Shahram - My Legendary Tehran Fixer (Iran)

Shahram – My Legendary Tehran Fixer
(Iran)

It was a welcome sight to finally make it to Tehran and to meet Shahram. I’d been looking forward to exploring Iran for months and here was my chance to do a little sightseeing and sample some of the famous Iranian hospitality.

After dropping Boris off we headed out for a delicious late lunch. It was a shock to the system to have something other than kebab and rice. I was already starting to feel more relaxed. After a short stroll and a quick nap, Shahram and I headed out for the evening to a friend’s party. It was Thursday night in Tehran which is like Friday in the west. I was welcomed in and made to feel at home immediately. Good company, good food and a few drinks was just the sort of tonic that I was looking for to combat my recent woes.

Welcome to Tehran (Iran)

Welcome to Tehran
(Iran)

Darband Markets (Tehran, Iran)

Darband Markets
(Tehran, Iran)

The following day I was able to do something quite foreign, some sightseeing!! After a visit to the sports club for breakfast and a quick stop to watch the locals playing golf in the snow, Shahram I headed for Darband in northern Tehran. A chairlift took as up in to the snow to play before relaxing with tea and a sheesha in the busy market area. It seemed that the first snow of the year had brought all the locals out to play. Families and friends were all out playing on the snow-capped hills as we drove north to visit friends in Lavasan. The views the accompanied lunch with Mansoor and Neda’s house were stunning.

My first day of exploring alone took me to the Azadi (freedom) Tower, the Ghandi shopping centre for a leisurely lunch and a wonderful stroll through the city at dusk. The day ended with a drive up to one of the view points overlooking the city. At night with the city lit up like a xmas tree, it made for a spectacular view.

Azadi Tower (Tehran, Iran)

Azadi Tower
(Tehran, Iran)

Tehran park views at night (Tehran, Iran)

Tehran park views at night
(Tehran, Iran)

Tehran views at night (Tehran, Iran)

Tehran views at night
(Tehran, Iran)

Tehran views at night (Tehran, Iran)

Tehran views at night
(Tehran, Iran)

Milad Tower at night (Tehran, Iran)

Milad Tower at night
(Tehran, Iran)

Another day took me to the famous Tehran Bazaar, as I walked around all 10 kms of it. I stopped in at Golestan Palace to check out the old royal buildings from the Shah’s reign and I popped into the National Jewel Museum to see The Peacock Throne and the rest of the jewel collection, which was pretty impressive. The museum is actually in a bank vault for its own protection. I couldn’t resist making a visit to the old US embassy which is now called, rather brilliantly, the US Den of Espionage. That night Shahram and I paid a visit to a couple of good friends where we were able to enjoy a few drinks, a swim, and a relax in the spa pool. All while loving the great views over the city.

Tehran Bazaar (Iran)

Tehran Bazaar
(Iran)

The mirror room in Golestan Palace (Tehran, Iran)

The mirror room in Golestan Palace
(Tehran, Iran)

Sneaking around the Us Den of Espionage  (Tehran, Iran)

Sneaking around the US Den of Espionage
(Tehran, Iran)

As the winter snow had just arrived a visit to the ski fields an hour or so north of Tehran was a must. Tehran enjoys 6-8 months of skiing on the Alborz mountain range every year and being such a short drive it is a real treat for all the ski and snowboard bunnies. Playing in the snow was fun but the realisation hit me that my long summer was finally over. I knew now that it will be a cold journey back to London with a fair bit of snow along the way.

Following the fun in the snow the perfect place to visit next was a famous old restaurant in Tehran call Dizi. Here they only serve Dizi (little pot) or Abgoosht (big pot). You each get a pot of meat, water, onions, potatoes, chickpeas, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Now there is a trick to how you consume this little speciality. First you drain water out of the bowl and eat as soup with bread. They then crush all the rest and make a humus like portion that you eat with bread and sides like peppers, pickles, onions, leafs with Sharaz salad and Sangack bread (cooked on stones). Of course I made a mess of the whole thing when I poured everything in to my soup bowl. After looking at me like I was an idiot the waiter took my Dizi and returned with a fresh bowl and prepared everything for me this time. It was delicious. Afterwards we had tea and Bamieh, which is a pure sugarly treat. I highly recommend a visit to anybody passing through Tehran. But be warned it is a popular place where you have to queue and you can’t make a booking. Don’t fret though as the wait is normally no longer than 30-45 minutes and it is definitely worth it.

