It’s been a while since my trip to Iran now, still I can not stop thinking about this little episode that happened to me when I was going in to see the crown jewels of Iran. Anyone who has been in the Central Bank of Iran and want to see the collection of gemstones, know that security is taken to the utmost highest level. It is of course surveillance cameras everywhere and you have to go through three checkpoints. The guards are strict and have eyes that can almost see right through you.
The first control was just inside the door and went fairly fast, and we were guided into a waiting room, where we had to store over bags and camera equipment in the lockers. While our guide picked up tickets for us, we were placed in a new security line. The guard had a tough time keeping track of all the tourists, and unregulated behavior were therefor sanctioned. One of our fellow travelers had two sets of glasses, sunglasses and reading glasses. Curtly she was stopped and sent out of the queue. I had a bottle of water, which I had to dispose, but unlike my fellow travelers I came in with my sunglasses!
When everyone had passed trough the needle’s eye number 2, we were placed in a new line, and after 15 minutes we were motioned further down a staircase and yet a new security checkpoint. At that time the atmosphere were pretty testy in our little group. We wondered what we could have managed to smuggle in through the previous two checkpoints, we were literally stripped of everything, except our cloths!
When it became my turn, I was immediately drawn to aside by one of a watchmen. I thought it was my sunglasses, because it was the only thing I had of exterior that could activate the metal detector. But he was not interested in my sunglasses, where they sat firmly on my head. However, he checked all the pockets and stopped abruptly when he came to the side pocket of my pants. There he found something, he looked up at me with a stern mine and with a hard voice he said: “open your pocket”. I could not remember what I had in my pocket, and thought someone had planted something on me? My hands trembled when I open the pocket. Slowly I pulled out the object , while I thought about what it could be. I opened my hand careful, I was just as curious as the watchman, and the surprise was therefore equal for both when we saw what it was.
Inside one of the mosques in Ishfahan, I tried to take pictures from slightly different angles and put my camera on the floor. But because it was lying askew, I needed something to support it. In a bucket, I found some flat rocks, and I took one with me. When I was finished shooting, I put the stone in my trouser pocket and forgot about it. The stone is a Turbah and used by Shia Muslims as they pray “postrate”. The stone is made of clay from Karbala that is considered holy to Muslims. The soil represents the earth that God used to create the earth and man.
The guard took the stone from my hand, looked at it and then came the widest smile I’ve ever seen. He looked at me, said something in Persian, while he smiled even wider, he gave me the stone and patted me on my shoulder. He took my hand and pushed the other tourists aside. And within seconds I was standing in front of a large display cabinet and studying Farah Diba’s jewelry, while the others were still waiting in the line outside.
The guard probably thought that I was true believer, which I am not though. However the stone is now firmly stored in my photo bag, ready to stabilize the camera if needed. Since it appears to be a door opener as well, it is with me on all my trips from now.