I lingered, unsure what to do, aware of the many people around us and the police just across the street, before thinking ‘fuck it’ and pulling her into an alleyway for a cheeky kiss.
She had to leave, of course, and I had plans to check out Iranian Kurdistan.
After six weeks my visa came to an end and I was forced to leave Iran.
Saying goodbye to Esme as I crossed the border into Pakistan was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.
Later still, we returned to Iran where I met her family and we had a second (permanent) marriage — this time it was a huge Persian wedding, rather than a hasty affair in an underground office.
Temporary marriages provide a way for Iranians to be intimate together without breaking the law.I had only just met her but already I felt that hanging out with her might be more fun than freezing my ass off in a tent.The snow came thick and fast, making my planned hikes almost impossible, and I abandoned the mountains, sending a quick Whats App message and heading back to the highway. Pack a bag and let’s explore Iran together.” To my delight, she said yes.Amir, an Iranian friend of mine, explained it to me: “In Iran, you can find everything; parties, one-night stands, alcohol, LSD, everything is possible.” We spent an entire day looking for a mullah willing to marry a foreigner and a local Iranian girl, we were rejected multiple times but finally managed to find a bearded fellow willing to help us. When prompted, I repeated after the Mullah — both he and Esme laughed at my attempts at Farsi as I struggled through.Smiling broadly, the Mullah shook my hand, welcomed me to Iran in scratchy English and stamped a small booklet with our photos pasted into it. We took to the road, keen to explore as much of Iran as possible, to peel back the layers of an often forgotten country and to hitch the entire length of Iran and back.