I shot out of bed this morning but it wasn’t until later that I realized why. At breakfast, I felt the butterflies in my stomach. Then the image of the mountains I will face today flashed in my head and, viola, it finally dawned on me why I’m so zapped:
- I’m escaping Tehran once again.
- I’m heading back into Iran’s countryside.
And there’s a great third reason: My wife Saeideh and travel partner feels the same way. She is sitting across the table giving me a knowing smile as I explain how drained I’ve felt in the three days we’ve been in Tehran.
“I think everyone here is drained,” she says. “Drained mentally too. I was watching the people at Tajrish Bazaar yesterday and everyone was pushing and shoving and rushing. But at the same time everyone was in their own world. No connection, like they’re robots with no higher purpose but to just move aimlessly.”
We have to come to Tehran from our home in Mashhad for business and to check on my father. But almost immediately we start feeling drained and sleepy and depressed. We spend much more time in bed, become more forgetful, our sinuses act up. Sometimes it feels like I’m losing touch with my life goals!
The biggest culprit is the air pollution, creepily fogging over this megalopolis of 10 million. Then there’s the dust. It literally seeps through the window sills. And the horrid traffic. We only use the metro and only as a last resort, the taxis. I wouldn’t drive into the center of Tehran if they put a gun to my head and both Saeideh and I look upon people who do 4- or 5-hour daily commutes – yes, we personally know such people and reverently lean over to touch them, like we’re looking at space aliens. Where on earth do they get the energy?
But I think there’s also a negative energy here familiar to urbanites the world over. It’s draining and yet addictive.
“All this pollution and commotion but somehow everyone always wants to come back to it. I take [relatives] out of town and they’re happy and eating better and breathing better. Yet, they’re always in a hurry to come back,” my father says.
It’s nearly noon now and Saeideh is packing the car while I’m pounding this keyboard furiously, as usual promising for the nth time to stop and help her.
I’m thinking right now the name of this blog, Escape From Tehran, is appropriate, as odd as it might sound.
In my mind, I’m already seeing the Alborz mountains we will cross over today, to reach the Caspian coast, on the Haraz road snaking past hair-raising cliffs and through mindbogglingly beauty, breathing in the cool crisp air, stopping to fill our bottles with freezing water gushing down the mountains, from snow still remaining on the peaks!
Here’s what I mean by beauty from a clip I recorded four years ago:
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