Tourist & Resident Guide to Iran

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Azari Traditional Teahouse Tehran

The Azari Traditional Teahouse One of the best places in Tehran for a “traditional” Iranian dining experience.

Sweet, hospitable smells of flavoured tobacco waft through its beautifully-restored patterned brick façade. The atmosphere is everything at this superbly executed establishment and a warm greeting from the staff tells you that considerate service has also been brought into the mix – an important factor in a place so ideal for foreign visitors.

Pass the local men filling the brightly-lit café-style antechamber with scented smoke and then through to the courtyard. The high, peaked canvas roof, propped up by its sturdy pole rather gives the impression of a luxurious tent. The central pool and creeping plants further add to the outdoor feel.

Guests either doff shoes and sit on a carpeted dais or huddle around tables. Little fluted glasses of tea are set on saucers with a satisfying clunk almost as soon as you are seated. Closely following are plates of succulent dates and soft, freshly-baked cookies. The food, though limited to a choice of fried freshwater fish, chicken kabāb or ābgusht, is of a high standard. The waiters, in traditional dress, are very polite and will serve and set to work mashing your abgusht with a flourish.

Though there was a time that even traditional forms of music were considered “haram” (i.e. against God’s will) and banned in the Islamic Republic of Iran, now things are considerably more relaxed. One night’s entertainment at the Azari consists of 3 different musical acts.

On the night we visited we were greeted by the well-intentioned chanting of a folk singer accompanying himself with a hand drum. His style of singing is still employed in the training centres of the Pahlavan, Iran’s traditional wresters and body-builders.

He was followed by an ensemble of kamancheh, santour, daf and vocalist performing traditional songs quite professionally, if not very enthusiastically. The final duo, however, made up for any deficit. The poker-faced deadpan of the santour player could not prepare us for the lightning speed and bravado of his playing and the singer/daf-player gave it all he had.

It would be hard to find a better combination of traditional setting, cuisine and music than at the Azari, anywhere in Tehran.

Location: Southern end of Vali-e Asr Avenue near the central Railway Station.
Tel: 021 55373665

Iranian Music CDs

Books on Iran

Guide to Tehran

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Carpet Museum Tehran

Not far from the Museum of Contemporary Art and also adjacent to Laleh Park, the Carpet Musuem of Iran is one of the most rewarding to visit of Tehran's many museums.

Most of the carpets on display are from the 19th or 20th centuries but there are a handful of older specimens from as far back as the 16th century.

Contrary to information provided in the Lonely Planet: Iran, photography is permitted though use of flash is not.

Hunting and wildlife scenes show off the carpet makers art to the greatest extent.

Carpet Museum, Tehran

Look at the dynamism of the animals and birds among the swirling floral design of this carpet.

Carpet Museum, Tehran

Some of the more abstract geometric motifs reminded me strongly of Native American patterns.

Carpet Museum, Tehran

Carpet Museum, Tehran

The “Tree of Life” is a common motif in Persian painting as well as carpets.

Carpet Museum, Tehran

This “Tree of Life” design incorporates portraits of dozens of important personages throughout history…

Carpet Museum, Tehran

…including a very gruff-looking Queen Victoria.

Carpet Museum, Tehran

Here is a carpet depicting the impressively-moustachioed Shah Abbas the Great of the Safavid Period.

Carpet Museum, Tehran

Tehran Sightseeing Guide

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

On the west side the very lovely Laleh Park is a low-lying dun-brick building functioning as Tehran’s most important museum of contemporary art.

In the construction itself you see something of the struggle in all Iranian art to reconcile the traditional with the modern. First notice the skylights raised from the roof. Reminiscent of the “badgirs” of Yazd or Kashan, these allow the harsh sun to softly light the central sunken well of inner space – itself a modern interpretation of the cool underground havens of desert city residences.

Labyrinthine corridors spin off the central hall and guide you through the history of modern Iranian art. There are many fine pieces and some deep, absurdly comfortable armchairs from which to view them from.

Here are some of the pictures I took before I was caught on one of their countless security cameras.

This is one of the museum’s most impressive calligraphic works. Swathes of tightly packed Arabic script radiates out from an unfathomable centre. A profound message of divine unity. I will have to make another trip to note the name of the artist.

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

Another by the same artist.

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

And this is just gorgeous.

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

Guide to Iran and Iranian Culture