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January 4, 2003

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Having a visa doesn't mean we'll be able to enter Iran. We arrived at 8:00 am at the Iranian border post but it didn't open until 9:30. Once it did, the guards kept us waiting longer. If you haven't heard that the US government makes life difficult for Iranian immigrants and tourists by requiring a lengthy registration process, the Iranian officials will tell you about it. We have our tour guides waiting on the other side of a glass partition that marks the beginning of Iran in the customs office. Massoud and Vali, our guides, heckled the guards on our behalf. With their help the border officials summoned me in for an 'interview.' In Iran the first words said to me are in English: "Bush can't keep his mouth shut." The border officials called our two hour delay as 'payback' for the trouble that US immigration inflicts on Iranians. (We're the only Americans they've seen in a long while). Waiting two hours at the immigration desk wasn't so bad; we're glad to be let into the country. Once on the Iranian side we saw more hustle bustle than in Azerbaijan. Most signs had English translations. We drove by a row of billboards: the first said, "God is Great," the second said, "Muhammad is his prophet," the third said, "Ali is a friend of God," and the fourth one said, "Down with America." This wasn't surprising when we considered that our president has called Iran an "Axis of Evil." By evening we stopped at our first destination: Tabriz.
Azerbaijan side of the borderpost - more laid back, willing to let us take a photo.
Arbabil carpet won fame for its size, enough to cover any wall. It will take over three years to make - that's how long it takes to tie 30 million knots.
Persian China cabinet.
Snow covers the ground of northern Iran. Just to make things confusing, the northern states are called East and West Azerbaijan. That's like calling Texas "East and West Mexico."