Elvis and Arlo In Iran
A travelogue of two American tourists during their first visit to Iran
April 16-26, 2009

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Background
April 16: Tehran
April 17: Tehran
April 18: Tehran-Yazd
April 19: Yazd
April 20: Pasagardae
April 21: Shiraz
April 22: Persepolis
April 23: Isfahan
April 24: Isfahan
April 25: Isfahan
April 26: Abyaneh-Kashan

April 25

The Bazaar covers 1.7 km between Imam Square and Jameh Mosque. Near the Square, there are lots of tourist goods and handicrafts of varying qualities. A Bazaar carpet merchant offers to guide us to the bazaar rooftop so I can take pictures (in order to show us his wares on the way back of course!). He tells us how much he loves Jim Carrey, and Al Pacino in "The Devil's Advocate". The day before an Iranian was telling us how much he loved Clint Eastwood; I am always surprised at the global penetration of American popular culture.

isfahan bazaar

As we progress through the corridors fewer and fewer tourists are to be seen. We wander through sections filled with cloth, jewelry, cooking appliances, and finally a fruit and vegetable market. We buy spices from a man who is quite affable until he learns we are Americans; then he looks at us as if he'd like to squash us. However, we next ask directions from several men who speak no English. A man on a bicycle stops to help us out.  He bikes after us, out of hearing of the others, and says he is a teacher but has to work as an auto mechanic.  He doesn't like Iran and wants to know if we can help him emigrate to America or Canada.  We tell him unfortunately we cannot help.

tehran date and nut seller

At our obligatory ice cream break in the Abbasi, we learn that the Isfahan police were rather upset that we had changed hotels without warning, but everything is ok now. The Iranian officials are very concerned with the whereabouts of American tourists; they say this is so that if any “incidents” occur, they can safely whisk us out of the country without causing an international brouhaha.

abbasi lobbey

We head back towards Imam Square. As we shop, we meet an amazing assortment of fascinating Iranians. First, a newly qualified doctor who tells us in 4 months he is going to New York for a medical seminar, then visiting a relative in Texas.  He tells us how difficult it was to get a visa and asks where he should go in the U.S. while he's there.  After giving him advice, we then encounter a fellow who not only speaks very good colloquial English, he is also amazingly knowledgeable about American pop culture, regional culture and sports teams. He's a hockey fan!  He is an idealist; he refuses to serve his compulsory two years of national military service because he doesn't believe in it. This means he can't get a legitimate job or medical insurance. He would like to work for a travel agency and be a guide for Americans. We warn him that we don't think he'll be able to do this until he completes his service, as the requirements for American guides seem to be especially stringent. We learn later than many young Iranians from poor families avoid their national service as they get sent to the most dangerous or uncomfortable assignments and still have little chance of a good job when they are done serving.

Next, a 'fisherman' who shmoozes with tourists to try to get us to visit his friend's shops chats us up. He speaks excellent English. His accent is an odd blend of British English with American Southern, which he says is due to having a relative in Texas.  After some fun haggling, we end up buying a khatam walking stick from him (so he landed his ‘fish’!), and also get his assistance with purchasing a lovely blue enameled copper vase. He compliments us on my strategy of showing him George's near-empty wallet, then after closing the deal, getting cash from my own pocket. He says he would like to study biotechnology with a special interest in Neurosurgery overseas. So many people seem to want to get out of Iran to fulfill their dreams; how representative of the general population are they?

Naghsh-e Jahan Square night with people02

Dinner is kebabs in a nearby hotel.  An Iranian woman who is guiding an Italian tour (she also speaks French and some English) helps us order.  Then, the man who kindly traded seats with me on my 'Mal Air-ia" flight (from Shiraz to Isfahan, when I was ill) tells us about his experiences as a PhD student in botany guiding horticultural tours. He is very pleased that he will be doing advanced studies in Vienna.

We go to the river once again to say goodbye to the brdiges. As always, they are very lively at night.And then to bed.

isfahan si-o-se

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