This is a 42 minute video from Deutsche Welle Documentary about travel through Iran by train. I did not write any of my own commentary from this so all the following text in this post is either in the video’s description or quotes from the video. I’ve included some screencaps. The video from YouTube is at the end of the post.

Iran is opening its doors to foreigners and a train ride from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea is a great way to get to know the country and its people.

The travel restrictions that are now being lifted were in place for decades. Many Iranians are hoping they will now be able to lead a freer life – and we meet many of these hospitable and welcoming people on our journey through the Middle Eastern nation.

The country’s most important rail link, the Trans-Iranian Railway, runs for approximately 1400 kilometers from the Persian Gulf via Teheran to the Caspian Sea. The journey starts in on the Shatt al-Arab, the river border between Iraq and Iran.

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A train as it leaves Khorramshahr Station.

The railway owes its existence to the country’s natural resources. It was built to transport oil. Passenger transport was unimportant at first. Without oil, the railway line never would have been built. The money for the railway line came from a tax on sugar and tea. Construction took a good 11 years. The costs of transporting oil were reduced by 80%.

Traveling past oil fields, the train reaches Shushtar. One of the top sights here is the historic hydraulic system, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After that, the train heads up into the Zagros Mountains.

Zagros Mountains: Two tectonic plates meet here.

The journey is interrupted by a break for prayer. Breath-taking landscapes move past the train window until we reach the highest point not only of our journey but of the entire rail network: 2,200 meters above sea level between Dorud and Arak.

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During a brief stop in Qom, travelers can refuel with sohan, a pastry made of wheat germ, flour and sugar.

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Qom’s said to have the best sohan. It’s made of wheat germ, flour, and sugar and sometimes cardamom, saffron, oil, or butter.

“You should start work in the name of God and it always goes well. We do it the way the scholars taught us. We stick to that and our success vindicates us.”

The next section of the track is high-speed and we continue on to Teheran at 160 km/h. The metropolitan area is home to more than 15 million people.

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The Bazaar Quarter’s a must for every visitor to the city. We dive into one of the biggest bazaars in the world. It’s 10km long, 30,000 shops, and 100,000 jobs. The shop owners are powerful. In 1979, they were among the supporters of the Islamic revolution fearing the Shah’s pro-Western economic policies. Since then, women have had to wear headscarves in public. That too is good for business. There are guardians of public morals everywhere making sure that all women obey the headscarf rule. That applies to female tourists too.

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Shah Abdol Azim in Rey.

This place of pilgrimage is located on what was once an important intersection on the Silk Road. It has existed for more than 1000 years and is the fourth most important place of pilgrimage in Iran. It’s a holy place for Shiites.

The last leg takes us to the north of the country.

In the Alborz Mountains, we find out what role the Trans-Iranian Railway played during Stalin’s major offensive against the German army in World War II.

In 1941, Russian and British troops invaded Iran. They confiscated the Trans-Iranian Railway which was quite new back then. From then on, it was used as a transport corridor – the Persian Corridor. 646 boatloads of war equipment were moved by rail from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea. That allowed the Red Army to launch a decisive offensive against Germany in 1944.

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Alborz Mountains
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“This mash is part of every meal for us. It consists of flour, rice flour, rose water, vanilla, sugar, and milk. These ingredients are mixed and put on the hob. It’s stirred until it becomes thick. This mash is a staple of Iranian cuisine. We eat it to break the fast.”

Our oriental rail adventure ends in Bandar-e Torkaman on the Caspian Sea.