Playing in the snow at Dizin (Iran)

Playing in the snow at Dizin
(Iran)

Beautiful scenes in the snow at Dizin (Iran)

Beautiful scenes in the snow at Dizin
(Iran)

Outside Dizi (Tehran, Iran)

Outside Dizi
(Tehran, Iran)

Dizi Failure (Tehran, Iran)

Dizi Failure
(Tehran, Iran)

Dizi Success (Tehran, Iran)

Dizi Success
(Tehran, Iran)

I paid a visit to Milad Tower one day to take in the views. It’s the best spot in Tehran to look out over the whole city. Unfortunately the smog problem from Tehran’s four million plus cars doesn’t help the long distance views. The mountain range across northern Tehran provides a spectacular back drop to the city. The affluent areas are in the north and the older poorer parts are in the south. Here you can find over 15 million people living and working in the city. This is set to expand as the search for work and a more liberal lifestyle in the capital continues.

Milad Tower from below (Tehran, Iran)

Milad Tower from below
(Tehran, Iran)

Alborz Moutain range in north Tehran (Iran)

Alborz Moutain range in north Tehran
(Iran)

While I was in Tehran I celebrated my birthday. A day of exploring was in order. So I headed off to the Saadabad complex, near Darband in northern Tehran. This was one of the old royal sites. Now it is basically a museum of Iranian history from the days of the Shah. I wandered around the grounds on a beautiful sunny winter’s day paying a visit to the White and Green Palaces along with the Military museum.

The best surprise was when I came across the museum dedicated to Issa and Abdullah Omidvar. The small museum was dedicated to them and showcased their ten plus years of adventures on the road around the world. Starting in 1954 they headed to the Orient and the Americas on two motorcycles. In 1958 they visited to the frozen land of Arctic and in 1961 began three years of adventures into Africa with Citroen 2CV. They even popped down to Antarctica in 1966 explore it as well. In all of their travels they visited 99 countries, filming and photographing their journey along the way. I was absolutely stoked to check out many of the pictures and memorabilia from all of their adventures. They are a real inspiration for someone like me and it is truly amazing to see what they achieved over fifty years ago. It was a great birthday surprise, a real treat. If you would like to learn more about these two amazing Iranians check out this link: www.omidvar-brothers.com

Omidvar Brother's Vehicles (Tehran, Iran

Omidvar Brother’s Vehicles
(Tehran, Iran)

Omidvar Brother's World Map (Tehran, Iran)

Omidvar Brother’s World Map
(Tehran, Iran)

Omidvar Brother's Citroen 2CV (Tehran, Iran)

Omidvar Brother’s Citroen 2CV
(Tehran, Iran)

Omidvar Brother's Bikes (Tehran, Iran)

Omidvar Brother’s Bikes
(Tehran, Iran)

Omidvar Brother's Passports (Tehran, Iran

Omidvar Brother’s Passports
(Tehran, Iran

Omidvar Brother's Destinations (Tehran, Iran)

Omidvar Brother’s Itinerary
(Tehran, Iran)

The Green Palace at the Saadabad Complex (Tehran, Iran)

The Green Palace at the Saadabad Complex
(Tehran, Iran)

Later that afternoon I ran into two Aussies exploring the same area and we had lunch at the Rako restaurant in Darband overlooking the city. It was fun to share stories with Morgan and Ren about our time in Iran. They had been able to visit Esfahan, Kashan and Yazd. All places I’d hoped to see but unfortunately couldn’t. Their descriptions of the places left me feeling rather envious.

Lunch with Aussies at Darband (Tehran, Iran)

Lunch with Aussies at Darband
(Tehran, Iran)

Views at dusk from Darband (Tehran, Iran)

Views at dusk from Darband
(Tehran, Iran)

Birthday dinner with Farzad, Mansoor, Aryan, and Shahram (Tehran, Iran)

Birthday dinner with Farzad, Mansoor, Aryan, and Shahram
(Tehran, Iran)

That evening Shahram and his mates Mansoor, Aryan, and Farzad joined me for a little birthday dinner sans alcohol, which was the first time in 24 years I’ve not had a drink on my birthday. It was the first time I’d met Farzad and had a few funny stories to tell. Included one from the local newspaper that had us all in stitches.

