Saturday, September 27, 2014

mashad marvel

Leaving Turkmenistan was far easier than entering. Customs went smoothly and once again we were shown preferential treatment (much to the chagrin of one wild eyed local woman who glared at us going ahead of her that I thought her eyes would pop out and follow us across the border in order to continue staring.)

Once on the Iran side things suddenly slowed to a complete stop.

After a brief visit to an onsite doctor (it appeared everyone had to visit him before clearing customs) who was so interested in where we were from and what we were doing he almost entirely neglected to ask us any medical related questions at all.

Then we waited. And waited..and continued to wait.There was a solitary man processing forms and about 60 or 70 people waiting to get through. One person would be called up and it would take 5 or 6 minutes for him to tap away on his old computer before they were handed their passport and allowed to go through the gate. One person.

Then suddenly about 7 or 8 long distant lorry drivers would enter and they would get the preferential treatment. They would be processed and then the man would tap away at his computer for another 10 minutes before calling another person. Sometimes more lorry drivers would arrive before he called the next name.

We realised at one time that 20 minutes had passed and not one person sitting waiting had been processed. We really thought we would be there 8 or 9 hours.

After a couple for hours the doctor came out of his room and saw us sitting there and walked over to the fellow at the computer and - Lo!and Behold - we were called up and put through in less than 5 minutes.

We caught a cab on the other side to the holy city of Mashad (about 240kms) for $20!!

Welcome to Iran.

Scenery en route to Mashad:

Mashad is Iran's second largest city and the site of their holiest shrine - that to Imam Reza the 8th Shia Imam (the first being Mohammed) and the only one of Iranian descent.

This shrine was the main reason to stop in Mashad. There was some concern about whether non Muslims would be allowed in to even the main complex area (it is simply enormous - over 267,000m2 and the largest mosque in the world by dimension). Cameras were definitely forbidden, and all bags deposited outside. (Yet oddly - mobile phones and tablets could be taken in and used to snap photos.)

There are parts of the shrine where non Muslims are not allowed - yet Paul had the good fortune to be taken inside one area by a local. Often being mistaken as an Iranian might have helped.

Even though neither of us came away with our phones - I took my old redundant Nokia for the precise purpose of hoping to get a few snaps inside this shrine if we were allowed in.

Inside Imam Reza complex:

A former Hammam (bathhouse) now museum, outside the shrine complex:

No of course you don't see it....perhaps it's an ampallang advertisement!

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