Mashhad sollte meine letzte Station sein, bevor es auf der Seidenstraße nach Turkmenistan geht. Hier werde ich meinen Bruder Stefan und seine beiden Freunde Dirk und Stephan einsammeln. Um Couchsurfing nicht überzustrapazieren, bevorzugte ich ein Hotel. Ich fragte also in der Couchsurfing-Community nach einem passenden Hotel und mir wurde sogleich ein Schlafplatz von Mahtab angeboten. Mahtab ist 38 und Lehrerin für Mathematik und Biologie. „Eigentlich reise ich viel lieber. Mathematik ist ein undankbares Fach. Die Kinder können nicht verstehen, warum Mathe später für sie nützlich sein wird. Daher bin ich sehr gern bei Couchsurfing und meine Kinder lernen somit auch gleich andere Kulturen kennen und können Englisch üben“. Mahtab wohnt mit ihren beiden Kindern (8 und 11) und ihrem Mann im Westen von Mashhad. Das Kinderzimmer wird dann zum Gästezimmer, wenn Couchsurfer da sind. Die Kinder freuts, sie dürfen in das Ehebett umziehen. Der Ehemann schläft dann auf einer kleinen Matratze daneben.
Auch Sahid übernachtet die erste Nacht mit hier. Mahtab ist rührend. Sie serviert uns nach der hinfälligen Dusche Mittagessen und lädt uns zu einem Ausflug ein. Wir besichtigen 4000 Jahre alte Malereien auf Steinen, die abgelegen, unscheinbar und für die meisten Menschen uninteressant am Stadtrand liegen. Weiter geht es in einen schönen Park und später am Abend zum typisch iranischen Essen. Auch am nächsten Tag gibt es ein leckeres Frühstück. Während ich gerade diese Zeilen schreibe, sind Mahtab und der sehr an der Umgebung interessierte Sahid wieder unterwegs zu einem alten Dorf. Ihre Tochter bereitet gerade das Mittagessen vor und später wollen wir noch alle gemeinsam in die Stadt, wo wir dann auch Azar wieder treffen. Morgen um 1:30 in der früh landen dann mein Bruder und seine zwei Freunde. Mahtab hat gleich angeboten, dass wir sie zusammen vom Flughafen abholen können. Einfach unglaublich.
Dank Couchsurfing konnte ich im Iran viele unglaublich tolle Menschen kennenlernen und bekam durch sie einen Einblick in ihre Kultur und Gesellschaft wie es mir kein Reiseführer vermitteln hätte können. Die Couchsurfing-Community ist im Iran ein Symbol dafür, dass trotz vieler strengen Regeln und Einschränkungen auch ein internationaler Austausch stattfinden kann. Und dies kann ein Grundstein für eine positive Veränderung sein. Sowohl für uns Besucher des Landes, als auch für die Iraner.
COUCHSURFING IN IRAN
Before I share my experiences I want to point out that I changed the names of the Couchsurfers I met here in Iran. It is not allowed in Iran to have a closer contact to strangers and to host them. There can be harsh penalties. But as always in Iran there is always another way. And as long as there are no (public) political discussions within the community It won’t be blocked like Facebbok, Twitter or the New York Times.
We met Reza in Tehran on a Couchsurfing event. He came right to us and told us about the things you can see in the city. He eventually invited us to see a public theater show close by one hour later. Reza is a talkative guy, 29 years old and well dressed. He is working for an Iranian communication company and is just enjoying his leisure time where he likes to meet travelers and strangers. Only a few minutes after the show we had a couple of young Iranians discussing about the political situation. “There will be a change soon. More and more young Iranians aren’t religious anymore and they won’t follow their leaders” says a guy in heavy metal look. “You can’t only look to the people who surround you. There are still a lot of religious people in this country. If there is a change, it will come slowly” mentioned an always shiny looking guy. We follow this discussion and are wondering in which direction the country will develop.
Two days later we meet Reza again in Kashan, which is 250km south of Tehran. Its Thursday evening and therefore weekend. In Iran the Thursday is our Saturday and the Friday our Sunday. Some people have to work on Thursday while Friday is generally free of work. Reza had to work on Thursday, that’s why he joined us later in the afternoon in Kashan. We really needed a hostel after we had some hard nights on the couches of Tehran. Reza was finding a Couchsurfer who is rebuilding an old Persian garden and who host people in the renovated part. His place is 15min out of Kashan and another Couchsurfer offered Reza a ride to this village. We told each other to meet the next day to drive in the desert. None of us expected that what happened later.
We picked up Hossein for our desert tour. He is that guy who picked up Reza the day before from Kashan. He is a tourist guide and knows a lot about that region. Hossein showed us a way to not pass the national park guard house to save some money. We were sliding through sandy streets towards an old caravanserai. Caravanserais were in times of the famous Silk Road places where trading caravans passed to have a rest, to feed their camels and to do the one or other deal. Also the yards of the bazaars called caravanserai because that where the places where the animals and their guides rested and the tradespeople offered their goods on the market. On the way we saw free dromedaries walking through the desert.
10km after the caravanserai was a big area of dunes. My car got stuck in the sand so we climbed the highest dune to have an incredible view of the sand dunes and the nearby salt lake.
Later we drove through the salt lake which is dry during the summer months. In the middle of the lake we’ve found and half burned truck which started burning the night before. The driver could save himself and was now waiting in the shadow of the trailer for help. It was probably not is day…
We continued to Abyaneh, a village which is described as picturesque and which is located in the mountains on the way to Isfahan. 20 km before we reached our target we passed an anti aircraft defense which is use to protect an area where uranium is enriched. This area is one of the reasons why Iran was isolated so long from the world economy.
In Abyaneh we parked the car and discovered the village. Reza introduced us a typical Iranian dish: Dizi. It is a hearty mutton soup thickened with chickpeas. We went with full stomach back to the car where we realized that robbers broke into the car and stole our day packs. While I only lost my wash bag and my guide book Konrad and Ben both lost 400$ in cash. Because of the sanctions our credit cards are useless in Iran and we have to use cash to exchange it. For Ben it was even worse because he also had this time his passport in the day pack. And it was gone.
We were really lucky to have Reza with us. He was translating between us and the police. We had to go first to a local police station and reported what happened and what was stolen. The police guys felt uncomfortable and told us that this incident happened the first time in this region. Probably somebody was following us on the road. The offered us tea and coffee. After more than two hours everything was done. That was what we thought. We had to go the next day to the crime department which is located in the city of Natanz where we had to drive another 15km. The chief police officer organized for us a cheap hotel where we could spend the night for free. I could park the car in front of the crime department. The next day it was the same procedure. Reporting and Reza translated for us. After that we even had to go the Iranian version of the FBI. The lock of the car was repaired in the city and we said goodbye to Ben and Reza. They had to go back to Tehran. Reza had to work. Ben had to go to the German embassy.
Konrad and me continued to Isfahan and changed to flight of Ben in the Turkish Airline office. The timing was perfect: Just two days before his flight the passport was gone. In Isfahan we could stay at the place of Reza’s friend. He was showing us every day after work his city. In Isfahan I said goodbye to Konrad and two days later from Ben who managed to organize a temporary passport in Tehran. From now on I was supposed to travel for one week alone. For sure I wasn’t alone for a long time…