As we saw in another Tale from the Arena, Iranian Numbers, the business hotels in Tehran prefer payment in US Dollars. This is the only thing about Uncle Sam that they like.

Peter and I check out of the Homa in the late morning. We allow plenty of time. We are surprised when each of us is given a bill for around 9,500,000 Iranian Rials. This is slightly awkward as we have no Rials at all.

The cashier explains that they are no longer allowed to take Dollars when the state banks are open. He points out that there is a Bank Melli Iran just down the street, which is open and will exchange Dollars for Rials. They are expecting us.

We walk the two hundred yards to Bank Melli and purchase the exact quantity of Rials we each require. This comprises several large wads of notes, far too many to count by hand. So they are fed into an electric counter, which shuffles through the notes rapidly and displays the amount. Having no machine our own, we have to take it on trust that the amount is correct.

There is no way the huge wads will go in a wallet or even a pocket, so the bank gives us each a plastic bag to carry the cash back to the hotel. The bags are non-descript, but somehow very obvious. The Iranians on the street, who are watching us closely, can have no doubt what we are carrying out of the bank.

Peter turns to me with a grin and says: “Look on the bright side. We are multi-millionaires!” “Not for long!” I reply.

We hand the money to the receptionist at the Homa, where it is counted by the hotel’s machine. Fortunately the amounts are correct and we are free to go.

As we leave the hotel to take our taxi to the airport, we are vastly amused to see one of the hotel staff hurrying with two non-descript plastic bags from the hotel towards the bank. He has an armed guard with him.

He is going to change our Rials back into Dollars before the bank closes and before the exchange rate deteriorates any further. You don’t hold Rials any longer than you have to. Presumably the hotel gets back the very same dollar bills we exchanged twenty minutes earlier – less commission, of course.

If you have the pleasure of staying at the Homa Hotel in Tehran, leave plenty of time for the check out. Almost anything can happen.


See also:  Iranian Numbers / A Lift Too Far / Jogging in Tehran


Chris Thorpe

Chris Thorpe is a respected independent lawyer in the upstream oil and gas industry, and an established lecturer and author. Chris has a LLB in law from Magdalene College, Cambridge and trained as a barrister in London. He worked for eight years' as an in-house lawyer for BP and Marathon. Since 1991, Chris has run his own upstream legal practice, CPTL, which has acted for many upstream clients. He has extensive experience of international upstream transactions, principally in the North Sea, the FSU, Africa and the Middle East. Chris has spoken at many UK and International Conferences and Seminars, both public and in-house. His most popular current lecture is Fundamental of Upstream Petroleum Agreements, a two-day course with accompanying book.