March 29, 1977
Five hours spent at the Afghanistan/Iran border.
We made a futile effort to find a restaurant in Meshed, ending up eating at the hotel and having a bad, over-priced meal.
Source: Personal travel notes.
|From 1977 03 29 Iran|
From Herat, Afghanistan, it's only about 50 miles to the border with Iran. More on that and our first stop in Iran, Mashhad, after the jump.
In 1977, Afghanistan was backward, but not oppressive. Iran, on the other hand, was oppressive, but not backward. Even in 1977, when the Shah, America's ally, still ran the country, the border crossing had a way of putting tourists on guard. Maybe it was the veritable museum of bad things that happen to drug smugglers. The prominent display of someone's stripped car outside the passport office -- seats removed, door panels off, upholstery stripped, even the gas tank removed -- was a warning to hippies to not even think about bringing drugs in. Customs officials opening our personal medicine bottles and suspiciously examining the contents (aspirin, anti-malarial tablets, anti-diarrhea pills, etc. -- even healthy, young invincibles tend to have a lot of medicine when they travel across Asia) didn't make us feel very welcome, either.
Once past the very serious border guards, it was on to Mashhad, 300 miles or so inside Iran. Mashhad is the country's second largest city, after Tehran. Mashhad was not very welcoming to tourists, either, at least the non-Muslim kind. The mosque in the photo above looks great -- from the outside. Unfortunately, non-Muslims were forbidden to enter, so I can't tell you what it looks like from the inside.
Making it even harder for Westerners, Iran was the only country I encountered that did not put Arabic numerals on its currency -- you know, 1, 5, 10, etc. You quickly learn the Persian number system if you want to buy anything, like food. For that, expect to walk around the restaurant, looking at what other diners are eating, and pointing a lot. English speakers were few and far between. Likewise rare are menus printed with a Latin alphabet. I know -- ugly American and all that. I'm just saying it's harder to make your way there without a guide than elsewhere. Maybe things in Iran have changed since 1977. Or maybe not.
But we eventually warmed up to Iran as we traveled on. More on that in the next installment.
One of a continuing series.
Start: Around the World in 800 Days
Previous: Herat, Afghanistan
Next: Isfahan is Half the World