(Iran) No way.. I have to cycle during Ramadan (Fasting)

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Iran Tours_001

I was always busy at the last day of long staying in the city. I had to go to Spa for touring, give back the lock which I borrowed, run to DHL warehouse to take my parcel, cook with left food, and clean the house in Budapest, Hungary. I went to a bed very late night that I was so tired when I woke up in the morning. It was so difficult to carry rack pack, pannier, and camera bag on my shoulder all together to an airport. I arrived at the airport on time and checked in without the problem. But it was really painful to carry all bags that I must not travel with many small heavy bags next time.

Once I had the seat on the airplane, I could finally take a rest. It was five and half hours flight, but no any drink was served. I bought one food set including sandwich, chocolate, tea, and water, which was about $6. But I only paid $200 for round trip that still I saved lots of money.

There was one funny thing that I had one day over staying in Hungary, but immigration officer didn’t care. (I can stay 90 days in Europe Schengen Area.)

 

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After arriving at the airport of Dubai, I had to take the subway to meet my Indian host to a shopping mall. On the way, I saw interesting sign. When men are in women cabin, penalty is $27 (100 AED) and smoking penalty is $54 (200 AED). No Chewing Gum on the train.

 

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While waiting my host, I took the picture. Bags behind me were really uncomfortable and heavy to carry.

 

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I was happy to see my Indian host’s family again after three months. I left my luggage and bicycle on the top of the building that there was the dusty.

 

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It was very normal to see much dust when people lived around dry desert area.

 

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I had to prepare cycling trip that I cleaned my bicycle first. I washed my bags too. There was one big garbage bag coming out after I organized my luggage. It was funny thing that usually I had one garbage bag when I cleaned up my bag. But then after one month, my bag became full again.

 

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I installed a bicycle pump on my bicycle, which I bought in Abu Dhabi. I decided to throw away bicycle frame lock because I didn’t use it often. Actually I just didn’t use any kind of lock often. So in this case, to carry two different kind of locks was too much. I checked and fixed tube I had. I changed two broken spokes, too. Now I was ready to hit the road. I only stayed one day in Dubai and I started cycling at the next day.

 

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When I arrived, it was Ramadan. People didn’t eat or drink at the day time during Ramadan which would be for one month. It is better to avoid visiting Islamic country during Ramadan because tourists should not eat on the public place, too. It was okay at some country like in Turkey though. It was really hot day that I cycled from 4 am. There was no any weird feeling to cycle again although I didn’t travel with my bicycle for three months because many times I had longer break.

 

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I found some interesting thing which I could not notice before. There was air conditioner on a bus station. But I was not sure it worked well or not because I saw some bus station’s door opened.

 

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Some road was under construction that it was a bit complicating to cycle. The most difficult part was I had to cycle during Ramadan. There was exception that Elderly people, sick people, children, pregnant, post-natal, breastfeeding, or menstruating women, traveler, and fighting soldiers didn’t need to fast. I was one of those exceptions, the traveler! But I felt that I must not drink at the middle of the road, so I went to a small road and hid to eat and drink. But I could not find the small road at every hour that I felt dehydrated. One time I went to some building and asked to go to stairs to drink water after explaining that I was a traveler.

After 60 km(37mile) cycling, I reached to the city near the port. I saw people fighting when I went to the ferry company’s office to buy the ticket to Iran. There was one guy looking like Iranian was washing his face around the place where people get water to drink. Then the guy from the reception looking like Indian was shouting and angry at him. It seemed like the receptionist shouting “Why the hell drink water during Ramadan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” and he said “I never drank water!!!!!!!! I just washed my face!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” and he angrier at him “NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU CHEATER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

My decision was right that I hid to drink and eat some snack on the small road while cycling on the road.

 

I found very familiar face at the immigration. On the left of the picture, I saw him when I visited Dubai first with my cycling partner. He was so kind when my cycling partner had the problem. At that time, my cycling partner’s visa didn’t arrive on the system. But the officer waited visa arriving for a few hours and he let us use wifi. I wanted to send the picture to my cycling partner that I asked the photo together.

