The sky was clear when the announcement came we were approaching Tehran. Looking outside at the mountains and desert landscape, I wondered how it would be. I felt a mix of excitement and apprehension.
For the first time I had to wear a veil. I kept adjusting it as the plane prepared for landing. Would it hold? Should I cover more or less? Looking around at the Iranians I got more confused, some were covering more, some less. I decided to leave it as it was. My arrival in the country and city that will become my home for the next 4 years, should not be about a veil but about arriving with an open mind. I wanted to step into the Islamic Republic of Iran with a positive attitude.
A heat wave greeted us outside the moment we stepped out of the plane. A dry heat that I’m well familiar with in other parts of the Middle East. I smiled at my husband and my daughter looked at me and said, “I can’t believe we have finally arrived”! “Me neither”, I said.
Customs went smoothly and when the last stamp went into my passport, it made it even more real. Sitting in the car on the way to the hotel, I took a first peek. The colourful billboards in Farsi and painted murals contrasted with the monochromatic tone of the bare desert landscape around the airport.
I was bracing myself for the creative way of driving Iranians are known for. Having lived in other countries where people can be as creative, I didn’t feel it was that bad. What was exceptional was how hardly anybody wears helmets when driving motorbikes and how skillfully balanced they seem to be. From four member families to people holding on to packages or bags, it was fascinating to observe how natural it was to keep gravity.
The closer we got to the city, the greener it became. Big, leafy trees that provide a much needed shade from the summer heat. The urban architecture composed of mostly apartment buildings confirmed what I had read about the slow disappearance of the villas that once enriched the landscape of Tehran with their Persian gardens and fruit trees. Maintaining the villas was expensive and it became more practical for families to move into spacious apartment buildings with amenities included. Many buildings have indoor swimming pools, saunas, Jacuzzis and gymnasiums included.
All this we had to consider in the first few days when we started looking for a place to live. The first few apartments all looked the same, spacious, open kitchen, few or more bedrooms, some even with small terraces. Every time I looked through a window, new buildings seemed to be sprouting nearby.
I have been doing this for many years now and it is always the most difficult part about starting over. I always try to find something unique, a place where I can feel at home again. This can take a long time or if you are lucky you can find a gem when you least expect it. I’m grateful we found such a gem overlooking the Alborz mountain range which I’m hoping will inspire even more my writing and photography in the future.
While we wait for our shipment to be released there was a place I was dying to visit, the bazaar or market place. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know how much I love markets. They are bustling with life and teach you a lot about a people’s culture and gastronomic traditions. At walking distance is the bazaar in the famous Tajrish square. A busy center point with a bus terminal, parkings, shopping areas and the mausoleum of Imam Zadeh Saleh.
When you enter the bazaar there is a bustling atmosphere. The beautiful architecture strikes you first.
The colourful tiles, the arches, the sayings that remind of what is important.
There is always a flow of people in both directions, buying and looking at what is offered. Some are visibly in a hurry, others take their time to go though the products. There are obviously faithful clients who know the merchants and exchange pleasantries, others come looking for a specific product and visit specialist shops.
I let myself go with the flow, stopping here and there to look at the spices, wonderful nuts, herbs and flower petals.
As I went through the fresh produce stands and and saw what was available and in season, thoughts of what I could cook came to mind. It would be wonderful to be able to shop properly, to experiment, to taste new things. But I have to be patient. Not having my things yet and a proper kitchen is very limiting. Soon I hope. At least I can try the fresh and dried fruits for now.
This is just the beginning. So much to explore here and I’m happy I have so much time still. I feel ready, ready to start over, settle down and discover what Iran has to offer. The places, the culture but also meeting the people which so far have been very welcoming. I hope you will be willing to discover it with me …