Carrot Jam and Cardboard

We rode off on our way to Tehran, where we would need to stop and sort out visas for Pakistan and India, having been refused them so graciously in Ankara.  

The roads were boring, in excellent condition, and fast.

 We stopped a couple of times to eat.  We managed to get bread, of an unpleasant cardboard texture and, nothing if not consistent, taste. 

On the second occasion we were a little more adventurous and attempted to use our Farsi phrases. We tried the Farsi for ‘I am a vegetarian.’  The waiter said ‘No.’.  We tried again.  He shook his head.   This was a little confusing.  We opted for more bread.  By my second day in Iran I had lost a fair bit of weight and my trousers wouldn’t stay up.  

Meals there run as follows:

Breakfast: Flat unleavened bread with carrot jam or spreadable ‘cheese’.

Lunch: Kebab.

Dinner: Kebab.

Little did we know at the point that bread would become our favourite dish…

We headed for Tabriz, a large-ish, very conservative town in the North-West., little visited by tourists.   Arriving was hectic and scary.  In Iran it is considered completely acceptable for motorcylists to ride on the pavements. There is no directional flow for vehicles on roundabouts.   There is one speed: Fast. 

I proudly navigated my way through 3 streets before getting lost.  Eventually we arrived at a hotel in the Lonely Planet, and were greeted by a very lovely, highly effeminate gentleman, who told us stories of his pre-revolution travels around the world.  He had been everywhere, and there were framed photographs of him as a dapper youngster in front of the Eiffel Tower.  Since the revolution he could no longer travel, and had instead brought the world to him in the form of dirty, scruffy English bikers, etc.
We went out.  Some young students helped us to find a restaurant (sensing an emerging theme..?).  They were pleasant, open and interesting.  They spoke only to Adam.  I walked behind them. 

We went for a pizza (Iranian style- which tastes oddly plastic and is very small).  
We were watched intimately by a young girl from a modern hijab-not-chador family.  (‘Hijab’ is the headscarf, but can confusingly also refer to the whole ‘modest dress’ law…)  The mother had dyed blonde hair with her hijab perched scandalously on the crown of her head, and wore make-up.  She wore jeans under a thigh-length chiffon top.   They smiled and nodded but I was too shy to start a conversation.

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