A Very Strange Reason to go to Iran
Back in 2002, the company I was working for arranged a seminar for Iranian bakers and confectioners which was held in one of the large function rooms of the Azadi hotel. Several colleagues from Holland flew out for the meeting and I arrived half a day before them, flying in from Istanbul and getting changed on the plane so that I looked like a very respectable and modest lady with every bit of me covered up when I landed in Tehran.
I was picked up at the airport by our local agents who drove me to the hotel, got me checked in and then went on their way. By this time it was the small hours of the morning and I was a bit dazed by lack of sleep and the rather alien surroundings. I was also a bit shocked whilst checking in to learn that I would have to settle my bill in hard currency since Iranian hotels accept neither travellers cheques nor credit cards. It was later explained to me that this was because they have problems getting the money back afterwards from the international banks.
Memorable Stay - Forgettable Room
My room was large, a bit dated in décor, but well equipped with all the usual facilities you'd expect from an international four star hotel although the furnishings were a bit drab. The Azadi is actually classified as a five star but take that with a large pinch of salt. The fridge was massive, which was kind of funny since there was nothing in it except for water. Perched on top was a big basket of pistachios and some fruit but these came from our agents rather than the hotel. The men in our party found their fridges filled with whisky and beer and I never did find out how the agents pulled that off. I just put it down to 'good connections' and proof that if you know the right people, anything is possible even in Iran. When I had been to Pakistan for the same company, the agents there held one of only a handful of licenses to deal in alcohol so we were allocated a 'beer ration' on arrival despite it being theoretically impossible to get booze in the country. You can perhaps wonder if getting alcohol was part of the selection criteria for becoming an agent.Waking up the first morning I was stunned by the view. If you can ignore the pylons directly outside the hotel and try not to think about the rumours that there's an underground detention centre where people are tortured beneath the pylons (allegedly) then look straight out and if you're lucky enough to be on the right side of the hotel you'll see the stunning mountains that surround the city. I think most people don't realise that Tehran is high altitude city surrounded by mountains and ski resorts.
Food - Not the Best Reason to go to Iran
After sleeping off my night flight, I decided to head downstairs and get some lunch. I decked myself out in headscarf and long jacket and headed down, feeling frankly rather ridiculous like a little girl playing dress up at someone else's party. I got some funny looks in the lifts and generally when walking around the hotel which left me feeling rather uncomfortable.