After buying a train ticket for later that day from the border town of Jolfa to Tabriz, I found an internet cafe to check for reactions to my CouchRequests. Here I had my first encounter with the Iranian custom of Taarof. This is a custom whereby a seller will first refuse to give a price for an item and only after a couple of times more offering and refusing might give a price. Similar acts of politeness happen with free places in buses and especially at the dinner table as a guest.
But after asking several times for a price from the owner it turned out to be actually not Taarof, but rather Iranian hospitality that was keeping him from quoting a price. And although I have been exposed on this trip to Balkan and Turkish hospitality, it turns out that the Iranians take hospitality to a completely new level.
First we went to a phone shop to buy an Iranian SIM card; which doesn’t just involve giving a copy of your passport but also having your fingerprint taken. Then I was driven 20km out of town to an Armenian church (UNESCO listed), after which we went for dinner on the way back (which I again was not allowed to pay for). When I was finally dropped off at the trainstation I had 10 minutes to spare… In Tabriz I stayed one night in a guesthouse and two nights with an Iranian family through Couchsurfing.