The ferry to Iran departed in the night. There was really nice thing that it was no problem to drink and eat on the ferry. I guessed because all we were travelers? I was too happy to complain about wearing hijab again because I could drink and eat anytime when I wanted on the ferry.

 

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Arriving Iran, I was glad to come back but I was worried. When I cycled in Iran for two months, I got sexually harassed two times although I had the cycling partner at that time. It was for sure that if I cycled alone, I must get sexually harassed. I heard from solo women cyclists that all of them must get sexually harassed in Iran, not only one time, but several times. Sexual harassing is happening all around the world. But it is not common that solo women cyclists must have this experience 100% sure. I never recommend any solo girl cycling alone in Iran. Some European girl on a bicycle told me she got grabbed between legs even by the immigration doctor on the border. Too much risky to cycle alone and I already cycled from north to south for two months last time that I decided to take the train from south to north back at this time.

Cycling from the port to a train station, it was impossible to keep moving without drinking water because of too high humid heat. I decided to be disrespectful tourist than dying with dehydrating. I just turned around my body and hid my face with hijab and drank water.

When I arrived at the train station, I was shocked that people eating and drinking and the restaurant was opened. I thought because all of us were traveler?? or because it was in the traveler place? I was not sure but I was just crazy happy to eat.

 

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Before taking the train, I was told that I had to put my luggage at different cargo. They gave me a big bag like on the picture and I put a big rack pack and four bicycle panniers. It was only 34 kg (74 lb). But food, my laptop, and camera were not included. Maybe if everything was included, then it would be around 40 kg (88lb).

There was one problem that I had to put my bicycle on a different train and I could get it only after a few days. I was worried about carrying all these heavy bags without my bicycle and also losing my bicycle later. I begged workers with saying my bicycle was part of my body.

 

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Eventually, they decided to let me take my bicycle with me. They left my bicycle at the corridor and advised to lock.

 

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I just noticed that it was my first time to take the night train in my life. There were three kind of cabins for women, men, and family. I shared the cabin with three other local women.

 

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There were foods, tea, and drink. They told me traveler can drink and eat anytime.

 

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The view through the window was similar to the one I saw while cycling for two months last time.

 

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A cafeteria was clean and nice.

 

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When we had to sleep, we lifted up the table between seats. There were another beds above that all of us had beds for ourselves. I had very unique experience at my cabin. One girl on my cabin was twenty something years old. She was smuggling girl’s bra and underwear. Actually it was nothing special that you could buy in your country easily at any shop that she was selling G-string underwear. But it seemed she had to sell at the hidden place. There was some island, Queshm near the port I arrived. It was special place that people didn’t need visa and it was tax-free. Many expat workers from Dubai visited the island to buy things on their long weekend. This girl bought underwear at Queshm and smuggled to Mashhad, big city.

How did I know? A few males came to the cabin to buy. One of them could speak English. He was spinning G-string on his finger while having chat with other women on our cabin. I was confused where I was. It seemed so open. I asked him “Are you buying for your girlfriend?” He answered “No, it is for my sex partners.” I asked “You have a few? Maybe your girls would not like it” He laughed at me “They have more sex partners than me. It is very sad thing that unlikely other countries people just have sex without love here.” I was wondering about sex life in Iran that I asked him “It is common to sleep easily with many other people?” He said “Yes” and then girl smuggling said “No!! Not everybody! Just some people.” Then old lady around 50 years old did not agree at all “NO!!! IT IS NOT TRUE!!!!”

Iran was mystery place that it was impossible to know well because the government controls the public. But on the other hand, the government don’t care about private place that they just close their eyes about things like people drinking which they forbid. It seemed that it drove some people crazy at their private place. I met some cyclist going to a big private party in Iran, which was quite common in a big city among rich young people. He said local young people didn’t enjoy drinking but they just drank to be drunk. Maybe what he said “It is sad” on the cabin was related to this kind, too. When there was too much pressure, then some people lost how to enjoy itself when they got the chance at behind place.

