Long haul public transport in Iran has a certain, comfortable charm.
The buses are new and covered with slogans like “Kerima”, “Charger” and “Don’t keray fermey” (I’ll let you work that one it); passengers get a care bag at the start of the trip filled with an icy cold drink and packets of biscuits; and white gloved doormen serve the VIP train berths, each of which comes with hot water and a tv.
But the most convenient detail is that every diner, truck stop, train station and bus terminal has two prayer rooms: one for men and one for women.
Right now, I am sitting in the women’s prayer room in the Bandar Abbas bus terminal, the only place that has decent air con in the ramshackle complex (essential when it’s 40 degrees plus humidity outside).
There’s a small girl with a barbie bag opposite me cracking nuts with her teeth, next to me is a woman having a snooze under her chador, and a girl surrounded by bags and water bottles sitting under the religious poster on the wall marking Mecca; she also just laid down for a nap. And another woman who noticed me tapping away started chatting and invited me to stay at her house while I’m in Shiraz.
The women’s rooms remind me of the old Plunket room in Feilding for mothers, but without the toys (byo is allowed though, as I saw when three women emptied a bag onto the floor and stripped off to singlet tops and bare heads).
Where the Plunket room was a place of respite for women harried by small children on their shopping rounds, the Iranian prayer room is a place for devotions, and respite from the heat, dirt, noise, hustle, everything really.
As such, I don’t think I’m being too much of an infidel by chewing my way through the half packet of dry vanilla cream biscuits that constitutes dinner tonight.