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A walk in downtown Tehran

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran
Many years ago I was told that those who have a clear conscience and
those who do not have any conscience at all can sleep profoundly, easily
and quickly.  I know people from both groups, but I am obviously in
neither.  Life has been quite hectic with great upheavals especially at
work and I have had tormenting times. It used to be easier to handle the
ups and downs, but I guess this is what it is and one must find a way
to cope.

So, last week in order to soothe my battered soul and mind, we went
downtown and I really mean downtown.  Valiasr (formerly Pahlavi) Avenue
runs 17km from Tajrish in the north to the railway station.  With Paul
and a friend we went by taxi to the southern end and started our
afternoon sightseeing from the Tehran Railway Station.  Contrary to our
expectations the place was busy but not swamped with passengers, it was quite clean, even the toilets were passable, and there was a great sense of
order at large.  There was a large board that had the list of all the
agents where rail tickets may be bought around Tehran, and all the
signboards were in Persian and English.  The station looked a little dated;
it was built in the 1930s by a Danish company during the time of
Reza Shah.  The good news is that trains are very cheap still.  You
can travel from Tehran to Isfahan first class for less than 4000 toman
($4) or to Yazd for less than 5000 toman ($5) and it is also possible to
buy tickets to Istanbul for about 58000 toman ($61) but the journey
will take you three days!

From there we started to walk up Valiasr Avenue to where it crossed
Enghelab Avenue, where I wanted to show my friend the City Theater
building (taatre-shahr).  The fact that it was the middle of Ramadan did not
affect us in the least. As we started to walk north we passed many old
houses and different shops and people, all of them were very nice and
friendly in the most beautiful Iranian way which reminded me of the good
old days.  We came across a place where most of my happy childhood
times had been spent, the Flor Cinema which was now closed down
and looked quite tattered - and the original Laadan confectionery and
ice-cream parlor.  I was born not far from there and lived in Makouie
Alley until I was 11.  In those days my grandmother would take us to the
cinema on Thursday afternoons and then, if we were good, for ice-cream
and cakes at Laadan.  We passed the old public bath house, which was
still open, that we used to go to.

A few steps further down, I saw the Sharzad store where I had bought
many of my toys when I was little and amazingly the owner- Mr Sharzad we
always called him- was still there nearly fifty years later, even
though he did not remember me after so many years, he and his shop brought
back so many old memories.  We went to my old alley which I remembered
as very long and wide when I played there, but in reality it was quite
small and narrow.  Sadly our old house was not there anymore.  Nearby
we came to the saghakhaneh set into a wall near my aunt Flor’s
old house, which I remembered from those times a saghakhaneh is a
small shrine, where you can light a candle while making a wish and
there is always drinking water. It is usually dedicated to Imam Hossein,
and was built as an offering by a good person long ago. We bought a box
of candles from a tiny shop across the street and the three of us lit
them while making our wishes.

As we walked down one of the back streets, we came across a small
workshop with a wood carver whose specialty was making the clubs (mil) used in the House of Strength (zurkhaneh) or varzesh-e pahlavani gymnasiums.
  He demonstrated how they are used he was quite adept - and
said that they cost from about 20,000 toman ($21) a pair to 200,000 toman.

Then we started walking north up Valiasr again.  As we walked past
other places I remembered from so long ago, we heard the azan and those who had been fasting since sunrise could break their fast, maybe with some
delicious halim (a very nourishing food made of wheat and hot oil,
with or without meat and decorated with cinnamon and coconut flakes).  But
we went for fresh fruit juice at a very clean shop first and then some
jigar (barbecued liver) at one of the tiny eatery places (jigarri)
that specialize in this.  We finished our walk at the City Theater, where
there was an impromptu open air performance going on.

The walk refreshed me totally and we all had a good time, here I have a
few photos from that lovely walk downtown in the good old Tehran.
  Jaye shoma khali!
Iran rail information is at

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