We are writing this post from a 2-room apartment with a separate shower and toilet in Chadegan. When we arrived we were seeking for “social garden” in the opinion we could set up our tent over there. Instead a nice old man gave his phone so we could speak to his daughter in English. She told us the price of 2 million Rial, which is about twice our daily budget.
After we told her that the price is out of our range, she spoke with her dad again and he gave the apartment for free to fulfill his duty as Muslim. In the past ten days we were confronted with several ceremonies and processions related to the Muharram. This is a Shiitic Muslim tradition and connected to the mourning of the death of Imam Husayn some 1400 years ago…
In line with the tradition we were invited to drink tea or yoghurt-milk along the streets and two days ago we even visited a Mosque where we had lunch (Kebab with rice of course) with about 150 men, most of them dressed in black.
Yesterday we tried a ‘Warm Shower’ host and this was a great success. Omid and his daughter Paniian were super hosts and they took us to a temporary Mosque, where we were treated as VIP guests and where we had the opportunity to talk to 3 different Imams.
Very interesting discussions with always the same red thread : “please be aware that we are normal people looking for peace and living together with anybody else, regardless the religion or ethnicity”. They set themselves apart from the extremists like the ones responsible for the attacks in Belgium and France. We closed the evening with a dinner in another Mosque with Abgoosht and yogurt-milk.
We met a lot of people so far and always experienced a deep interest in our background: where are you from?, how old are you?, what is your profession?, are you father and son?, why are you biking?, what religion do you have?, how much does your bike cost?, how much do you earn?, where are you going to? and what’s your name are the top-10 questions…
Sooo Is everything only positive? Well no. Sometimes the overwhelming attention is a little too much (first world problems I guess). Then there are restrictions for some people to host us in their home (journalists for instance). The economy is very low, resulting in a high amount of unemployment (especially under young people). We also had an unpleasant experience with the police (one took our passports and stole a bag of chips of our bike and insisted that we were escorted to the next village. But it was already getting dark and finally we got everything back, thanks to a more friendly colleague). This in full contradiction to the previous contact we had with the police in Kabur Darahang, where a very polite officer, saved us from the crowd and escorted us to a perfect camping spot! The internet is censured and apps like YouTube, Flicker and Facebook are not working, although the president of Iran has his own FB-account?(if you know the right way you can bypass the censure with vpn).
To summarize we have had just one incidental negative experience so far and for the rest a great time with lovely people, proud of their country and with a overwhelming hospitality.