Trans Asia Express

Iran & Turkey, 2009

Turkey and Iran are connected by the Trans Asia Express, a train that leaves from Istanbul, crosses Western Iran, and, almost 3000 kilometers and 66 hours later, ends up in Tehran. Starting from 2001, Trans Asia Express is the old Orient Express. It is actually made by two trains, first a Turkish one from Istanbul to Tatvan harbor, then a ferry across Lake Van, and finally an Iranian train from Van harbor to Tehran. The train connects two neighboring countries, both with Muslim religion but with profoundly different socioeconomic politics and cultures. The contrast between these two different realities is evidenced by a journey that lasts four days, and, through desert lands of Eastern Turkey and Kurdistan, ends in Iran. After crossing the border, music disappears, as well as the alcohol drank in the dining car, women cover their head with the veil, as required by the Iranian law, and the portraits of Ataturk are replaced with those of the Ayatollah. At the immigration the scenario suddenly changes, and the Iranian and Turkish citizens go through interrogation and careful baggage control (with related expensive fees) for several hours, before being granted a visa to return to their countries.