This was the last day of the trip. It was a 340mile, 8-hour bus trip to Tehran.
We made a detour to visit Abyaneh, a tiny village in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains. The village is at least 2,000 years old. In the small mosque there were many portraits of soldiers killed in the Iran/Iraq war. Even this remote mountain village with a population of 150 paid a heavy price.
Shortly after 11AM in the bus, Amir announced that we were going to pass the site of the Natanz Nuclear Facility in a few minutes. He sternly warned us “ Absolutely No Photographs”. This is one of the most sensitive sites in Iran. If Israel were to attack Iran, this is likely to be the first place they would bomb. I was very tempted to sneakily take a picture or two but Amir’s warning “This site is protected by Revolutionary Guards and if they see you taking photos, they will detain all of us,” made me not to do it. I felt that my shutter finger was itching.
Our bus, moving at top speed, took eight minutes to pass by this site in the middle of nowhere. On the hills and beside the road I saw perhaps eight or nine anti aircraft guns and surface to air missile installations manned by soldiers. There were dozens of watchtowers and a huge facility with what appeared to be ordinary industrial buildings. I saw a large bus at the entrance perhaps for transporting workers. One of the tanks was very close to the highway. A young soldier’s face was visible standing next to the tank. A female member of our group waved at him and the soldier waved back. It was rather peaceful scene despite the heavy-duty military machinery that dotted the landscape.
After a brief stop in Kashan we arrived in Tehran in dusk. The city was lively and people were busy shopping or returning home.
Please see my postscript below.
My curiosity made me want to visit a country that had been labeled a member of the “Axis of Evil” by our former president. My curiosity was more than satisfied. Having seen the country and having learned to understand more of its history, culture and people, has led me to conclude that such labels distort reality, sometimes dangerously.
When I visited, Iran was very quiet. It was four month after the historic June 2009 demonstrations protesting the results of the spring 2009 election. However I was surprised that so many people who were unhappy with the regime openly talked about their views with members of our group. Unfortunately I do not feel comfortable quoting these thoughts and opinions because of my concern for the safety of those who expressed them.
When I said to one of our Iranian guides who had studied at an American college “people are so nice in this country but your government is tough” his reply was “so is your country’s.”
I am still trying to understand how the differences in attitude between governments and ordinary people are formed and come to coincide. I hope my continued travel will give me some answers.
I would like to express deep appreciation to those people of Iran who opened themselves up to a traveler’s curiosity and to people who keep reading this blog.
Thank you very much!