We talked on the beach and I leveled with her; I had fallen in love with her country, and with her.A couple of months later I saw her again: she flew out to join me for a backpacking adventure in India and we raced a multicolored rickshaw 2500km across the country.Luckily, thanks to Couchsurfing, we were rescued by some locals who let us crash in their sitting room while we came up with a plan.
Most of the time foreigners can get around this by simply saying they are married, but because Esme was Persian, and therefore a Muslim, the rules were much stricter.
We left the guesthouse in a rush, unsure of where we would stay as the cold swirled around us and snow began to fall.
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.
Back in her hometown, we encountered our first problem. “It’s a temporary marriage.” Concerned that this beautiful and mysterious woman was after my passport, I was at first reluctant. One night later, we tried to check into a guesthouse, coming up with a stupid story about how Esme was not Persian but was in fact Polish… The manager didn’t buy it and immediately tried to call the religious police.