Denied entry into Syria - WTF?
Trip Start Apr 21, 2008
225Trip End Apr 20, 2009
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During that hour wait, I talked to a few people in my hostel who already visited Jordan, Egypt and Syria and they told me about the places I should visit as well as the places I should avoid. I was glad to see that my planned itinerary through these 3 countries included all of their suggestions and didn't include the places they said I should avoid. One place that wasn't on my list was Beirut, Lebanon. Everyone told me I had to go visit Beirut as it was the best city in the Middle East. So now I found myself wanting to go there but it will have to be at the cost of some other cities I planned to visit. I'll see how it will all unfold There is no need to figure out what cities to cross off my list at this point.
At 1130 I called the Syrian Embassy back. A man answered the phone and said "I am sorry sir but your visa application has been rejected." They wouldn't explain why. I cant say I was all that surprised for a few reasons:
-The official at the embassy couldn't understand why I picked the countries I did for my trip and this made him suspicious of me
-It was uncommon for a foreigner to apply for a visa at the Syrian Embassy in Tehran
-The official at the embassy was a jackass
So ally my efforts (not to mention the money I had to spend getting a letter of recommendation from the Canadian Embassy) getting this visa was for nothing. Everyone at the hostel said I should just go to the border and they will issue a visa for me there even though the official word for the Syrian embassy is that they don't issue visas to foreigners at the border if they have a Syrian embassy in their home country. The people at the hostel said they were all able to get a visa this way and that it shouldn't be a problem for me. So I decided to just do this. My only concern was whether the officials at the border would have information in their systems stating that I was already rejected once for a visa.
I spent the rest of the day just wandering around the city. I saw some of the main tourist sights but they were all boring. I was content with just walking around though - like yesterday. I walked outside the city center and came across a few neighborhoods that seemed completely abandoned but yet I knew they weren't. The mud homes were all falling apart but I could see some signs that people were living in them.
I also went to visit a traditional Iranian gym called a zurkhaneh. This place was actually cool. They had some strange looking equipment including huge bowling pin style weights. Unfortunately I was kicked out after 5 minutes. Tourists were only allowed to walk in at night.
I eventually returned to my hostel. I went to do some emailing and found Gallo and Joseph already on the two available computers. They were having some fun and seeing if they can access a porn site in Iran. Because the government blocks so many sites, they wanted to see if they could find one site that wasn't blocked. Joseph was actually able to find one site while Gallo was unsuccessful. It will be a matter of time before the Iranian government blocks the site Joseph came across as well.
In the evening we went to stuff ourselves again at the hotel nearby. Once again we were a big group. I had to leave a bit early to meet up with the local guys I met yesterday. Some of the people from the group joked around and wished me luck on my group date.
When Reza1, Reza 2 and Massoud showed up, they were all dressed very well. I, on the other hand, was wearing my bummish travel clothes. Before leaving, actually went back to my room and changed out of my T-shirt and put on a collared shirt. I begged that none of the guys from my hostel would notice that I changed as I knew the "dating" jokes would start again.
The local guys took me to a few nice places where we had some tea. Reza1 spent a lot of time explaining the history behind the buildings in the area. He would also do this while we drove around the city. Most of the time I pretended to be interested. I just wasn't in the mood for a history lesson tonight. The rest of the night I shod them my Africa pictures. They told me a day earlier to bring my DVDs of photos so they could look at them on Massoud's laptop. I noticed that they really enjoyed the landscape photos and of course the photos with women in them.
We called it a night around midnight. I was glad I accepted their invitation as they were such nice guys. Iranian people are really amazing. They are so genuinely friendly.
Tomorrow I am leaving Yazd. I could have stayed another day but that would have meant that I would be travelling on my birthday which is 2 days away. The plan is to go to a small desert town called Toudeshk and stay there for 2-3 days. This is where I will spend my 35th birthday.