The time was passing slowly cycling the 30 km`s from the eastern Turkish town of Dogubayazit towards the Iranian border, things almost felt in slow motion, not knowing what to expect on arrival to the border, the magnificent view of Mount Ararat was towering directly adjacent to the road, there was hardly a cloud in the sky, sun shining, a crisp stillness in the air, the feeling of anxiousness, nervousness and excitement came over in waves.
Approaching the border a guy in a sandy colored waste coat appeared from a herd of cows that were mingling at the border gates, he introduced himself said he was official! and offered to change Turkish Lira to Iranian Rhial and Dollars to Rhial, the price he offered for the 25 lira i had on me was not far off the price google search engine gave as a rate, so took him up on his offer, not knowing and since learning that google shows the bank rate, not the black market rate which is nearly three times as many, never mind, it was some money to get going with.
Arriving to the passport control section of the border three guys approached wearing suites, i rested the bike in the next room and came back to show my passport, the three men who i assumed to be customers in the que, began asking some questions, then a few more questions, then a few more questions, i`d like to see it as a more friendly integration than interrogation. My bike was in the next room which had been there ten minutes or so by now, so i excused myself from the huddle to make an exit to the bike, just before i had chance to take one step i was distracted to the other side of the room where i was asked some more questions, the one that made me swallow my adams apple was, but why are you coming to Iran? said with a perplexed confused look, to which i replied, to meet the people, see the sites and try the food. I was then directed into the tourist office where a well spoken English speaking lady introduced herself, further mentioning she thought that cycling is a great way to see a lot more of the country, i left feeling positive. Walking through to the next room to where the bike was, i heard welcome to Iran mentioned three times coming from different directions, feeling rushed, noticing one guy sitting on a table near the exit as i walked through the door squeezing the bike through behind me. There i was over the border into this mystical land, rolling down a hill lined with oil tankers along one side that were waiting to pass into Turkey. The first thing i noticed was the personality and happy feel to Iran, i`d only been in the country 10 minutes there was a genuine feel and niceness, i was trying my best to see the negative with English cynicism but even that was broken down, people were smiling in the streets, beeping there car horns, waving like i was a long lost relative.
Arriving to Maku the first town after crossing the border, a guy was cooking kebabs on a small barbecue on the side of the street, i stopped to buy one, when he asked me where i`m from, i replied England, to which he had a look of concern and fear on his face, he replied, ohhhh England..bad place!!, from him saying that it felt like another door had opened up into this land, to which i replied England say that about Iran, we both laughed.
Amongst the beautiful arid landscape, Iran felt like it was about the people, i went there with an open mind of how the west portrays Iran and came out with meeting some of the most genuinely, warm hearted hospitable people i`ve ever met.
Facts about Iran
In Persian, the word Iran means “Land of the Aryans”,
There is no law on copyright,
Iran ranks second in the world in natural gas and third in oil reserves,
Iran has borders with ten countries, namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iraq and Turkey,
Iran is one of the world’s oldest continuous major civilizations, with his¬tor¬i¬cal and urban settlements dating back to 4000 BC,
Persian writing is written from right to left,
Iran ranks seventh among countries in the world as regards number of World Heritage Sites,
The language that is spoken is Persian,
Iran is one of the world’s largest producers of caviar, pistachios, and saffron,