Iran Journey 2015: Hitchhiking to Tabriz

Read Nane’s version in Armenian

Thursday, November 12th. The morning greets us with light rain as we leave the “Haer” B&B in a rush. Marieta who is the owner of the place needs to go to her work. Collecting all of our stuff, I forget my guitalele in the corner of the room and realize it only when we are on the road. Not willing to go back, we decide to pick it up on the way back home. Marieta’s son drops us off at the main road. There are few cars going in the direction of the border, so we take a taxi (costs AMD 1000 from Meghri to the border). The Armenian part of the border is easy to pass – we get our backpacks scanned and passports stamped in less than 5 minutes. An e-bus, apparently hired by a mid-aged Iranian Armenian businesman who invited us to join him, drives us to the bridge over the Araks river that connects the two countries. From here we walk our way into Iran.
Truck and hitchhikers on the road from Armenia to Iran
It takes us about 40-45 minutes to pass the border control. While waiting in the line (there was one queue both for those who were entering Iran, and for those who were leaving the country), we exchange few words with Chinese and Korean backpackers who are also on their way to Tabriz from Armenia. Another traveler from Belgium joins us later. He offers us to take a shared taxi to the town of Jolfa, but we refuse wishing to hitchhike right away.And here we are in Iran. With mixed feelings I look around. “It doesn’t feel much different from Armenia,” I think to myself. I dreamed of this for the last three years, and now that I am actually in Iran, my mind simply refuses to accept this fact. I look at Nane who walks beside me, head covered with scarf. She also looks confused.
Road, mountains and clouds near the Armenia-Iran border
As we walk away from the border (and annoying taxi drivers) to find a suitable spot for hitchhiking, a truck passes by and stops about 50 meters away. The driver invites us in and drives us to the nearby small town, Norduz. “Unfortunately, I am going to another town. And you need this road, it goes to Tabriz,” he shows us the direction. I am pleased to realize that the seven months of Persian classes I took at the Blue Mosque in Yerevan are quite helpful. Although it is a little difficult to speak due to lack of practice, I nevertheless could understand the driver very well.
Road, mountains and clouds near the Armenia-Iran border
From Norduz we get a ride to the city of Alamdar. There are two women at the backseat, Nane joins them, while I take the front seat. “They are doctors, and I’m an engineer. We work in Norduz, but we live in Alamdar,” says the driver, a 45-50 years old man. As we arrive in Alamdar, we notice that the two women are paying him for the ride. “It seems we are in a shared taxi. We’ll have to pay,” says Nane. It is a common practice in Iran to catch a car on the road and then pay for the ride. But when the driver drops us off at the bus terminal on the outskirts of the city, he just says goodbye and leaves without giving us a chance to pay.
Road and clouds on the way to Tabriz, Iran
It doesn’t take us long to hitch our next ride. Hossain, a 30 y.o. man with blue eyes, agrees to take us to the city of Marand, about 60 km away. From Hossain we learn that a few days ago there were protests in Tabriz – local Azaris were angry with one comedy show that made fun of the Azari people. “Why don’t they like us?” he complains.Hossain drops us off on the road to Tabriz. In about 10 minutes we get another ride – this time all the way to the capital city of East Azarbaijan province of Iran. Our driver is originally from the town of Khoy, where my forefathers (on mom’s side) are coming from. “There were many Armenians in the past there,” the driver says. “Any Armenians living in Khoy now?” I ask. His answer is negative.
Panoramic view of Tabriz from a road, Iran
As we arrive in Tabriz, the driver decides to help us find a taxi from Azarbaijan square to the city center. The cab driver says it will cost 6000 toman (1$ = 3600 toman). I explain that we have not exchanged any money yet, and if it’s possible, we’d like to get to an exchange office and then pay to the driver of the cab. They talk for 2-3 minutes. Then something strange happens: we get back into the car, the driver who had no intention of driving to the city center follows the cab driver who in his turn drives his empty car to the Old Bazaar of Tabriz. We exchange some money, our driver then gives 5000 toman to the cab driver, and keeps the remaining 1000 toman for himself. “I said it’s 6,000 toman,” says the cab driver. “Yes, but I drove them, not you,” answers our driver and drives away leaving us in confusion.
City municipality center, Tabriz, Iran
We try to contact our host but his phone is turned off, so we wander around Tarbiyat bazaar looking for a place to eat. As we stroll the streets in search of food (not an easy task for vegetarians), two guys approach us and ask if we need help. When we explain our situation, they guide us to a fast food cafe and help us to order a veg pizza, 2 Coca Colas and a salad (costs 20,500 toman). Not exactly what we wanted – some local traditional dishes, but it made no difference for our starving stomachs. We invite the guys to join us but they refuse and walk away wishing us all the best.
City center of Tabriz at night, Iran
Later in the evening, we meet with our host, Mahdi, at the Meydan-e Sa’at (Clock square). At home, we are welcomed by Mahdi’s parents. And then begins what we call the best first day in Iran we could imagine. We sit on colorful rugs, drink tea, eat fruits, share stories and laughs. Slowly, the neighbors join us as the news of our arrival spreads. We stay up late, talking, watching DVDs of birthday celebrations and enjoying the atmosphere. Tired after a long day on the road, we excuse ourselves and go to sleep at around 2:30-3:00 AM.

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12 thoughts on “Iran Journey 2015: Hitchhiking to Tabriz

  1. Pingback: Իմ մեծ, չաղ, պարսկական ճամփորդությունը. մաս երկրորդ. 370կմ-ից այն կողմ – photopatum

  2. Indeed there are few Armenian families still living in Khoy. An 80 years old man, a small family consisting of 3 persons: brother, sister and their mother; that’s all I have seen there, though “half” of them were intending to leave their native city for USA. There were one or two other families also I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet.

    • Well, we hope to visit the araes in Spring again, so we’ll try to dig it. But yeah, as we’ve learned while traveling around Iran, the overwhelming majority of Armenians from there are leaving for USA. Especially, the communities in small cities. Tehran & Isfahan are still more or less good. But like, for example, Rasht… the Armenian church is there, but there are almost no Armenians left. A few families only.

      • Well, we hope that some of your friends will be honored with the opportunity to join you and Nane for your journey in Spring :)))

  3. Well, I hope that some of your friends will be honored with the opportunity of joining you and Nane for your journey in Spring :))

  4. Pingback: Iran Journey 2015: The Village of Kandovan – On The Road

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