladly surprised the mausoleum was open to the public while still under construction. Going there was easy as there’s a metro station just a couple of hundred meters away. It took us a while to figure out where the entrance was, and we had to check in our bag and shoes before entering.
Ayatollah Khomeini was the leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. You can find his image everywhere on the streets, and on every single Iranian rial paper bill. The interior of the mausoleum is really beautiful. Big cameras are not allowed, but cell phone pictures are OK. This is a rule I never understood.
In the afternoon we were joined by another guest from the homestay. Yu-Ming was from my native country of Taiwan, and together we went to the very interesting National Museum of Iran. It has good stuff from the prehistoric times all the way up to the arrival of Islam to the country.
We made our way back to our homestay and ate dinner. Mehdi then drove me to the airport. He was kind enough to get me a traditional Iranian ice cream on the way there.
My trip to Iran was coming to an end. I had been feeling melancholic for the last few days because this was also the start of a long break from traveling around the world. I would be heading to Australia (with a 2-night stop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) to meet up with Jenni. I would be staying there for at least six months.
Iran might have been my favorite of the 28 countries I visited in the last two years. There’s just so much history everywhere, and its people are truly one of the friendliest I had ever met.