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The Wonderful Cafe Mahtab in Tehran

06/13/11 By Anna Vanzan (

Not many people outside Tehran know that the capital of Iran hosts several nice coffee shops that not only provide the usual refreshment and food, but often organize art exhibitions and other performances as well.

One of the last to come out on Tehran crowded social scene is Cafe Mahtab, owned by a young but already experienced lady, Mahtab Mehrabi. Cafe Mahtab is located in Esfandiar avenue, a posh street connecting two super busy roads, Vali Asr and Afriqa and it is contiguous to the Imam Ali Religious Arts Museum.

Coming from the almost always congested Vali Asr and Afriqa to this oasis of peace and color is relieving: the cafe protrudes in a pleasant terrace which is the best presentation for what one is going to see inside. Color, in fact, is the main characteristic of this cozy cafe and even the chairs outside are covered by multicolors strips of fabric arranged in a casual but tasty way. Colors dominate the interior as well, and here the continuous reference to Iranian folklore is more evident: from the suzani (traditional embroidered textiles) hanging on the wall to the multicolored wool socks and gloves typical of the Caspian shores, from the little trays decorated with images of Qajar ladies to the ceramic tiles adorned with leaves and flowers, each detail shows Mahtab Mehrabi's love for Persian culture; and, if you want to wash your hands, a beautiful brass basin welcomes you at the entrance, close to the modern, perfectly clean and equipped kitchenette.

Mahtab Mehrabi herself is dress in a particular combination of Persian hejab and international/hippy folk attire and welcomes her customers with a lovely smile and warm kindness. She opened her cafe about 6 months ago, after maturing another similar experience, but this new creature of hers can boast about a special feature, i.e, to be a cafe cum gallery. Almost every Friday, Cafe Mahtab inaugurates a new exhibit: photography, painting, decorative arts, even jewelry. Mahtab Mehrabi normally selects young artists, coming out from Iranian schools of art, in order to offer them an opportunity. So, while sipping a freshly made water melon juice or a warm herbal tea, one can enjoy the items on display, or check email on the cafe's computer, or pick up a book from the well equipped shelves. And on holiday mornings, a delicious brunch is served at a good price.

As the great reviewer of restaurants and cafes in Iran and my good friend Syma Sayyah would say, jaye shoma khali (missing you)!

Here's the address for the ones who want to try Cafe Mahtab: 135 Esfandiar, Afriqa, phone: 0098 21 22042048,


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