Cows in the Funhouse
And I Walked Into India
My Very Own Personal Armed Guard
Dance Party in Esfahan
And onto Tehran
First Day in Iran
Crossing the Border into Iran
A Travel Companion for Iran
From Greece to Turkey
December 06, 2003
A Travel Companion for Iran
I had no problem traveling through Turkey by myself, and was fine with the idea of traveling the rest of the route on my own. What I didn’t want to do on my own, however, was the border crossing between Turkey and Iran, as well as the one between Iran and Pakistan. What can I say? I was excited about doing this trip, but I can’t deny that I was a bit scared about doing it on my own. It seems that single women traveling alone are a real oddity in this part of the world; some women aren’t even allowed out of the home by themselves, let alone travel alone. Borders are full of police men and government officials, and being by myself, I suspected, would draw a lot more attention than if I was with someone else. Nothing would probably happen, sure, but I’d feel a lot more comfortable if I did this crossing on my own. So I’m a chicken….no don’t denying it!
I hadn’t met anyone in Cappadocia?? going to Iran, and so I came here to the border town of Dogebuyezit,?? in hopes of meeting someone. Warnings from Lonely Planet that this town wasn’t safe for women on their own rang through my head. But I was on my own, and if I was to go overland to India, I had to go through this city to do it, as it was the only border crossing between Turkey and Iran. Here in Eastern Turkey I noticed that a lot more women were covered up in full veils and that I, who was uncovered in comparison, was receiving a lot more stares. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I felt threatened but I certainly didn’t feel as comfortable as I did in other parts of Turkey.
An 18-hour bus ride and paranoia had me in quite a state, and so I promptly found a bakery and had a cay- Turkish tea-to get my bearings and decide on a plan of action. First thing I needed to do was find a place to stay, but according to my guidebook, there were no safe places in this city for lone woman to stay. I decided the only to do was to go around to each hotel and find a room that and that had the most locks on the inside of the door. After about an hour mulling over what to do I saw a young Japanese guy walk past the bakery. He was the first foreigner I had seen since arriving. I hurriedly paid my bill and ran out after him.
“Excuse me,” I asked, catching up to him , out of breath. “Are you going to Iran?” He seemed just as surprised to see another foreigner here in Dogebuyezit as I was. “Yes, I am going tomorrow. And are you going as well?” “Yes, and I wanted to ask if I could go with you as I don’t want to cross the border by myself.” “Sure,” he laughed, sensing my nervousness. “No problem, we can go together.” Relieved that I had found a travel companion, I booked a room at his hotel.
All I needed to do was find some clothing that was appropriate for the Islamic Dress Code in Iran. According to the Muslim faith, women need to cover their heads. A majority of women do this in Muslim countries, but in Iran it’s law that all women need to do this, whether they’re Muslim or not. A woman also needs to be fully covered, down to her wrists and ankles. She can either wear a chador-a black cape that covers the whole body and fits snugly under the neck, or the more modern manteau, a loose fitting, button down coat which could be any color. Deciding that I would roast inside a chador, I searched the clothing stores in Dogebuyezit for a manteau. Now that I had met a traveling companion and was more relaxed, I took in my surroundings without so much paranoia. Though Dogebuyezit is in Turkey, almost all the people are Kurds-ethnically different from the Turks with their own culture and language; it’s like being in a different country. And I didn’t realize how different it was until my greetings of “Merhaba!”-Turkish for hello- didn’t go down so well. Because the Kurds want their own homeland, there is a heavy military presence in areas where they live, like Dogebuyezit. Despite all this, I found the town to be a friendly place-once I learned how to say hello in Kurdish. Sure, I got stared at, but it didn’t feel near as threatening as Lonely Planet was proclaiming it to be. Perhaps I should stop reading my Lonely Planet so much.
I thought there’d be tons of places selling garb for Iran, but there weren’t-apparently not too many women cross over into Iran from Turkey. Or too many that need to do last-minute shopping in Dogebuyezit. I finally found a sickly, pea-green manteau. Not my choice of color, but that was all I was getting, and I didn’t think Iran was the place to be making a fashion statement anyways. I bought some headscarves as well, and exhausted from shopping and pre-Iran jitters, I retired back to the guesthouse for some serious slumber.