Tourist & Resident Guide to Iran

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Images: American Relics

The streets of Tehran are home to a veritable museum of old American cars, though, admittedly, they are often not the best preserved specimens.

Affectionately referred to by Tehranis as “boats” these gas-guzzling monsters are currently the target of a government trade-in scheme which helps their owners buy new cars more cheaply.

american relic

american relic

american relic

Iran Price Check

Random prices from life in Tehran

Sangak bread (30cmx80cm) - IR1500 ($0.17)

30 minute ride in a private taxi – IR25,000 ($2.75)

15 minute ride in a shared taxi – IR2500 ($0.28)

Bus ticket – IR200 ($0.02)

1 litre of petrol - IR800 ($0.09)

Monthly natural gas bill for a block of 8 apartments – IR150,000 ($16.50)

Espresso coffee in a continental style cafĂ© – IR20,000 ($2.20)

Hourly rate of pay for an English teacher in a private language institute – IR25,000 ($2.75)

Guide to Tehran

Tea in Iran

Before she says her morning prayers, it’s time for Mahin Khanom to turn on the samovar. With gas this cheap (practically free) this stove-top kettle is going to be bubbling away for almost the whole day, constantly at the ready to dispense hot water for that all important cup of black tea.

In Iran tea is taken straight. Sugar is sometimes added by those who like a sweet kick in the mornings but milk, never. It is the ever-present accompaniment to, well, everything. In the company of guests, multiple glasses will be drunk both before before and after dinner. On a break from work, one or two glasses with a couple of sugar lumps melting in the mouth gives English teachers the buzz to get them through their next lesson. In the morning with breakfast, of course. If you’ve caught a cold, it’s important to consume an almost constant stream of weak tea. Even while on the move, it is not unusual for taxi or bus drivers to have a cup in one hand and the wheel in the other. Thankfully, Tehran’s numerous motorcyclists haven’t yet worked out how to sup and drive.

brass samovar
This is a traditional brass samovar. It hasn’t been used for years. These days, stainless-steel stove-top and electric versions are far more common.

Household appliance makers such as Tefal and Delonghi are also in on the act with modern versions in sparkling white/chrome which you can see on advertising boards all over the city.

(Bayern Munich midfielder Ali Karimi can currently be seen on billboards gormlessly drinking tea for Kenwood.)

Ali Karimi drinking tea

Iran Tea Facts

• Iran consumes approximately 100 million kg of tea, of which 50 million kg is imported.

• According to the Iran Daily, Iranian grown tea contains less caffeine and Iranian growers use less chemical pesticides due to more favourable weather conditions than in countries such as India and Sri Lanka.

• Despite their political differences, the USA has granted a quality certificate to Iranian tea to allow it to be imported. Britain, which owns the world’s largest tea factories, also imports Iranian tea, repackages it and resells it.

• Due to an enduring attachment to British-made products, one of Iran’s biggest selling tea brands is Ahmad Tea of London.

Iranian food

Friday, November 25, 2005

Farsi: Many thanks

The Farsi language has no shortage of phrases to express gratitude. Here are a few of the most common.

“Khaste naboshi” – lit. “may you not be tired”

Said to those returning from work or having completed a task. Also used as a greeting to colleagues who begin their work before you.

“Dast-e shoma dard nakone” – lit. “may your hands not hurt”

A common expression of gratitude when someone provides you with something. Be it anything from a home-cooked meal to a ride in a taxi.

“Nushe Jahn” – lit. “drink that you live”(?)

A common response to “dast-e shoma dard nakone” when used in the context of complimenting and expressing gratitude for food.

“Gorbaned shoma” – lit. “I sacrifice myself for you”

Often said during the 3-kiss embrace when you greet or say goodbye to close friends or family. Also used to open and close telephone conversations.

“Gabel Nadore” – lit. “It has no value”

Said by shopkeepers before money changes hands as if to say that, since it’s you, you needn’t pay. Of course, this offer must be firmly refused, perhaps also coupled with a heartfelt “zende boshid” (lit. “that you may live.”)

