It has been two years since I have been to Iran last time. During this time the country has changed a lot. It is now common especially among young people to have internet on their mobile phones. Gone are the times when you could only be online at work or from home with a slow connection. Apps and online stores are widely used and bringing competition to old market players as taxi drivers, electronic stores or banks.
People are happier again. In 2014 I was shocked by how depressed people seemed. I remember me saying to a friend that this is not the country I used to know. The better atmosphere of today is less connected to the nuclear agreement, most people don’t think anything has changed so far. It has more to do with the government lifting pressure of people, allowing again a bit more freedom. This had happened before already under Khatami.
One of the places you can see the change is the garden around the Cinema Museum in northern Tehran, close to Tajrish. In 2008 while living here we went there to buy Iran’s latest music and movies from Kaveh. He had the only shop within the garden, aside the entrance to the museum. Now the place boasts two cafes, one bookstore, two shops selling handcrafts and the CD and DVD shop of Kaveh. On a Thursday (equivalent to a western Saturday as the weekend in Iran is Thursday/Friday) the park was as crowed as I have never seen it before.
Success on Day 1
The best place also to start my research. My strategy on this side is two-folded. I have a list of places I researched before which are mostly outside of Tehran. This ones I will visit within the next two months and decide if they are interesting in terms of design, history and people to be portrayed in the book. Another strategy is to go via people. As Iranians are really social they usually have a big network of friends, family, acquaintances and business contacts. By telling the ones with a great interest in arts about my project I hope to find those Iranians who love the combination of traditional design and modernity. And on day number one I am already successful!
One of Kaveh’s friends lives in a beautiful old house in downtown Tehran, reusing traditional material and objects and giving them a new use. He is part of a new trend among young Iranians who are becoming more and more nostalgic and value their own traditions again rather than foreign ones. Change is happening.