A month in Iran: reportage 2. Tehran

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Iman Khomeini Airport
The sun is setting, an orange ball very low on the orizon, after a line of green taxis just outside the Iman Khomeini airport, in the desert, one hour driving from Tehran. It wasn't open yet the last time I have been in Iran, in 2004, and I had landad at the Mehrabad airport, in the heart of the city. It has taken years to finish it so it's modernity already seems obsolete. 
Imam Khomeini's shrine is no far from here. I visted it in my previous stay and I kept memories of a huge parking place with families doing pik-nik. Now I see its green lighted minarets passing by in a full loaded minivan. It's about 8 pm, the traffic is heavy on the huge highways cutting and sewing the different parts of the city, the new ones, frantically growing, and the old ones, completely transformed, the glorious ancient building hidden in the dark while Milad Tower arrogantly shines toward the mountains. 
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Driving into the city
Is Tehran beautiful? It is. But it has not the beauty of the ancient European capitals, nor the glitter of the new brand Asiatic cities. Its mixture of history, modern and contemporary, its dimension, its fast pace make me think of a US metropolis. Tehran goes fast, but it's going since centuries. It's the best epitome of the complex Iranian heritage. 
I've got a month to penetrate its charming darkness dotted of coloured lights. Tonight I'm just eager to reach our destination, in the exclusive northern part of the city, where we are invited for dinner. "In Italy you hardly see such a richness in display" my Iranian friend says. That's true. The apprtment has been built less than ten years ago, all is new, expensive and functional. Traditional signs of the Persian upper class' style of life - like beautiful carpets and golden fornitures – are joint to the last fashion kitchen design and electrical appliance. In Iran air conditioning was normal even in the middle class houses since the 70ies... 
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Milad Tower
Ok, I'm exhausted. Here on the sofa we are on our third chai (tea), served in glasses with tasty shiriny (small cakes or bisquits), it's about 11 pm and we are not going to sleep here... so... ehm... Let's have the dinner for god sake! But Iranian hospitality has got its rules and I'm not going to complain. 
The dinner finally in on the table. This family is proud of its western habit, so we don't eat on the carpet as we are going to do elesewhere. It isn't a matter of money, it's a matter of identity. Fortunately the food is fully Persian! Gormeh sabzi (meat and vegetables) with polo (rice), dough (yogurt and water) as a drink. But there is also a kind of pizza and a big bottle of coka-cola... 
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Iranian hospitality!
We are waiting for another friend and when she arrive we got some more chai and some more shiriny. Conversation is an art that Iranians really master... It's almost 1 pm when we leave. I'm sleeping in the car while we cross once again the never sleeping city in a traffic that's still heavy but a little less stressing. The last time I have been here cars were mostly old, and way less in number than the motorbikes, now the most of cars looks new, many are small Iranian Saipa but there are also a lot of Peugeots, made in Iran by a recent agreement, and some elegant cars - Subaru, Toyota and even BMW. Monovolume cars are not popular here. 
My friend's house is located in another beautiful residential area, relatively close to a stop of the new subway that's going to change the life of the Tehran inhabitants hopefully. I'll have time to explore it, so far I just want to collapse in a bed. But we must have at least another chai as a warm welcome to our temporary home...!


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