Tehran

tehrancopstopNow that we were back in Tehran, we were back to the familiarity of the maelstrom of traffic, back to visiting more palaces – the White Palace, the Green Palace and one more museum, the Reza Abbasi (not named after our guide).  I’m not usually a big fan of museums, but this one with its three floors of beautiful artefacts – gold drinking vessels, ceramics, intricate calligraphy – was enthralling.  I even took pictures!

Two incidents on the same afternoon made us realise we really wouldn’t want to mess with the cops in Tehran …

We’d decided to check out the graffiti on the walls outside the former American Embassy, now known as the US Den of Espionage.  Four of us went there by metro – which required the assistance of helpful locals to make sense of the squiggly writing on the map and to make sure we got on the right lines going in the right direction and changed at the right station.

When we all got on, I wondered if I was allowed in the same compartment as Tony and the other two men from our group; I couldn’t see any other women around … and I seemed to be attracting a few looks.  (Not usually something I have to deal with.)  And was I allowed to sit next to another man who wasn’t my husband?  I didn’t want to go off to the Ladies’ compartment on my own – especially as we weren’t sure which stop we were getting off at – so I sat it out – and yes, it was a mixed compartment.

Bored-looking salesmen constantly shuffled through, half-heartedly hawking items such as torches, selfie sticks, pens – anything and everything you really don’t much need … and I didn’t see them make any sales.  I was told later that the ladies’ carriages are much livelier, with jewellery and sexy undies on offer.

Outside the embassy, we (discreetly) took a few pictures of the graffiti, ever mindful of the cameras beamed down on us from atop the perimeter walls.  As we strolled back towards the metro station, a motorbike suddenly swerved across the pavement, scattering a few pedestrians in its path – followed closely by a police car. The police car rammed the bike and knocked the rider flying.   Two cops leapt out and proceeded to lay into the man, viciously kicking and punching him before eventually slinging him in the back of the police car.  I stood there taking pictures – until it dawned on me that perhaps this wasn’t the most sensible thing I could be doing in the circumstances …

They weren’t the brightest of cops … more brawn than brain, as it turned out.  Our ‘villain’ quickly shifted himself across the back seat and got out of the other side of the car.  One policeman rushed round to grab him again, but after a few thumps and struggles the man managed to wriggle out of his tee-shirt and hared off down the road through the confusion of traffic.  No-one tried to stop him.  Passers-by carried on their way.

Our return trip by metro also turned out to be quite eventful.

An awareness passed through our carriage.  There was a man in the ladies’ compartment.  Bold as brass and clearly visible through the glass partition that separated the ladies from everyone else.  Had he leapt on at the last minute as the train was about to depart and not realised where he was getting on?  Whatever…  Platforms are clearly marked where the ladies’ compartments stop – and he appeared to be a local; he should have known better.  He didn’t look particularly repentant – and luck was against him.  There was a railway official/policeman in our (mixed) compartment.

We all leaned forward, each of us craning our necks that little bit further out than our neighbour’s in order to see what was going to happen. The disapproval was palpable.  The official got up and had words with the offender (translation not available), hoicked him roughly through the glass barrier into the mixed compartment and at the next stop marched him off the train, all the while keeping a tight grip on his arm.  No smack on the wrist and ‘Don’t do it again’…  I wouldn’t like to think where he was headed.

Our family had thought we were nuts.  So had most of our friends.  You can’t go there, they’d said, it’s dangerous.  You’ll have to go round wearing a black tent all the time.  It’s a hotbed of extremists and terrorists …

No, really, it’s not.  Go – the people are wonderful, friendly, welcoming …

Just go … but do stay on the right side of the law.

 

 

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