We were super nervous for our arrival in Teheran. We had everything fixed and were well prepared, but still worried. What if we didn’t receive a visa and we would get deported. That would be a disaster because it would cost us lots of money and our route/plans in Iran would get ruined. And secretly I was also a bit scared to go to Iran, since you hear al kind of negative things about the country; the strict monitoring by the police and government or other annoyances and dangers for travellers. At the same time the acid-attacks on women in Esfahan was all over the news. Even the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises not to go to Iran assuming it’s even safer to travel in Afghanistan. At the immigration counter we were sent to another desk for foreigners applying for visa-on-arrival. The man behind the desk gave us a form with a couple of general questions. They also asked for our hosts (normally you need an Iranian citizen who invites you as a host), we explained ours was the hotel we had booked (we understood according to information on the Internet this would be ok). Suddenly he looked worried and went out to ask for his superior. His superior came and looked at us, checked our passports, looked worried at us again and then asked if we were born in Afghanistan. This was the moment it would come into a test if we would benefit from our origination in Afghanistan as a neighbour of Iran or the opposite would be true. He asked again “Are you Kabuli?” Farhang and I looked into each others eyes, hesitated and said: “Ehh, Yes?”. He answered: “Why didn’t you say that earlier?!” He smiled, gave stamps on our passports and said “Khush Amaden” (Welcome in Farsi). Let’s just say the relief we felt was indescribable. They didn’t even ask for my passport photo which I specially had made in Yerevan. We had to pay 50 euros per person for the visas and that was it! It went so smoothly, without any hassles or what so ever. When we walked back to the immigration counter, the officer even made a joke about our marriage, suggesting to surrender Farhang if he wouldn’t treat me well haha. When we got to our hotel, we had to make a plan for Iran since we only had 2 weeks and plenty of places we wanted to visit. We would have to hurry and hop from one place to the other. We could survive that for 2 weeks I thought, until I got sick the next day! I caught up a cold, accompanied with some fever & a sour throught. Oh well, I had to suck it up.
We also told our parents that we had arrived in Iran already (we didn’t tell them in the first place that we would definitely go there because they were so worried but we also didn’t want to keep it a secret. They were not very excited, but as time passed and we sent them more and more pictures of beautiful places we visited, they realised how beautiful Iran was and that they were worried for no reason).
The next 2 days we took our time to wander around through the streets of Teheran! The city itself is indescribable in couple of words: ugly, chaotic, crowded and overwhelming. Yet it can be devided in two parts with the south being much poorer, older and more conservative (however home to most of the museums, Golestan Palace and the Tehran Bazar) and the north more developed, more appealing and modern.
The Tehran Bazar was very crowded and noisy with everyone in a rush. There may be some unwanted touching so be aware of that! We didn’t stay for too long because of the reasons mentioned above and went to the National Museum of Iran. However we didn’t find that so exciting as well. The same goes for Gandhi Shopping Centre which we expected to be much bigger. The only thing we do recommend is the Golestan Palace with its wonderful halls full of mirror-art work.
In Teheran we had our introduction to real authentic Persian food made by locals themselves like we had never tasted before; we enjoyed every single meal and couldn’t wait for more.
In these first days we were very cautious with using our cameras since that could be really sensitive. Especially photographing women was a big no-no. We always asked first before taking pictures.
Recommendation? Not really, but since Teheran is the roaring and diverse capital city you should visit it once for a day or two. It certainly doesn’t justify Iran’s actual beauty and honestly Tehranis aren’t really representative for the people’s friendliness and hospitality in general in the rest of Iran.