“Dardet Bejahnam” – lit. “your pain to my life”

Said by the older generation to younger members of the family. A heartfelt wish that life’s troubles be borne on their own shoulders rather than be passed on to the young.

“Chak’kerim” – lit. “I am your slave”

A rough and ready expression of gratitude and general indebtedness. Not often heard in refined circles.

“Pish-kesh” – lit. “before-pull”(?)

On receiving a compliment about one’s home, it is usual to deflect it with this hard-to-translate phrase which is an offer of the complimented object to one who offers the compliment.

Farsi (Persian) @

Farsi Phrases

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Book: Introducing Persian Architecture

Introducing Persian Architecture

By Arthur Upham Pope

With the history of Persia as long as the history of mankind itself, it is no surprise that its architectural legacy should be one of the richest in the world.
It is perhaps only the relative inaccessibility of Iran’s architectural treasures in recent years that has caused Persian architecture to be less well regarded in comparison with that of other great civilisations. However, what is clear from the rich yet concise tour offered by Arthur Pope’s “Introducing Persian Architecture”, is that Persian architecture can be compared to that of Ancient Greece and Egypt without any hint of inferiority.From the ziggurat of Chogha Zambil, through to the noble ruins of the pre-Islamic Persian Empire and all the way up to the mosques and palaces of Isfahan and Shiraz, Pope cuts a great sweep through 3,000 years of history without losing his focus on the finer points of construction and ornamentation that made up his life’s work.
It is in itself an achievement for such a learned and passionate scholar to condense his knowledge in a volume so well-organised and accessible for the newcomer. Numerous plates, including full colour photographs and architectural plans are conveniently cross-referenced with the text throughout the book.
Now more than 35 years old, "Introducing Persian Architecture" remains one of the best companions one could possibly have on an architectural tour of Iran. For even a short visit to Isfahan and Shiraz the cost and effort of obtaining a copy would be repaid many times over. Having picked an almost mint copy of the 1976 edition in a dusty Tehran bookshop for next to nothing, it seems likely that second-hand copies are widely available.

Introducing Persian Architecture

By Arthur Upham Pope

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Drug Use In Tehran

Research on Drug Use conducted by AHRN (Asian Harm Reduction Network) from People Using Drugs (PUD) in Iran

* Heroin and opium are the main drugs in Tehran

* Among questioned PUD, Opium in Tehran (n=175) is generally smoked (75%), while 37% have eaten it and 6% mention injecting

* In Tehran, more than 50% of PUD mention opium-based drugs as their drug of initiation

* In Tehran, opiate use (largely heroin and opium) is extremely common among PUD and 71% of the opiate users started their drug career with an opiate. About two thirds are PID (People Injecting Drugs) and almost a quarter of them initiated through injecting (heroin).

Courtesy of and thanks to AHRN (Asian Harm Reduction Network) for permission to publish this research.

HeroinThe Heroin User's Handbook

by Francis Moraes PhD

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Guide To Iran - IranVisitor

Guide to Tehran

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

We Are Iran

We Are IranWe Are Iran
by Nasrin Alavi

Portobello Books Ltd, 336 pp

This new book (published in 2005) by Iran-born and British-educated Nasrin Alavi (a pseudonym), and translated from the original Farsi, presents the views and musings of Iran's estimated 60,000 plus web bloggers. Topics range from the private thoughts of women behind the veil, the media, music and dancing, romance and living with the religious authorities. Blogs have exploded in Iran since 2001 when Hossein Derakhshan, a young Iranian journalist, created what was then Iran's first blog.

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Some Featured Blogs


Reviews of We Are Iran

Tehran Sightseeing Guide

Iran Book Reviews

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Child's Dress Vakil Bazaar Shiraz

Child's Dress, Vakil Bazaar, Shiraz

Photographs of Iran


Hafez: Iran’s Greatest Poet

The 13th century poet, Hafez is enshrined at the site of his former home in Shiraz, Central Iran.