In the night, 50 years old lady was praying with crying. Many Muslims were crying during praying because of Imam’s dead (Imam is like messenger and there were twelve Imam, but most of them were killed by other greedy people.) It seemed she was very religious. I was surprised to hear their sex life at the day time and then in the night I was surprised again at her crying for so many hours. Iran was really unique place that there were much opposite extremes.

 

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When the train arrived at the station in Mashhad, suddenly all people were disappearing quickly that I didn’t have enough time to have hug with other women on my cabin. I was also busy to take care of my all luggage.

Some person I was talking to on online invited me at his family house. I went to Imam Reza shrine with my host, the most important place to Shia Muslim Iran.

 

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Women must wear Chador to visit mosque or shrine in Iran. There was always a free guide in Iran when visiting mosque that I could ask many question to my guide. She told me she had not seen tourist like me knowing many things and asking endlessly. I just told her I am curious about everything and I traveled Iran for two months last time.

 

The inside of Shrine was so twinkling.

 

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One of best things in Iran was there were so green lovely parks everywhere and people enjoying the picnic there. There was some special night near mosque that I came out with my host family.

 

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There were many people playing with their friend or family. Mashhad was known for most sacred place because one of Imam’s tombs was in the city that many people wore Chador.

 

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It had been long time that I visited Iranian Bazaar. Usually there were some hand crafts, nuts, spices, jewelry, Muslim clothes, and some cheap thing made in China.

 

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To see guy polishing was interesting.

 

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There were also some perfume shops that I bought one as well. It was quite cheap.

 

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The perfume was on the left top. The top was not like spraying but liquor coming out that I had to rub after pressing. I bought my favorite thing, pistachio. I bought Saffron to send my mom. Some local people told me one pack was big enough to use for a long time because it should be used only little to put on meat or rice.

(I sent it in Uzbekistan with the letter but it didn’t arrive in South Korea. If it was the problem at the custom, they could take away Saffron and only send the letter. But my mom didn’t get anything. Actually I was doubting about the worker at the post office. She didn’t put any stamp on my envelope when I gave her. She just asked me money and put my letter at the corner and said to me I can go. I felt like she took my money and Saffron and threw away my letter. Other tourist also told me his letter was missed too. Uzbek cheated too much almost every day when I was there that I couldn’t trust people there easily.)

 

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I went to Turkmenistan embassy in the city to get five days transit visa with the invitation letter which I got via email. I was so lucky that I got it so easily just by email. Many travelers were rejected suddenly from Turkmenistan embassy without any reason. They had to fly from Iran to Uzbek or just gave up some part because Turkmenistan was between Iran and Uzbekistan.

 

My host told me they would prepare some food to go to the park. “What?? Food at park?? Isn’t it Ramadan now??” She said “It’s okay.” We had so much nice amazing lovely Iranian food at the park.

There were two possibilities that eating during Ramadan was no problem in Iran. Iranian were Shia Muslim while most of Muslim were Sunni. Shia people were more open mind that they prayed three times a day while others doing five times a day and Shia didn’t have a big speaker to pray on mosque that I have never been woken up by praying from Mosque’s speaker. Also actually many of Iranian were not much religious. Maybe that’s why Ramadan was not that much important in Iran. It was no problem to find a restaurant during the day.

I was wondering what the supermarket owner would think when I went to the corner and hid to drink water at Bazar.

Actually it was my third times to visit countries during Ramadan. First was in Zanzibar, Tanzania’s island in Africa. Tanzanian believed different religions. The island I visited was very strict Sunni Muslim area that I must not drink at public place and all restaurants were closed during the day. It was very challenging. But there was some freedom that tourist usually wore what they wanted. The second time was in Turkey and they were Sunni, too. But it was not Islamic country officially that I could wear what I wanted and eat whenever and wherever. Dubai was too strict in my memory after seeing people fighting after just washing face. But about clothes there was some freedom. Iran was more liberal that I could eat when I wanted like Turkey but I must wear hijab.

