With a 12:30p departure to Kish and a late arrival from Muscat the previous night, it was nice to sleep in for a bit. We arrived at Terminal Two in Dubai at around 11:00a and had no trouble checking in for the flight, although only middle seats remained on the 164-seat, all-economy MD-82 that would take us to Iran.
Security was not at all invasive–bottles of water and my laptop remained in my bag and no one said anything.
Boarding begin at 12:15p and was a total free-for-all, much like the ticketing office experience the previous day, with a lot of shoving and cutting. I saw no need to rush outside into the stifling heat only to be herded into a crowded bus.
The bus took us out to a white and blue MD-82 (I had not been on once since 2002) with no livery on it. Onboard, a female crew member, wearing a black uniform with head covering, warmly greeted me and directed me to my seat. My first taste of Iranian hospitality!
Although I was sitting in the middle seat, I had requested the exit row during check-in and appreciated the extra legroom. The cabin was very dated and featured ashtrays in each seat and faded floral seat covers. Most signs were in Russian and English and my seat would not stay in an upright position. I read somewhere that Kish Air does not have a great safety record, but I tried not to think about it as the engines revved up and we began taxiing.
In the air, flight time was only 30 minutes (123 miles), so I was quite surprised when the FAs quickly sprang up and rolled out their carts. A very nice snack box with peanuts, a fig bar, and a chocolate bar were handed out with an apple juice box. All products were produced in Iran and having skipped breakfast, I quickly devoured the food.
The flight time quickly passed and soon we were descending into Kish Island. The side of the island we flew over en route to the airport appeared barren and dry. With a heavy thud and two bounces, we landed at Kish International Airport and taxied for five minutes before coming to a stop.
Airstairs were pulled up to the plane and we were once again herded into buses to take us over to the small passenger arrival terminal.
Inside the terminal there was more pushing and shoving as the men tried to game their way to the front of the immigration line. The women, primarily Filipinas, were directed to a side room where they were instructed to put on a head covering and a long black dress/smock (provided free of charge for use during their stay on the island) to comport with the Islamic Republic’s strict female dress code.
The immigration line moved slowly and because I did not feel like pushing and shoving, my friend and I found ourselves in the back of the line. About 30 minutes later we reached the front of the line, where an immigration agent took one look at my friend’s British passport, then told him to have a seat nearby. He next glanced at my U.S. passport, laughed, said something in Persian to his colleague sitting in the next booth, stamped it, then told me to sit down as well. One other Brit was already seated.
Minutes later, we were led to a back room where the three of us were asked to sit down and a border agent took a seat behind a desk. The interrogation started. I was up first and questioned why I was in Iran, if I had been to Iran before, where I would be staying on the island, why I wanted to come to Iran, and when I was returning. The agent was actually a nice young guy, trying to do his job seriously but lacking the English skills to fully understand what I was saying. After a bit of repeating, we moved on with the the fingerprinting (completed electronically, one finger at a time) and photograph. All appeared to be in order. My friend and the other Brit went through the same routine and finally, about an hour after landing, we were told it was okay to go.
Just as we passed through the immigration booth, we were called back, but the border agent must have changed his mind because he just waived us through. I stopped to shake his hand on the way out and he flashed a big toothy grin–a friendly grin, not a grin of mockery. To be honest, the experience was no worse than what many foreigners face when entering the United States–although it was a bit discomforting being led into a small interrogation room then having the door closed and a government agent with a gun look at you like you are criminal.
On the way out, I was informed I would need to change out of my shorts because such clothing did not “comport with Islam.” We collected our bags (which had really gotten thrashed aboard the Kish Air flight) and proceeded out the front door. We had made into Iran.
Next: Exploring Kish Island, but trapped in Iran!