927: Tehran – Home Is Where Your Heart Is #2
Today’s post is brought to you by a friend of mine, Sam, an Iranian living in London. Everything I know about Iran I learned from Persepolis, so when I found out that Sam was going back to Iran for holiday after years of living abroad (as the post is aptly named – 927 days), I grabbed the chance to ask him to take pictures and write for Wandering Mee.
Iran is one of those countries that is probably tricky to travel around in, so I’m glad that Sam has agreed to let us have a peek into his home country. When I was in Turkey I just realized that Turkey and Iran shared border, and later on I learned that they share much more than just a border. I love learning all the little things about a country. While the major sights have the appeal of their own and cannot be ignored, the little details, the people, the food, the alleys, all these make up the real country. (Is it little wonder then that I set out to live in 7 cities in 6 different countries? I love learning about a country from the inside out!)
Sam is a great photographer, so this post is accompanied by tons of wonderful pictures. As it is quite long, I have to split his post into two parts, so look forward for the next part tomorrow.
I let you sit down now and enter Tehran:
When our beloved “Wandering Mee” told me about her idea to have people from different corners of the world write about their ‘home’ and share some photos back in June 2013, and asked whether I would be interested, I think I got a little too caught up in what or where “home” is having lived in London for the past 8 years. I started writing and looking for photos but after a few days I realised this is becoming a self analysis essay and I really don’t want to continue! Clearly an overreaction on my side! nevertheless the end of that effort.
Last month I had a sudden change of plans and decided to make a short trip to Iran and we discussed doing this again. She convinced me I really don’t need to dig too deep and portraying a complete image of a city in an article is simply impossible! and just giving a glimpse of the city and life there is fine! well… she was right! so here is some random bits and pieces from my short journey back to Tehran after 927 days from the last visit.
We live in the north of the city, an area called Elahiyeh. It’s very close to the mountains, I can see them from my window. Tehran has a population of about 8.5 millions and historically is the 32nd capital of the country, although it has held the title the longest; over 200 hundred years.
First thing you notice when arriving in the city are wide busy streets. Most people drive their own cars despite the improved public transport which contributes to the heavy traffic and pollution people seem to have got used to! The metro (underground) is pretty good and I don’t understand why people don’t tend to use it more
What grabbed my attention in the tube this time around was the decoration of the walls inside:
a nice combination of a modern, traditional and more religious inspired designs. This piece especially manages to cover a lot using simple symbolism.
Like any other good grandchild! one of the first places I visited was my grandparents. I don’t know why I never noticed this before, but the place looks identical to as far back as I can remember! that should be roughly 20 something years!; same furniture, more or less same decoration, same objects.
[ you see this in almost every place, less so maybe in younger generations, but shelves with random decorative objects! I asked about this Chinese man statue that’s been there forever! and the story is apparently my uncle brought (the middle person in the photo below) this as souvenir from the UK when he was studying there, it was all white so he painted it himself]
My grandma was in pretty bad shape making me wish I hadn’t seen her, but grandpa is fortunately still on his feet. Two of my uncles were there too with my dad on the right. Seeing people age is a peculiar thing and you notice it more when there is bigger gap between every visit.
The next morning we woke up early to get some fresh bread! not just any bread though! the best there is! I’m pretty sure this is one of the things that’s unique to Asia, for people to come as early as 4 in the morning to queue and get a bread, from a bakery that only does this bread and nothing else!
[Left: A man leaves the queue after successfully getting his bread! Right: A peak inside the bakery]
This break is called “Sang-ak”, sang means stone. It is baked inside an oven filled with tiny stones creating those tiny holes on the surface. We have many different types of breads but sangak really defines the bread for us! It looks hard in the photos but it’s actually very soft.
I arrived home in the end of month ‘Azar’; the last month of autumn. The last night of this month is called ‘Shab-e Yalda’ meaning Night of Birth and celebration of winter. It is the longest night of year and people usually visit each other and spend time together eating snacks and staying up late. I went to Tajrish bazaar to buy some dried nuts, seeds and fruit; typical things for this night. Along with the more modern shopping centers, we have still kept our more traditional malls which to me looks quite amazing.
The structure of these bazaars are always the same; a narrow path way with shops and both sides and other little alley ways on the sides extending the area.
Walking about there brought back a lot of memories, coming back from school and buying some junk food and snacks there while been fascinated by the noise and atmosphere of the place.
People were all rushing in and out buying the last minute stuffs for the night’s celebration.
The more towards to south you go the more older buildings start to pop up. We went to “Laleh Zar” street one day to look for some electronic tools and that’s the area specialised in that as well as leather products and antiques, kind of like Hackney and Brick Lane in east London.
Old buildings that are not well maintained gives this area a sad look in my opinion, a heritage that’s fading away.
There’s a different mood in this part of the town, there is a different life going on. How can someone make a living by selling some handmade crafts at the end of an alley is a mystery to me.
This are is not exactly photographer friendly and except inside some of the shops where the owners let you takes pictures, on the street people don’t want their photos to be taken, especially in this one area where the crowd was gathering and as soon as I took my camera out everyone started shouting at me. You can see the crowd behind this boiled beetroot (Laboo) which is a popular street snack particularly in colder months.
This post is part 1 of a 2-part post. Stay tune!