Note: The below piece has little to no photos and for very good reason. I’ll let you figure out why below! We are also leaving the location out of this as it might be easy to derive the person when reading alongside other blogs embedded and we treasure their privacy very highly!
Ive been labelled foolhardy and nieve by “Security Analysts” in major media outlets for some of the shenanigans I’ve gotten up to in my attempt to discover various aspects of cultures and societies that others wouldn’t deem all to safe. See here to find out more about backpacking to the frontline fight against ISIS. I then also found that the aforementioned were actually experts on gang-land crime and have little to no knowledge of what life is like on the ground in a lot of these places. However, the papers need to print a good story and I’m ok with that. The real story will always be found here.
On this occasion though, I definitely wasn’t thinking all that steady. We had been travelling through Iran for about 18 days at this stage, mainly through hitch hiking and couch surfing and having experienced nothing but world class hospitality and beautiful people. I mean beautiful in every sense of the word as the Iranians are simply gorgeous. What’s even more intriguing is that they are fascinated to meet and talk with you. You can imagine the smile on my face being surrounded by beautiful women all looking to figure out who you are and I wouldn’t consider myself a good looking man by any standards.
Anyway, we had wandered into town where we had an amazing host who had showed us quite a lot of the city. In Iran, not everything is legal but anything is possible. This of course is a statement that came up when I questioned as to whether or not they knew where we could possibly acquire a bottle of whiskey. It was only a matter of moments before our host offered up the suggestion of visiting the black market to get some. Keen to see what an Iranian black market looked like, I pitched that I would keep him company. The very least I could do. You can read more about our host who owned an Opium Den where friends and folks from the area would come to get high.
Barreling into the back of his car and sporting through what is now the dimly lit and barely populated streets, it wasn’t long before we pulled up across the road from a well lit lane. Car door being closed quietly behind him, I followed suit with my host and gently pressed my door shut. Shuffling across the road straining not to make a noise, we quickly ducked into the lane. It wasn’t as much a lane as it was a dead end, leading to a large metal door with a steel sliding trap. A sharp rapping on the door by my host and the simmering conversation behind on the other side settled to silence. I stood to the left as close to the wall as possible, hoping that the eyes peering out from the other side wouldn’t detect my presence.
My host was asked what I can only assume was “What kind of alcohol to you want?” as he looked at me and simply said the same in English. Now the men on the other side of the door had begun to realise, there was a second person present. Stretching their necks as hard as possible, eventually their eyes met mine and widened. A sudden thump, clack and crank of various locks began to whir before an excruciating vice like grip took hold of me. A man had slid the door open, just enough to reach around and cease my left arm before dragging me in and closing the door. Clueless as to what had just happened, I began to notice my surroundings. Many men were at their stations counting goods, weighing various powders, stacking boxes and shuffling bags. All seemed to immediately stop what they ere doing in the wake of my appearance. I was escorted to a room at the back of the complex and shoved onto a large pillow. Many large men began to loom around me, baring arms the size of my legs and poorly etched tattoos of inscriptions that I couldn’t quite make out. Tattoos are highly frowned upon by Iranian society but something told me that these men didn’t seem to really give that much of a shit about what their society thought.
When in doubt and feeling intense fear, I’ve always been told to smile. Smile like your life depended on it…this is exactly what I was doing. A scruffy Irishman, smiling so hard you could see my molars, about 4 days without a shower and wearing clothes that we’re stained so much it looked as though it was part of the pattern, just sat there, surrounded by my captors, smiling like I’d just won the lottery. Bumbling the basic words to say “Hello”, “How are you?” and bowing pathetically… they seemed to be just smiling. It seems as though they were more curious at what they had found more than anything else. They had no idea what the hell I was doing there but were quickly gathering that I wasn’t a threat. Uttering the Farsi for “My country is Ireland” and “Whiskey?”, a roar of laughter went around until one man scuttled to kitchen and grabbed a knife. Struggling to maintain my smile at the sight of this laughing lunatic with a knife, he dived behind a counter only to return with a bowl of fresh fruit, biscuits and some tea.
Yup, that’s right, it transpired that I wasn’t being held captive at all, in fact they were treating me to a snack and soon after, it transpired, I was lining up to take photos (albeit a little against my will) with each man, one after the other. The hospitality was still amazing regardless of the scenario but somehow I feel I had gotten lucky. Returning to the entrance, I could see a concerned look on my hosts face. This hadn’t been what he had planned and being reunited to him, he urged to move quick and to get the fuck out of there. Unscathed and a little bemused, I figured that it must be impossible or at least extremely difficult to find anyone in Iran who wants to harm you as a foreigner and urge you, if you are reading this right now and have your doubts, to take a leap of faith and go to Iran right now! Especially the lesser travelled areas where peoples curiosity offers you the chance to have some very special human interactions.