Posts Tagged ‘Tea house’

Iranian teahouses (Chai-Khaneh) are traditionally men-only hideaways where they can sit and drink tea (chai) all day and well into the night. My favourite teahouse (subject to my comments below)  is the Azadegan Teahouse near the Naqsh-e-Jahan Square where women are allowed albeit in the family area only. I am not allowed to venture beyond the dividing curtain and smoke Hubble-Bubble.

Not being a Hubble-Bubble smoker, I like this place because of its unique ambiance and fun decoration which is over-the-top to say the least. The place is crammed full of lamps and pictures, pots, mirrors and ephemera of all kinds. A bohemian cave if ever there was one.

There is a prominent sign saying “No Photographs” and normally I’m happy to respect their wishes and oblige. But as everyone else was taking pictures and I wasn’t offending anyone I took a few for posterity.

 Back to my comments above. Previous visits to this teahouse have been charming but this time I have to say that the toilets were rank, and the waiter fair threw the tray of tea and naabot at us. He may just have been having a “bad hair day” but it spoilt my visit. He also charged us for something we didn’t ask for and didn’t eat (Baklava) which represented £1.20 out of a total bill of £1.60!  But at those prices it seemed incredibly churlish to complain so Feri paid up in full and we left vowing never to return! (of course we will.) It is very out of character for the Iranians to be so surly and unhelpful. From my experience, they are not rude or impatient at all but are more than happy to pander to your custom.

For me, I’m quite happy to make my way past chickens in wire pens, and huge vinegar vats to get to this teahouse hidden in the corner (and you certainly wouldn’t find it if you didn’t already know it was there) and I’m sure that like Arnie, ” we will be back”.

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Times, they are a-changin’ in Iran and I have noticed from this visit that gradually the traditional shops which I love so much are giving way to more modern retailers.

On a more positive note and if you look closely however you will also notice that more than the local high street is changing. People’s attitudes and outward behaviour are changing and it is very noticeable to us after only a year away.

It is more noticeable to me as probably the only westerner in the town and being fair-skinned I have always been the subject of many stares. There is no malice or rudeness just curiosity. But this time, there is something more. We experience an openness not seen before, a more relaxed feeling on the street with the women wearing their brightly coloured hijab further away from the hairline atop false hair pieces and daring to wear much tighter fitting manteaus. Men and women are now openly holding hands as they walk along the street and a number of inquisitive Iranians have stopped to talk to me as I walk along and in the restaurant/ tea house.

They want to know where I am from, what do I do and all welcome me to Iran/Esfahan. They love foreign visitors to their country and if I accepted their kind offers of tea I would be doing nothing else but visiting until we leave. I spoke to a young couple who stopped us in the Bazaar and found out that the husband works for the Iranian Inland Revenue. I explained that my first job was with HMRC and we laughed that as expected, Tax Inspectors are universally disliked.

A woman with her two sons stopped me further down the street to welcome me to Iran. “It is very nice to see you here” she says as her eldest son keeps repeating “Hello, how are you?” He is learning English at school and determined to make the most of his opportunity to practise. A girl started a conversation whilst in the tea house and during lunch, a girl studying English at Esfahan University came over and asked if she could sit with us and and ask some questions which I gladly answered.

Visiting the Fin Gardens in Kashan I was inundated with requests for photographs from a group of schoolgirls and one by one they stood with me as their friends took the photos. I was there for a good 20 minutes whilst they made sure that everyone had a photo of me on their phone but I got my own back when I asked to take a photo of their group and they were so excited to agree!

This direct approach from strangers has never happened on previous visits although you could see that they wanted to. Something has changed so that people feel willing and able to open dialogue between us.

This can only be good for everyone and I welcome it.

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