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Tehran again

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran


I have been back in Tehran for a few weeks, after a few months trying to live in Oxford. We came back for my mom’s saal (the anniversary of her passing). The first two weeks went by so fast, as I was arranging the ceremony at our house that lots of family and friends attended.  Soon after I arrived here I went down with a terrible cold, despite the very warm weather that we are having here which forces us to keep the coolers on all the time.



Tehran seems a little different these days. Somehow assured, strong yet not quite matured nor seasoned.  Who knows what is in store next. Tehran’s traffic is bad; yet despite the fact that there are so many more cars on the streets, it seems to keep moving because of the restrictions imposed on cars.  There is an old traffic restricted area in central Tehran which lasts from 6:30am to 5pm, which cars can only enter if they have a permit.   There is also now a large outer zone, where cars with even numbers can enter on even days and odd ones on odd days of the week - it lasts until 7:30pm.  Heavy trucks are only allowed within Tehran after 10pm and before 6am.  So somehow as bad as the traffic is, it mostly moves freely and the removal of many traffic lights on the highways has also helped a great deal.



There has been very little happening on the art front, as many major galleries are closed for the summer and many will not re-open until the end of Ramadan which starts on 23rd September and finishes four weeks later.


What I still find ever so hard to take is the price of things here.  A kilo of meat is over 50000 rials[1] and chicken is not that much less.  You can easily get through a million rials in one shopping stop.   Average good household salaries are typically 5-6 million rials a month.  Some things are still subsidized and cheap, bread is 500 rials and gasoline 800 rials a liter (less than 10 cents!)



Last night we went to a young friend’s house to celebrate the fact that she and another friend, more my age 50+, have been accepted for postgraduate studies at the university.  Both these ladies are most active in the Iranian women’s movement and hard workers at the new initiative of collecting a million signatures to ask the government for the changes in the laws which discriminate against women in Iran.  You may read about it and or add your name to the list at their website address:    I was so delighted that despite all the hardships, problems and shortcomings these two friends with a big gap in their ages have taken up the challenge. 


Among the many things that happen here, I wish to share one of them with you.

One day last week we were in the city center, without a car, walking mostly or using shared taxis as it suited us, going from one place to another visiting business associates and friends; after a dentists appointment and lunch with the family, we were to due to attend a ceremony for my mother’s first cousin called khatm (paying respect to family of the deceased), which was to be held in one of the mosques in the center of Tehran.  It was a hot day and by mid-afternoon we still had a couple of hours to kill. It would have taken us the whole time to go home and come back again, so instead we went into a cinema at Valiasr Square. We did not care too much what film they showed, but it was air conditioned and comfortable and we sat there and rested and were cool and fresh by the time we went to the khatm.  It cost us 16000 Rials for two since on Saturdays the cinema prices are half price!


[1] One US$ = 9200 Rials

... Payvand News - 9/18/06 ... --

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