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I glanced around the room. There were s furnishings, rubber sandals strewn across the floor, and an arrow near the door pointing to Mecca. I packed up my things, fired up the Hamburglar, and headed southeast out of Marand , but not before another hotel patron demanded that I take his picture:.
Six litres came to 22, rials, or two bucks. I produced the cash and he waved it away like it was a bee. He again made it clear that he had no interest in exchanging his gasoline for my filthy lucre. I looked him in the eyes and held the money out at him, refusing to budge, and eventually he took it while putting his hand on his heart.
That was a bit surreal: The next major town about km down the road was Tabriz , the cultural heart of the ethnic Azeri , mostly Turkish-speaking portion of northwest Iran. Getting onto the sidewalk in Tabriz usually involves creeping over rickety iron grates that periodically bridge the road and the sidewalk, and under said grates runs a raging torrent of runoff water in a concrete ditch three feet deep and wide.
I made a mental note to never forget those ditches are there. Everything, apart from the bazaars and the mosques and the walled parks tucked away almost out of sight, seemed to have been built sometime between and , a sort of mixed bag of short brick commercial buildings and 8- and 9-storey office towers in the international modern style. The sidewalks were wide and tree-lined, and among the barber shops and jewellery emporiums there were many fast-food joints selling mostly hamburgers and pizza.
The first hotel I found was full, and the second, while cheap, was basically unlivable, as the one free room had a bed with only two legs. I went back to my sidewalk perch and began accosting strangers for advice — or rather, they accosted me. I quickly learned that if you need some advice or help while in Tabriz, and presumably all of Iran by extension, all you have to do is stand there in public looking lost, confused, foreign, or some combination of the three.