[‘Friends of the road (Vrienden van de weg)’ bestaat enkel in het Engels, excuses hiervoor]
As I mentioned before… Iran wasn’t all harassments and horror stories. I met many good or, to be more precise, wonderful people.
To be accurate I should have taken much more pictures from the many vendors or ordinary people in the street who offered me vegetables, fruits or bread. Or all of it in one bag. Just like that, for free, even after saying many times ‘nah, merci’ (no, thank you), the ta’arof or the Iranian etiquette.
Here’s a small tribute to Iranian generosity and hospitality.
After cycling half a day in the snow in Iran, my fingers were frozen, my clothes were completely wet and so was I. Finally I saw a petrol station, passed by and I got offered some hot tea (or two, three), some candies and my first Farsi lessons thanks to Mostafa (the guy on the right and the co-owner of the petrol station). Merci Mostafa! #Iran
I was so glad I met super sweet Nassim in Urmia. The first person after one week on the road in Iran I could communicate with. She told me how much she hates the hijab and how horrible she finds that woman in Iran are suppressed. She told about her resulting two-year depression and the hope of emigration. With all my heart, dear Nassim, I hope you can follow your dream. Sorry I didn’t accept the necklace you offered me as a goodbye present. But with this picture, I’ll always remember your generosity #Iran
Leaving Urmia and receiving a bag of mandarins, just like that! Super sweet, and I’m not only talking about the mandarins #Iran
I met Mohammad (picture) and Bahram in a hostel in Georgia. Great Iranian guys from Isfahan. ‘Hey Trien, when you come to Iran, you have to stay with us in Isfahan’, so did I. I spent some great days with my personal ‘guides’. From an ‘underground’ birthday party, visit to the family, falafel on the go to a visit to many cultural heritage sites. Iranian beauty and hospitality galore! Thanks ‘dealer’ 😉 #Iran
A sweet farmer surprised by seeing me in his abandoned village. Showed me his livestock and invited me for tea and biscuit. Memorable encounter for sure #Iran
Yeah, I found offroad, finally! I was so glad. Only one little problem, no mosque or any village on the road. Meaning no water supply. That became hard. Luckily this huge truck passed by. I asked the guy if he could offer me some water. He gave me his bottle and rode to a fountain some kilometers further to fill mine #Iran
I’m not carrying all the tools I need. Instead I go to the nearest garage when I need a giant Allen key for my Pinion. The guys didn’t had one either, but looked for one in the surrounding garages. They came back with the right one and did the maintenance of my bike too #spoiled #Iran
A friendly farmer in the lovely mudbrick village Kharanaq offered me one (and more if I wanted) of those typical yellow carrots. I helped a little bit on the field in return #Iran
Christmas Day deserves a special dinner, isn’t it? That’s why I wanted to buy a variety of veggies. But the vendor (left) refused to accept my money. A Christmas dinner in a sauce of generosity. Thanks a million! #Iran
December 25th, cycling through Meybod, cycling 22 days through Iran and realising that so far, unlike all tourists travelling through Iran told me before, no stranger invited me to have a lunch or dinner at their home. Not that I think that’s normal, no no, not at all, just… I was curious to feel that unexpected hospitality everybody’s talking about. You just have to think it, and there it is… my second Christmas gift: an invitation from this man to have lunch at their home. Wow, that was a nice surprise! #grateful #Iran
December 28th, the Day of the Innocent Children. I entered a boys school in Meybod. I checked if I could take a picture. By seeing the camera the boys became instantly wild. They started shouting, screaming, pulling and pushing just to be on the first row. Hilarious! Here already a bit tempered because while the school bell rang the director appeared and stopped this funny (picture) play time. Only a few diehards neglected him #Iran
Only one pomegranate? That’s not worth counting money for. It’s for free! #Iran
‘No no, this shop (right) doesn’t sell bread, that’s in the next city.’ ‘No problem’ the man with the striped sweater thought. He disappeared and came back with a homemade bread #yummy #merci #Iran
The day I met Fatma (right), my couchsurfhost in Safa Shahr, was the day I was harassed a first time. It felt good to sleep in a safe place with super kind people. She also offered me lovely food, gave a tiny house concert on her sitar and I got to know a lot of other kind family members. Two days later I left. Her husband insisted to guide me with his car out of town. Her sweet mum is sitting next to him #Iran
The most wonderful man of Iran lives in Marvdasht (near Persepolis) and is married with a sweet Greek lady. I wanted to camp next to Persepolis, he came towards me, big smile on his warm face included. Asking if I didn’t want to camp in the garden of the hotel he was working in. First I said ‘no thank you’, but after a while, feeling insecure after what happened the last days, I said yes. I pitched my tent in the garden of that fancy hotel. The man asked if I wanted to take a shower and have some food (all for free). Again, I said ‘no thank you’. Half an hour later, the manager was there. I couldn’t stay there, it wasn’t allowed for security reasons. So the sweet man asked the gardener to bring me to his house where his wife took care of me, offered me tea, a shower and a bed to sleep in. The warmest encounter I had in Iran was definitely in Marvdasht. Especially after two ‘cold’ days. What I didn’t know was that after this beautiful encounter I had the worst one a couple of hours later #Iran
After what happened, I didn’t dare to cycle anymore on the mainland, so I took a bus to Bandar Abbas. Arriving last minute and not finding the counter for buying the busticket, I bumped into Sina, a great guy. He ran with me to the right desk and was good company in the bus too. Dear Sina, I wish you all the luck with your studies and hope you make it one day to Dubai or Germany, your dream destinations. Take care #Iran
In Bandar Abbas I could stay with friendly Narges and her mum. Because I didn’t feel comfortable anymore on the road, it felt really good she came over to escort me from the busstop to her house. She made a lovely dinner and yummy breakfast. Brought me to the ferry to Qeshm island and arranged some free night stays on the island for me too. Wonderful! #Iran
On Qeshm Island, my last hope to have a good Iranian souvenir, I was also followed by a guy on a motorcycle. I saw an army truck and asked the soldiers to escort me. They did it for 1 kilometer. The guy was gone, but not for long. I made local people stop and asked them to escort me. One man did and said goodbye with an indecent proposal included. Bad timing… but luckily there was this man, Davut, working at the reception of beautiful Stars Valley. He took care of me, offered me food and a safe camping spot next to the reception. He lovely sang verses out of the Coran. Thanks for this good souvenir Davut #Iran
Because I didn’t dare to cycle anymore, I asked a bus with tourists if I could join them through Stars Valley. I could. A bus full of colleagues with their families made me feel like one of them. I could even join their visit to another highlight on Qeshm island and share a lunch with them. With this little chappie I had a special connection. He liked me, I liked him. He even reminded me of myself when I was a kid. And when I showed him a picture of me as a three year old, he said his name 😀 #Iran
My last morning, the one of my big escape from Iran, was very hectic. I had to buy a boat ticket to Oman, but also needed information from the embassy, had to go to the post office and received wrong directions. This man helped me with everything. I just spoke to him in the street and he started to become my personal guide in Qeshm. He delivered me, like a package, just on time, on the quay of the boat to Oman. I’ll never forget you dear stranger! #Iran