Dinner for One at the Esteghal Hotel, Tehran

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My final day here in Tehran, another day without real responsibilities, just waiting for my 5 am flight. It’s funny being someone who is so busy and who usually on trips is following a very set itinerary, bags in the lobby at 7, city tour at 9, dinner at 8 etc. But for the past four days, I’ve been set loose in this sprawling city, and only had my little laptop to report to.

Of course, I am privy to the ups and downs at the cafe, such as the news I got yesterday that our bread supplier, Old School Bakery, has shut down, leaving us without a supplier for a major ingredient at the cafe. Events like this bring the recession closer to home, I feel bad for Beth and her crew, they did a great job and made fantastic bread. It must have been terrible for her to have to make that call and shut their operation. Makes me realize that there remains a thin line between being profitable and calling it quits.

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I did the Steve Martin ‘dinner for one’ routine last night, dining at the Italian joint here in the hotel. I brough a book and read a chapter from Tony Wheeler’s book Bad Lands where he goes to Saudi Arabia. Contrasting the way women are treated there to here in Iran makes this country look enlightened….60 percent of university students and faculty are women, women drive and vote and run for office, and besides making them wear headscarves and manteaus, they are equals with rights here in Iran.

I can’t believe I ever thought I wanted to visit Saudi Arabia….between the public mutilations and beheadings, the people who refuse to be photographed, the religious police who wack you with a stick if you’re showing hair, and the obtuse bureaucracy and layabout locals, it sounds horrible. Wheeler really let them have it, declaring that if the country were divided into blacks and whites rather than women and men, there would be international trade sanctions and worldwide outrage.

The one thing I am sad about as I make plans to depart tomorrow morning is that I never got to visit an Iranian home. Everyone says that when you close the curtains the headscarves come off, the miniskirts come out and the party begins. Sad to say, I never experienced Iranian home life, but maybe next time I will. I’d most definitely like to return!