These university students have come to his tomb to pay their respects and read poetry, and also to draw strength from his spirit.

To many, not only is he a literary great, but also a mystic guide. Opening his “Divan”, a collection of his works in a single volume, at a random page is practised as a form of divination somewhat akin to China’s I-Ching.

The name Hafez is a generic appellation used to address those who have memorised the Koran. Hafez the poet was able to recite the entire Koran from memory in all 14 different reading styles. He was devoted to his hometown of Shiraz, inspired as he was by the roses, the birdsong and the wine, and it is said that he never once left.

Hafez is the spiritual godfather of the city of Shiraz and echoes of his voice can still be felt in the the relaxed, philosophical and romantic hearts of its people.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Book: The Spirit of Allah

The Spirit of AllahThe Spirit of Allah

Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution

By Amir Taheri
Part biography and part political history, Amir Taheri’s “The Spirit of Allah” (a direct translation of Khomeini’s given name, “Ruhollah”) is at once a detailed examination of the revolution in Iran and a three-dimensional portrait of the man whose almost gravitational centrality to it made him one of the most important and controversial figures of the late twentieth century. Beginning with his ancestry and birth and continuing to within months of his death in 1989, the book documents Khomeini’s early struggles to establish himself as a religious teacher and his life in exile and growing influence over Iranian politics from abroad, culminating with his return to Iran and the first troubled years of the Islamic Republic.
Insights into the early life and private world of the self-proclaimed Imam paint a three dimensional picture of a religious leader who himself saw little more than black and white. Apart from a sensitivity to poetry, two of his own works being reprinted as an appendix, the bleakness of the Ayatollah’s personal life and the volcanic anger he directed against a world he saw as corrupted fed his single-minded ambition to oust the Shah. His intolerance of politicians and ignorance of economics were to be great strengths in justifying his uncompromising pursuit of this goal.
For Khomeini, establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth was to be the aim and the responsibility of the sanctified institution of the Mullahs, in particular, those who, like him, could claim a direct line of descent from the Prophet Mohammed himself. Obedience to the law of Islam, as interpreted by his pessimistic pietism, was to be imposed from above since it was essential that the spark of the Devil, which he believed to reside in all men, be tamed.
We find in Khomeini one who was not power hungry but yet refused to allow the momentum of the multifaceted revolutionary movement to be directed by any ideology other than the radical morality that he advocated. This grim, single-minded determination was to justify acts ranging from the telling of knowing half-truths to divert his enemies to the execution of young girls.
As the emphasis of the work moves from personal history to the momentous events of the mid-1970s, Taheri documents the social, political and economic factors that were undermining the Shah’s hold on power while never losing sight of the pivotal importance of Khomeini himself. Taheri, a newspaper editor and journalist has brought together innumerable sources including speeches and documents written by Khomeini himself and numerous newspaper articles, eyewitness accounts and personal interviews to add minute detail and depth to a story which, twenty-five years on, is rapidly being distorted by discontent within Iran and ideology outside it.

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Iran Book Reviews

Books on Islam


We are currently well into the holy month of Ramadan or Ramezan as it is known in Iran. During this month it is forbidden to eat during the daylight hours and charitable donations must be made in the place of meals that would have been eaten. It is common for people to wake before dawn to eat sahar but the more devout will eat only once a day at eftar after the sun goes down.

Unlike fasts for health such as those popular in the Ayurvedic tradition, fasting Moslems are not able to drink water. Other ways in which one’s fast is broken include receiving an intravenous drip, submerging oneself in water and smelling particularly strong odours.

Many Iranians consider Ramezan as a chance to lose weight but the large compensatory meals eaten after sundown often put paid to that. During this month, eating and drinking in public places is forbidden though clandestine meals behind closed doors, at less conservatively-minded workplaces for example, are commonly eaten.

Ramadan in Qatar

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Mosque under construction Tehran

See an image of a mosque under construction in the Iranian capital, Tehran.

