Elmira Jafari is a guest producer with CCTV America in Washington D.C. This blog contains some of her impressions on a return visit to Iran after being away 14 years.
Iran: When you hear the word, perhaps you immediately think of three things. Nuclear weapons, Uranium enrichment or sanctions. For the longest time, Iran has been the subject of news headlines and debates, unfortunately not the friendly ones. You rarely hear about its culture, society or its people. What is the culture like?
What does a normal day look like for the people of Iran? They live normal lives just like any other nation or people. They wake up. They go to work. They have families, children and responsibilities.
When you walk down the streets of Tehran, there is hardly any talk or discussion about the nuclear program. What you might hear is a heated debate about the soccer match that was broadcast on TV the night before. Which team lost and why?
When is it going to rain or snow next? Or complaints about the heat, pollution or heavy rush hour traffic. People are busy making a living, selling their goods and buying groceries. Those types of political conversations simply don’t interest them on a daily basis.
How do I know? Well, I had the opportunity to go back to my hometown, Tehran, after 14 years. The experience was surreal to say the least. Going back to a chapter that was closed for such a long time brought back so many memories. What was most interesting was that I felt like I never left. Tehran was still wrapped around by the famous Alborz mountains. Cozy looking apartments and beautiful landscapes
It was however more crowded than I remembered. People rushing everywhere. People don’t sugar coat. They will tell you like it is. I learned quickly that I had to catch up in order to not stand out as a ‘foreigner’.
But besides the beauty of the city and culture, one thing stood out most, the food.
It is not an overstatement to say they have the best of the best. The taste, the variety of dishes, and their creativity in preparing every dish stood out. Iranians love homemade cooking. In the past, they were never big fans of fast food. They believe each meal has to be prepared with patience, attention and love.
But over the past decade, the fast food industry has grown dramatically and has captured the hearts of the younger generation. From burgers and pizza (which is always served with ketchup!) to made-up snacks such as Mexican corn snack (see in the gallery) they have it all.
I hope my pictures can explain in full as I am simply unable to recreate the taste and experience.
To me, Tehran is real, tangible, just like any other city. It is indeed the city of everything. Love. Culture. Art, creativity and good food.
Tehran is my home.