Goodbye to Iran

Trip Start Mar 21, 2009
Trip End Apr 29, 2009

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Friday, April 10, 2009

After spending the last few days in Kashan and Qom, we finally we made our way back to Tehran for our last days in Iran.   On our way back to Tehran we stopped at the shrine for Ayatollah Khomeini and it was enormous.  What was most amazing though was how emotional many Iranians feel about this particular Ayatollah that they see as the grandfather of their revolution.  Even though he died many years ago (1989), for many it's still traumatic and we saw an older woman holding on to the bars that surround his shrine, rocking back & forth and absolutely wailing that her much-loved hero was gone.   He may not have been well thought of in the West, but many Iranians saw him as a kind, humble, spiritual leader and his shrine draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

My friend Kate left a day and half earlier than I did so I had some time in Tehran on my own and felt completely comfortable and safe wandering around.  In fact, I had several Tehranis approach me to ask where I was from, and one woman adopted me and showed me where a bazaar was that she thought I'd be interested in checking out. 

A ex-coworker of mine has a friend Amir who lives in Tehran, so after Kate left I arranged to meet up with him and his fiance.   They couldn't have been nicer and entertained me all afternoon and evening in northern Tehran which is where the upper class part of society lives.   They live a pretty good life here and both have very good jobs.  We went back to Amir's place at the end of the evening and he has an amazing penthouse condo - huge - overlooking the city with snow-capped mountains in the background.  There is a black market for alcohol that he says everyone in his social circle takes advantage of, so he opened up a bottle of wine, put out some cheese and crackers, and they showed me pictures from their recent trip to Thailand.  I swear I could have been in Pacific Heights.   His fiance is a Grey's Anatomy fan and is able to download the episodes off the internet within 24 hours of them being aired on TV in the US.   Incredible.  I told her about Real Housewives of NYC, one of my favorite trash reality-TV shows on Bravo, and suggested that maybe they should think about doing a Real Housewives of Tehran :)   

It's hard to believe it's over, but my time in Iran is coming to an end and I'll be flying to Damascus in a few hours.   After getting over the initial shock of seeing women in scarves and chadors, strangely enough I almost don't even notice it anymore.    Overall it's been an incredible experience I can assure you that the Iranian people are some of the friendliest, most hospitable that I've ever met though you'd never know it based on the news we get at home.   

And now on to Syria!  
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