Trans Asia Express

Iran & Turkey, 2009

Turkey and Iran are linked by the Trans Asia Express, a train journey that begins in Istanbul, traverses Western Iran and concludes in Tehran after covering nearly 3000 kilometers over 66 hours. Established in 2001, the Trans Asia Express harkens back to the legacy of the famed Orient Express. The route comprises two segments: the initial leg involves a Turkish train departing from Istanbul to Tatvan Harbor, followed by a ferry passage across Lake Van, and finally, an Iranian train from Van Harbor to Tehran. This unique mode of transportation serves as a symbolic bridge between two neighboring countries, each characterized by the Muslim faith yet diverging vastly in socioeconomic policies and cultural practices.

The journey encapsulates the stark contrast between these two distinct realities, unfolding over four days as it traverses the desert landscapes of Eastern Turkey and Kurdistan before reaching Iran. Upon crossing the border, noticeable changes occur: the ambiance shifts as the music fades away, alcohol consumption ceases in the dining car, and women adhere to the Iranian law by covering their heads with veils. Furthermore, portraits of Ataturk are replaced by those of the Ayatollah, signifying the transition into Iranian territory.

Immigration procedures introduce a marked shift in the atmosphere, as both Iranian and Turkish citizens undergo extensive interrogation and meticulous baggage checks, often accompanied by hefty fees, before being granted permission to return to their respective countries. This rigorous process underscores the strict regulatory measures in place at the border, reflecting the complexities and intricacies inherent in the relationship between Turkey and Iran.