From Dubai to Tehran

From Dubai to Tehran two end-of-teenage girls sat beside me from head to shoes in black. “End of vacation?” I asked one of them. “We are just back from Malaysia with my uncle and my other cousin. Oh, so go back to school? We finished two weeks ago. Where will you study? That’s why we were in Kuala Lumpur, we looked for a house. A whole house? Yes, my uncle will come with us and my mom too. This is my mom!” Her mother looked even younger than she, so I asked her age. “My mother is 34 and I am 19. We will all go to Malaysia, 7 all together. Malaysia is cheaper than Tehran, University has little tuition, we don’t need visa. We came back for two weeks for a big goodbye party, then we enroll for a 3 year course at the State University in Kuala Lumpur. And your father? He is in Parliament and my brother has a beauty business, they must stay. You speak Arab? No! I don’t like Arabs. I had Arab in school but I don’t speak it, I like English.” Then she continued: “What do you think of Iran? Do you really want to know? Yes very much so! I think there are three main contestants for power, Khamenei and the Mullahs, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with his confidant Esfandiar Rahim Mashai and the Green Movement, but the first two are clearly more at each others neck.” “Yes”, she said and then she said: “No,  I have no interest in politics.”

Arriving in Tehran at 04:00am, long lines at the passport control, waiting for my bag till 05:00am and my transfer, checking into five-star Espinas Hotel at 05:45. At 06:15 I’m in my room to check my latest email and opened my site

I called her THE SPHINX

I met my interpreter at 09:00 in the lobby. “I cannot shake hands… my name is Afareen”, she warned me, I shouldn’t be forthcoming. But that’s just what I wanted. So I asked Afareen if she could accept that I shake hands with the Russian Filmmaker standing beside me, and she would then shake hands with her. A big smile was all over her face, yes she said, that would conform. And if I wanted to give her three french welcome kisses, could she accept that I kiss the Russian Filmmaker in the elevator (for her) and she

Masja from the Wolga with THE SPHINX from Iran

would then kiss her in the lobby (for me). “No”, she said and pointed to the elevator, “It’s transparent, it’s made of glas, everybody could see you. Use the elevator for the staff.“

Outside it was 30°, I wore my sleeveless Adidas T-shirt. “Oh,by the way“, she continued,“when we leave the Hotel, please change, put on a T-shirt with short sleeves.“ She felt embarrassed – and I too.

Afareen – THE SPHINX

I asked Afareen if the dresscode was strict for her.

She said it was very much so and the rules,  how girls were expected to behave and to dress were changing almost daily. “How do you pick it up, in the newspaper, from TV? Most often at the workplace. I feel it, when I enter the office in the morning. I get a dirty look from one of my female workers.“ That would do, she said, and she would adapt.