Welcome to the city where every day holds a story and paradox is commonplace. A brief outline of a day in Tehran. There is hardly any other city which inspires such curiosity and interest in me as this one. I’m fascinated how people sound out existing boundaries every day and interpret them anew. The discrepancy between the normality of living and what is legally allowed. The encounters of daily life touch me – the conversations which open doors and reveal treasures. I’m here to do my master’s thesis, and my daily life consists in exploring the city. So, let’s go.
Into the city
I live in north Tehran, very close to the ski lifts. All around, new buildings are sprouting up out of the maintains, right next to old village structures which are still preserved.
A shaky old red mini-bus rolls past the student home. The stickers in the window suggest that it once drove in Austria. The driver greets me in a friendly way; we know each other. The doors close and we get underway towards the city traffic jam. The usual grey cloud of exhaust fumes lies over the city.
View on Teheran. The usual grey cloud of exhaust fumes lies over the city.
I’ve hardly taken my seat when the first conversation starts. My seatmate, a doctor, asks me politely in English: “Where do you come from?” only to talk about how difficult it is to get to know a woman.
It’s a sunny summer’s day in Tehran and the heat is almost unbearable. The slipstream has blown off my headscarf, and as I put it back on I learn more about the income of my fellow passenger. It’s strange to know that he has only been able to save 600,000 euros up to now for his marriage. I just can’t believe it – I’ve never had such a sum in my bank account. But this isn’t the first sum that defies credibility.
Very nearby, a friend of mine and I went to view a house which was almost completed. At a square-metre price similar to that of New York’s Manhattan, I would have expected more from the ostentatious, neoclassical, graceful interior of the 300-square-metre dwellings. But I wouldn’t have said no to a go in the pool, though.
The vehicles push through the streets together as usual, and a taxi uses the oncoming lane to overtake a goodly length of traffic jam. The bus fills up slowly and we approach Tarjish, the most northerly underground station in Tehran. I’ll get out there. After half an hour, we’ve left the six-kilometre route behind us. And now for a coffee.
Young Iranians sit in front of Café Lamiz like roosting chickens. A few sip their drinks pleasurably, and others wait for their orders. The atmosphere is relaxed.
Drinking coffee in a local coffeeshop.
Inside, drawings of butterflies in front of brickwork hang over the sofa. Thanks to the bilingual menu, even people who can’t read Farsi can order.
Nelson, who works at the South African embassy, is also sitting in the café. Nelson has Iranian parents, was born in Africa, lives mostly in Canada, and is now working here. The invitation to make use of the fast internet in the embassy is followed by another invitation that we see each other again. Thanks to the VPN, I avoid the filters in Iran and add Nelson to my Facebook. I want to continue. My eye roams outside. Several women in chadors walk by the window. A chador is the black, full-body length of fabric that women are supposed to wear in Iran. I leave to explore the city further...