Tehran’s Raucus Thursday Night Drive Time

P1520070 743041

After our final dinner, complete with rollicking Iranian musicians, my tablemates and I decided to walk back to the hotel. It was a group who had bonded over conversation; three Portuguese tour operators and a smart Brit who handled PR for Jordan and Korean Air.

Loaded down with more gifts from our effusive hosts (this time a 16″ long tray of nuts and fruits), we set out up the big busy North Tehran boulevard toward home. First we found a cafe with espresso, to satisfy my European friends.

Our conversation in the cafe ran the gamut, from women to divorce and living situations, to how terribly the US immigration treats them when they come to the US. And these are upstanding businessmen, so I can’t do any more beefing about the rigamarole of getting my Iranian visa. It flowed and once again I revelled in my element…new friends, interesting conversation, a cool setting somewhere a little exotic.

The Tehran traffic, of course, was bumper to bumper, but there was a raucus, frenetic energy, it was Thursday night here, (their Saturday) and packed Paycans and Peugeots drove merrily down the street, music blasting, young Iranians packed in yelling and carrying on. We’d pass them on the sidewalk and they’d yell “THANK YOU!!” or “HELLO!!” throwing the few English words they knew at us. I counted nosejob bandage number eight, and saw a car that was packed with seven young women, including a woman driver, which surprised me. But this is north Tehran, where these youth are the future, and they push the border of their strict rules to the limit.

Young men careened down the sidewalk on motorbikes, weaving in and out of traffic, yelling and joking, and we saw three different scenes of men examining each other’s cars after fender benders amidst the exuberant and slow flow of traffic. Iranian rap music joyously blasted from a dozen different stereos.

The cars inched ahead, families, as well as young people, were streaming into a park…it was 12:15 am. Subsidized gas and no dancing, clubs or booze means a whole lotta driving if you can call this inching forward driving.

no headscarf girlsAt one point a large crowd of men gathered beneath an underpass, waving wildly at my camera, and gesturing to come over. One of us, an intrepid young Portuguese agent named Tiago came to shoot their photo. They were all gathered around a little stove brewing water for tea.

After our hour-long walk, I’ve got a few hours here to sleep before I meet my guides at 5 am for my trip to the desert. I will be tired, but I’ll bring a pillow for the 3-hour ride.