A young man was having trouble sleeping so he paid a visit to his local witch doctor. The doctor said that he need to be washed by a Ghsal. In Iran a Ghsal is a person that washes dead bodies, often in front of the dead persons family, before they are cremated or buried.

Wanting to resolve his problem the young man found a Ghasl who agreed to help him. So the young man headed down to the mortuary one evening to be washed. On the same day another man who had lost his life was also set to be washed in front of his bereaved family in the same room. The Ghasl was about to wash the young man, but the young man asked him to use a fresh fibrous cleaning cloth, rather than one that had been used on dead bodies previously. Agreeing to this the Ghsal left the room to find a new fibrous.

While the Ghsal was out of the room the other man’s family arrived in the viewing room to see what they thought was two naked dead bodies. In the absence of the Ghsal they wondered out aloud where he was. Quick as a flash the young man stood up and said ‘The Ghsal has gone to bring a new fiber’.

Seeing what they thought was a dead man getting up and speaking again was such a shock, that it caused fear and panic, in the already grieving group. So much so that one family member promptly had a stroke, and died on the way to hospital. Another family member was so frightened that as he fled the room he slipped, he hit his head on the floor, suffered a brian haemorrhage and eventually died in hospital as well.

As a result the Ghsal and the young man were arrested but nobody knew what to charge them with. As yet nobody has been able to confirm what happened to the Ghsal and the young man.

Here is the link if you read Farsi – http://hamshahrionline.ir/details/242456

For Xmas I was lucky enough to get another week in Tehran (after my car broke down for the second time). Hooray!! This time I checked into a backpackers hotel in the southern part of town. It was my best opportunity to find a few other travellers for the Xmas period. On the first night I met Bjorn and Schelte from Holland and that evening we went to the Armenian club together. It was the one place in Tehran that we heard operated a more relaxed code that suited us foreigners. It might have been a little more pricey but we found what we were looking for. Drinks, steak and a non-muslim party venue with live music. We ended up meeting a Swiss Armenian Iranian chap called Dee and his entire Armenian family who we danced the night away with. It was a superb evening and a great escape from Muslim Iran for the night. The Armenians are Christians and are generally left alone to follow their own rules, within reason of course.

Xmas Day Whiskey and Donuts (Tehran, Iran)

Xmas Day Whiskey and Donuts
(Tehran, Iran)

Xmas day was a quiet affair as it’s just a normal day in a Iran. A good internet connection and social media saved the day as I was able to chat with friends and family across the world. It was great to chat with my Mum and the Simpson clan in Paris via Skype. Especially as I was meant to be with them in person (car problems put an end to that unfortunately). In a first for me I was able to open my presents via Skype. I had a pretty good haul of gifts too. Maybe missing Xmas has a silver lining after all. It certainly cheered me up and things got better when I found an Aussie and a Belgian to join me for a few Xmas drinks that evening. Me managed to find a little piece of Xmas cheer even though we were in a Muslim country. And on Boxing day Dee invited me around to his father’s place for an Armenian party. It was the perfect boxing day gathering and really gave me an insight to the Armenian people. Very friendly, welcoming and they enjoy many of the treats I’d been missing while in Iran :-). I decided right then and there that I love Armenian’s. It was the perfect way to sign off from Tehran, its sights, its people and its wonderful hospitality.

Summary

Over the three weeks I was in Tehran I had the chance to see most of the sights and meet a number of local Iranians. The place was a great place to escape from the challenges of getting Boris (my vehicle) fixed. I enjoyed walking around town, on mostly sunny days. Still though there was the lack of freedom that I could feel. The lack of entertainment options. Bars, clubs or music was pretty much non-existent. Restaurants are the main source of entertainment or walking up in the hills in the evening outside of the home. People are weary of breaking the rules the Islamic regime has put in place. Inside the homes was a completely different story though. This was where everybody could do as they pleased. No restrictions on clothing and no prying eyes. The hospitality was as amazing as I’d been lead to believe. Everywhere I went I received smiles and enquiries as to where I was from. Definitely check Tehran out if you get the chance, but you don’t really need to spend three weeks there like I did.

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