Mosque under construction Tehran, Iran

The Tehran Taxi Pool

Tehran Taxi PoolWith car pools now being hailed as the answer to urban traffic problems the world over some credit must be given to Iran's already long-established system of taxi-sharing.

The key difference between a private cab and a shared taxi is that complete strangers who happen to be going the same way will jump in with you. Drivers position themselves at bus stops and other major junctions and either call out a destination of their own choosing or be open to suggestions from a largely fixed set of popular nearby locations. Some travelers simply choose a strategic point on a main road and call out to passing cars – chances are one or more of them will be a shared cab.

It might be that you have to take more than one shared cab and walk a little to reach your destination but, at a fraction of the cost of a private cab, the shared taxi is a cost effective and efficient mode of transport between Tehran's major centres and a lesson waiting to be learned by the West.

Guide to Tehran

Blood On The Tracks in Tehran

To mark the purchase of a new Toyota Camry, this poor creature had its blood spilled in a private car park in Qazvin.

Having slit its throat with practiced ease the slaughterer dipped his hands in the blood and daubed all four of the car’s tyres while uttering blessings.

However gruesome this may seem, the death of this lamb was not in vain.

Meat from the animal was to be given to the local poor as part of the celebrations for the birthday of the 12th Shiite Imam – the Imam Mahdi, set to return to the world when he is most needed.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Fresh pistachios in Iran

Pistachios in IranIranian pistachios are famous all over the world. Here, when in season, they are also eaten fresh. A fleshy skin protects the familiar shell, keeping the kernel inside moist. Milky tasting and unsalted, they are somewhat reminiscent of soy beans or chick peas.

“Bush I lave [sic] you”

Bush I Lave YouPro-Bush graffiti spotted in the wealthy middle class suburb of Velenjaq, Northern Tehran.

Despite the official rhetoric which demonises the US as “The Great Satan”, a significant minority of Iranians see “Uncle Bush” as a potential saviour from Iran’s current political situation.

Wealthier Iranians with access to higher education, the internet, satellite television and foreign travel often have strong pro-Western leanings but their number is dwarfed by the millions of under-educated poor who crowd the streets of southern Tehran and constitute the majority of the rural population.

Any guesses as to the lower scribble?

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Road Deaths In Iran

Startling Facts about Iran Part II

According to IRNA (Islamic Repbublic News Agency) Iran ranks first in the world in numbers of road accidents. 2004 figures reported 38,000 deaths and injuries caused by traffic accidents - making it the largest cause of death in the country.

Iran UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Here is a list of UNESCO World Heritage sites and the year they were inscribed to the list.

Tchogha Zanbil (1979)
Meidan Emam, Esfahan (1979)
Persepolis (1979)
Takht-e Soleyman (2003)
Bam and its Cultural Landscape (2004)
Pasargadae (2004)
Soltaniyeh - the mausoleum of Oljaytu (2005 )

Guide To Iran & Iranian Culture

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Heroin Addiction in Iran

Startling Facts About Iran Part III

Recent estimates put the number of heroin and opium users in Iran as high as three million - approximately one in 20 of the entire population.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Rats in Tehran

Startling facts about Iran Part 1

The estimated number of mice in Tehran is about 20 to 25 million according to the Iran Daily.

Guide to Tehran

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Tehran or Teheran, the sprawling, chaotic, traffic-snarled, modern-day capital of Iran which still retains many sights from antiquity as well as many bustling bazaars and magnificent museums - including the Jewels Museum - which displays the last Shah's jewels and the Peacock Throne.

Guide to Tehran

Images of Iran Tehran Bakery

Bakery in Tehran
A popular bakery in Tehran.
Nun (bread) is a staple food in Iran.
sangak is long and thin and cooked on stones
Lavash is thin and flat and normally eaten at breakfast.
barbari resembles Turkish bread.
taftun is crisp bread


A journey to Iran - follow our blogs as we delve into the life and culture of contemporary early 21st century Tehran and the rest of the country.