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Hospitality in Iran


Iran has not a good name in the western world. And when I tell people about the hospitality in Iran few people are even willing to believe how nice people are. In the western (and in eastern press too) Iran is usually described as a fundamentalist country where all people are anti- USA and anti anything which is not Islamic.

Cycling away from EsfahanAlthough maybe the politics of Iran suggest this, the ordinary people are very different in their attitude towards foreigners, Muslims or non-Muslims. During my two visits in Iran I experienced amazing hospitality of the Iranian people. It didn't really matter where I was, small villages of big cities, people were amazingly friendly and happy to meet foreigners.

Here's a two anecdotes of what happened when I cycled through this amazing country.

Jiroft

It had been one of those days I had not been able to find a village! Earlier that day I had left the gorgeous city of Bam. The idea to cycle south the Straits of Hormoz. In fact, I was more or less on my way back to Turkey but I had some time and I had not visited Shiraz. Thus I thought, why not cycle along the coast line?

Unfortunately I was not quite well at the time. And, the road to Jiroft had been difficult. When I cycled out of Bam, the road was nice and beautiful and flat. But the junction to Jiroft showed me mountains. It was a hard climb. If I had been in physical good condition it probably would have been a lot easier but I felt weak.

So I slept on the pass, just 85 km from Bam. The day after I arrived In Jiroft. While I was wandering through the town I tried to find accommodation. That didn't look difficult but I was invited to have a lunch with a man who called himself the "king of Jiroft".

True or not, it seemed many knew this man. After the lunch I left but I wanted still to stay in the town since Bandar Abbas would be too far this day.

desert in south Iran

The desert in south Iran in between Bam and Zahedan

I passed a small tourist shop, a place for airline tickets. It surprised me a bit since I knew there was no airport in Jiroft. The closest airport was about 200 km in Kerman. It was already dark and I was on my way to the hotel I had in mind. The man from the shop came out and asked me to come in. I told him I had to find a place to stay but he insisted. So I put my bicycle in his shop and he asked me if I already had supper.

Iranian family in Jiroft
I was guest of this family in Jiroft

Then he send his brother out who came back a bit later with an excellent meal we shared in his shop. The shop was new, clean and there were computers for bookings. We spoke about his business and he told me it was quite good even though there was no airport in Jiroft.

The meal we shared was not the usual "restaurant meals" of kebab, fried tomato and some rice but had great chicken kebab, very nice fried vegetables, fresh salad, some yogurt and rice. The man told me his mother cooked it. After the meal the inevitable strong black tea with sugar rocks was served. I felt like a king.

In the ruines of Bam with an Iranian family from Kerman Esfahan, Iran

The man asked me where I was planning to stay, so I told him. He looked for a moment. "You better stay upstairs here", he said. "I have a bedroom and a shower because sometimes I stay here too. I have to apologize because there's no hot water", he continued.

I was at the point of refusing but he insisted and I couldn't say no.

In the ruines of Bam with an Iranian family from Kerman

"What time do you wake up?" he asked. I told him that his time would be my time. "I'm usually here at about 7am" That was fine with me. In the bedroom he rolled out a mattress and gave me a blanket. Then he went back home leaving me alone in his shop.

The next morning I was awake when he came back with the breakfast. He had these big fresh baked breads with him together with home made honey, cream cheese, tea, apples and yogurt. We spoke a bit and then I left him. He didn't want any money but insisted I would send him a postcard from my home country. Obviously I did that and received a Christmas card back.

The geologists

The Mosque in Esfahan
The Mosque in Esfahan

It was a cold afternoon but I was almost at my destination when a small truck passed me and stopped a bit further on. Four men came out of the truck and stopped me. They invited me to put my bike on the truck, they would bring me to the nearest hotel. I insisted it was not necessary since the next town was only 6 km away. But they were more insisting. So I put my bike on the truck and joined them for a 15 minute ride to the next town.

We arrived at a nice looking hotel. I had already put my bike of the truck when the men told me this hotel would be too expensive. Instead, they invited me to join them home. I hesitated for a moment but then though: "what the heck!"

We arrived at their house, a nice quite comfortable one storey house. One of the men started to cook the dinner while one of the other explained me a few things. They were geologists working for an oil company and now were working in this area. The house belonged to the company and was for the employees if necessary. The four men had been working in the area but originally were from Tehran, more then 500 away.

Dinner was served, a simple but tasty meal. There were water-pipers and some whiskey after the dinner. Although these men were Muslims, they didn't take the Muslim law too tight. Soon they were drunk. Since I don't consume any alcohol anymore I was the only sober.

The next morning at 4.30 I was woken up. They already had put my bike on their truck. It was too early to cycle, it was still dark too, so they had decided to bring me a few kilometers away.

After a short breakfast we left. On the road we had to pass road blocks where police checked the licenses. Before the first block, the car stopped and a bottle of "madam" whiskey (there was a girl on the label) was hidden in motor.

We passed the road block while the men were laughing. A bit later we took a side road. It was a dirt road we followed until just after a small hill so we were out of sight of the main road. Apparently the men had done that before. Marijuana came out of the motor. Soon the men became slightly stoned and started to giggle as young kid (they were all over 40!)

Cycling at the Straits of Hormuz.
Cycling at the Straits of Hormuz.

When the smoke was finished we continued our journey. Near the next town I was dropped since I wanted to cycle south and they had to go east. I had found another good example of hospitality in Iran.

Conclusion

This is only one of the many experiences I had. I can tell you many stories about hospitality in Iran. It may fill a book with stories people in the west hardly hear.

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