“Half a dozen smallish men in light-green overalls were hanging around the luggage carousel. One of them, around fifty years old with a receding hairline, a pencil moustache, and one of the deepest brown complexions I had ever seen, approached me and started saying “One dollar, one dollar” whilst bouncing up and down on his toes. Having been to Egypt I automatically assumed he was asking for baksheesh and waved him away with a dismissive hand.”
I arrived at Tehran’s airport on an Iran Air Jumbo Jet from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. I was arriving independently a day ahead of the rest of the tour that I was scheduled to join. All the female passengers on the flight had been wearing chadors and the Iranian men were wearing either business suits or smart casual wear, so I was quite conscious of being both a tourist and sticking out like a sore thumb as I headed down the steps from the plane into the warmth of the Persian evening. I could hear the whirrings of crickets in the surrounding greenery and smell the faintest whiff of bougainvillea.
I headed past the oil tankers and baggage carts on the apron and walked into the arrivals area clutching my hand-baggage with a slight sense of trepidation. I had quite a lot of photographic equipment and I wasn’t sure what kind of greeting I would get from the Iranians. I had been to Israel the previous year and had been shocked by the callous approach of the Israeli customs and security officers. They treated me like a criminal and appeared deeply suspicious of my motives for visiting their country. This had made me wary of arriving at a Middle Eastern airport on my own, but I had decided to give it another go by visiting Iran.
Passengers had to get their baggage before they cleared customs in Tehran. Half a Dozen Smallish Men in light-green overalls were hanging around the luggage carousel. One of them, around fifty years old with a receding hairline, a pencil moustache, and one of the Deepest Brown Complexions I had ever seen, approached me and started saying “One dollar, one dollar” whilst bouncing up and down on his toes. Having been to Egypt I automatically assumed he was asking for baksheesh and waved him away with a dismissive hand.
As I stood by the carousel, the same man came with a trolley and said “Bag, Bag, One dollar,” and motioned placing a large suitcase onto the trolley he was pushing. “One dollar,” I said, and mimicked his motion. He nodded vigorously and again moved up and down on his toes. Some other men in light-green overalls were listening to us. I thought that it would be petty not to hire one of these men for such a low fee. “OK,” I said, “One dollar,” and drew a 1 in the air with my index finger. Mr One Dollar beamed and immediately started pointing at the bags as they went by; he was keen to earn his money. After twenty seconds or so, my red holdall appeared and I indicated to Mr One Dollar that this bag was mine. He pushed the trolley down the carousel, grabbed the handle of my luggage and pivoted around to place the bag on the trolley with a practiced coordination that I could never achieve. He smiled at me as though to say, “I have done that before you know.” He motioned me to follow him and we headed towards what I hoped was the exit. One of the wheels of the trolley was emitting a high-pitched squeak which made me cringe with embarrassment, as I felt it would draw unnecessary attention to me, which I felt I didn’t need.