When I agreed to carry a consignment of pistachio nuts from Tehran to Kuwait, as a favour to a friend, I gave no thought to the quantities involved.
On the morning of the flight three large packages were delivered to my hotel room, about ten kilos in total. With difficulty I managed to get them into my bag and close the zip in time for the car to the airport. I knew that there would be trouble at CIP.
CIP is the facility at Tehran Airport for Commercial Important Persons. It is supposed to make things easy for accredited business travellers. But the Iranian authorities are just as keen, if not more so, to know what enters and leaves Iran through CIP as through any other channel.
The guard at the customs desk beckoned me over. I put my bag on his table and opened it. He could hardly miss the three packages and asked me what they were. I told him they were pistachio nuts, a present for a friend in Kuwait.
His eyes narrowed. He did not believe a word. He peered at the plastic packaging but it was translucent, so he carefully cut the first one open with a pocket knife. At first his fingers explored gently but, not finding what he was looking for, he began to delve more deeply. Then he enlarged the cut, allowing the pistachios to flow freely into my bag. Eventually he was satisfied that the first package contained only pistachios. He cut open the second and repeated the procedure.
By now pistachios were overflowing in rivulets and bouncing across the floor. I was standing in them and the corridor behind me was carpeted with them. The other passengers to Kuwait crunched through them as they passed.
The guard stopped for a moment. Were these pistachios decoys, designed to distract him from something else in the bag? His fingers probed my suits, shirts, underwear and shoes, and the tide of pistachios followed.
Finally he cut open the third package and just emptied it into my bag - nothing but pistachios. With a dismissive wave he indicated that I was free to go, so I closed and shouldered the bag, nuts still cascading onto the floor as I went.
On arrival in Kuwait I put all the pistachios I could salvage into two large plastic bags, and delivered them to AbdulAziz. “Did Fahad send them like this?” he asked, so I had to tell him about the events in CIP.
He laughed heartily at the story and said, as if it explained everything, “Chris, everyone knows that the best pistachios come from Iran!”