As I write this, I’ve been on the road for 55 hours straight. You don’t even want to think about what’s been caramelising in the canteen downstairs. Understandably, I’m not in a very good mood. Its been over 3,000km of staggering from bus to taxi to illegal taxi to bus to metro to van to plane to metro over the past two and a half days, and I’m wondering where I can buy some oven cleaner to get the grime off. And perhaps some paint thinner to gargle with.
All this because I wanted to get into Iraq. Well, I can tell you that it’s near impossible if you don’t have a US or European passport. For the rest of us, a mission to Mars would seem more plausible.
And it’s not like I didn’t enquire with the authorities – I went to the Iraqi Embassy in Tehran and asked if I could get a visa there. “No”, they said, because the Iraqi Embassy doesn’t have jurisdiction over Iraqi Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region which I wanted to go to – it’s a lot safer than the rest of Iraq. What?? That’s nuts! It’s like saying I’m not responsible for my kid because he wants to run away from home. Well, I’m sorry about your little family squabble, but until you actually give the Kurds the independence they’ve been wanting for the past 50 years, you’re still accountable for them and the lands they occupy, dammit.
So they asked me to go to the border at Marivan in Western Iran, a little town more known for the cross-border transit of diesel fuel of dubious sources than anything else. They said (incorrectly) that I could obtain my visa there. It’s a bit of a trek, because there’s no direct bus there and information even on the internet is sketchy at best. Long story short, I rocked-up to the Iraqi passport control there not having the faintest idea of what to expect. I was told, very politely, to turn back by a moustached man with a semi-automatic stashed in his desk drawer - very Magnum P.I. It’s frustratingly clear that Non-US and EU nationals need a pre-arranged visa to visit Iraq, even if they don’t tell you how to obtain it. Go figure.
So I had to take the next flight out because my Iranian visa expires in 24 hours. I find myself in Dubai, where I will work out where to go next.
But first, I have to find a shower. And some paint thinner.
Oh, at least the journey to the Iraqi border was strikingly scenic. So not completely pointless after all. Enjoy the pics. All shot from inside a bouncing vehicle, so please forgive the slightly spotty image quality.