Gollar: In the spring of 1991, after one of our trips to Moscow to organize the Kremlin Cup, Sasson decided to use the opportunity to go to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, to check on a carpet business there. The name of the city is Persian — Eshgh ābād, meaning the “abode of love.” But I’m not sure it’s the right name for this city. There was a foul smell of rotten sheep-fat wherever we went! It was terrible. I’ve been in many places, many of them had a very distinct stench, but nothing compared to the smell of Ashgabat.
Sasson: We were invited by the carpet supplier to his private home, in a desert village a one-hour drive from the capital Eshgh ābād, on bumpy dirt-roads. As in Iran, the men — host and guests — ﬁrst changed into clean pajamas. I refused to wear a pajama, and sat on the ﬂoor wearing my suit with all the pajama-wearing gentlemen. The food was, of course, laid on a tablecloth on the ﬂoor — that’s also Iranian custom. But in Iran we didn’t let ants crawl into our caviar. The women were in the kitchen, out-of-site. They all wore a chador in public spaces and at home, but even with a chador, they didn’t even serve food to the men; rather, they called the host out of the living room to give him the food to carry in. But as guests, we both sat with the men, and Golli was the only woman!
Gollar: I wore a chic suit with a knee-length skirt, jacket and shirt, and was sitting on the ﬂoor because there was no other choice. I took my jacket off to cover my knees and legs, but it didn’t help much after the men had a drink or two…
Sasson: We started to drink alcohol, and for the ﬁrst time I understood why Mohammad had forbidden alcohol for Muslims. After their second glass, their eyes became big and round, and looked only at the direction of my wife! I started to tremble, fearing what they might do to my wife! Golli was not aware of their looks and danger, but I had the experience of running that hotel in Tabriz, and knew what drunken men are capable of. Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?!
Gollar: It wasn’t pleasant to have ten men in pajamas staring at me, but I didn’t realize I might be in danger. Sasson, however, quickly thanked them for their hospitality, said we’re tired, and asked our hosts to drive us back to the hotel. In the hotel, our host came with us to our room, sat on our bed and started drinking alcohol there, too. He just wouldn’t move! He stayed for two or three hours, but at least he was only one, and Sasson was of course present all the time, so nothing happened. After a few hours the minibar was empty, and he left.
I was furious with Sasson for taking me to this terrible place, and told him that next time either I stay in Moscow or go back home. I can’t forget how these people treated women like their property, and hope that now, almost 30 years later, they get treated like human beings. And that the place smells better.