 

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After meeting lovely local family for a few days, I went around Shrine to get out of the city on my bicycle.

 

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The scenery was familiar from my last cycling trip in Iran. I found some restaurant.

 

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And yes it was opened. I didn’t worry about eating food anymore during Ramadan in Iran.

Most of times the meal on the restaurant was same menu, Kebab or chicken. I didn’t like the smell of lamb that all the time I just had chicken.

 

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After the lunch, I met some French couple cyclists. It was always fun to see other cyclists and have chat on the road. They told me they cycled in Africa long time ago something like 25 years. At that time, there was no internet or phone to call. So their parents sent letter to the next country’s post office to keep in touch. I couldn’t believe that how they managed all this. Even their parents came to see them and tour together in Africa. If they wrote about it on the book, it must be so interesting. Compared to 25 years old, these days to travel on a bicycle was so easy that we had GPS on our phone and wifi everywhere.

 

I cannot think how much it would be easier to travel after 25 years. But whether 25 years ago or 25 years later, there would be one same thing. The bicycle would move only when we use our pedal with our muscle. I was slower than 50 years old French couple that I told them see you next time.

 

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Around sunset, I met them again and we had wild camping together. The reason I caught them was they had longer break than me. I was physically weaker than other cyclist usually that I had less break and stayed longer than them on the road for the same distance. Before finding camping spot, we could get some water from local people. My tent was heavy and difficult to set up. But good thing was I could take the shower at the inside. I could uninstall inner tent to make the space and take shower there. The bottle of 1.5L was enough to feel so good for shower.

 

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It had been long time that I saw beautiful night sky.

 

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At the next morning, we cycled a bit together then again say good bye to them later because of different speed. I would reach the border town today that it would be okay to cycle in Iran alone. I just check the back often when I heard the engine.

It was really hot day but I got the flat tire that I sweated lot to fix it. When I got to some grocery shop, I saw French couple and a police officer. French couple told me the police officer said they must wait me because it was dangerous to cycle alone. I felt so sorry ever and shame that they spent an hour to wait me. She said it was okay that she wrote some post card.

I didn’t really like the feeling of depending. But the police forced us to cycle together that we just moved together as his wish.

 

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We got some watermelon from local people.

 

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We found abandoned house that we decided to have lunch together here. She was taking the picture of some animal. Did you find the animal?

 

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There was a big lizard.

 

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It was empty building and people couldn’t see us that we didn’t wear hijab. We were really happy to have juicy watermelon on semi-desert. French couple carried some vegetable things. Iran was so cheap for the meal at the restaurant that I didn’t carry many things though.

 

 

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This was thing I really wanted to do, holding a car and moving together. But I was always afraid of falling off that I never tried yet. Iranian were so kind and friendly that many people talked to us.

 

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French couple said they were stopped by some local people yesterday and they were invited to sleep around the border. On the phone, the guy told them I was welcomed too. So we went to his family house together and had amazing nice meal. Iranian home foods were one of the best foods. But it was weird that the restaurant food was too simple in Iran.

This time I stayed for short period in Iran and I was so happy that I didn’t have any problem. From tomorrow, I would enter into Central Asia, which I dreamed for long time since I saw the picture of Central Asian mountains and I got so impressed. Finally, I was near there. I had only five-day transit visa for Turkmenistan and I had to cycle 500 km (310 mi). On my first day and the last day in Turkmenistan, I had to spend a few hours at the border that actually maybe I would have to pass in four days and there must be strong head wind. It would be so much challenging. It means it would be so much fun! I loved this kind of fun so much. Let’s cross the border!

[2016/6/20~07/01 (D+1766)]

(On my last post, I talked about Iranian culture, touristic place, religion and so on. If you want to know more about it, please read my old post :))

(Iran) Two months from north to south all the way along the desert.


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