Valiasr Intersection Tehran Metro Old Lady Annette Benning in Tehran Hollywood Team in Tehran New Tehran Shopping Center Joob Day Workers Kitchen Lamp Spring In the City Fireworks Wednesday Hadji Firouz Tehran Underground Party VW Gol Wheels Haraz Road To Shomal Chicken Kabob and Sir Torshi Caspian Sea Khaneye Darya Shirazi Salad Cement Block Painting By Young Villager Band Pay Jungle Nowshahr Empty Tehran Freeway Blvd Restaurant Wisteria Vines Eid Didani South Tehran Nestle in Iran Obama's Message To Iran
A colorful slice of a Tehran that is under an ever increasing construction. Valiasr street across from Mellat Park.
Three men who could not have been any less related sitting sleeping next to each other on the metro.
A charming old lady straight out of a Kieslowski film carrying her bag of groceries. I really dig the white sneakers.
American actress Annette Benning at the House of Cinema in Tehran. She came to Iran alongside a Hollywood envoy who were here as guests of the House of Cinema. The group had a fabulous time, but the Western media managed to misrepresent their trip by focusing on a few negative side stories that had nothing to do with the kind of positive experience they were having.
Dear American Government, In case you don't know what dialogue with Iranians looks like, take a good look. It's really as easy as two people facing each other and talking. Even the most conservative of our seudo-representative government will respect you, talk with you with a smile and shake your hands if you enter the room as equals and tire the old arrogant ways. Learn from the Hollywood envoy. Learn from Phil Robinson and Frank Pierson.
This new shopping center will soon open up on the corner of Dolat and Shariati streets. Like all new shopping centers, there are no parking lots built to accommodate shoppers. So people will end up being very creative with their parking jobs and park in places where cars aren't supposed to fit.
A joob. The water in the joobs run from north to south. Joobs are in almost every street. They're exposed waterways and falling in a joob is often used in conversation as a means of exaggeration. "I swerved to miss the biker and fell in the joob."
Two day workers sitting by a joob.
Our apartment is falling apart! The lamp in the kitchen's ceiling seems to be breaking out of its spot. This is only two years after a major re-modeling. I blame it on the work ethics of workers who always seem to be doing their jobs half-heartedly.
Considering the heavy smog and the dark grays of winter I find it rather miraculous that every spring the trees turn green on mother nature's cue.
Chaharshanbe Suri or Fireworks Wednesday in the backyard of a friend's house.
A dude dressed up as "Hadji Firouz" dancing and collecting donations at a street corner. I am not sure where this tradition of painting one's face black, wearing red and dancing in anticipation of Nowruz comes from or what it means. But for some reason I have no desire to find out. Also, my black friends need not be offended. I mean we're kind of brown to begin with, so it's okay!
An underground Tehran party. Literally underground - in the basement of some apartment complex. On the eve of the Spring equinox which marks the beginning of Nowruz and the Iranian new year of 1388. Unfortunately the lack of ventilation mixed with a smoke machine created a feeling of suffocation and we left early!
There's a big car culture among the Iranian youth. They're very big on rims, lowered shocks, tinted windows, etc. My cousin's new set of wheels on his new VW Gol.
Every year, for Nowruz holidays we go to Shomal (north of Iran) and afterwards we decide that next year we'll go somewhere else. But when next year comes we find ourselves heading up north again. It's mainly because planning trips are very difficult. It's a shame, because Iran has so many places to visit and yet so many obstacles stand in the way of you visiting them. Specially if you're young and unmarried.
Like last year, we went to a villa at Khaneye Darya. There were ten of us dudes and the days were spent eating kabobs, pickled garlic and rice, as well as playing cards and in my case inhaling second hand smoke. So basically a make-shift frat house by the Caspian Sea.
The news of an Iranian blogger who died in Evin prison in Tehran while serving a two year sentence was very upsetting to me. My thoughts are with his family and friends.
A rainy day at Khaneye Darya in northern Iran.
Mad skills in making a Shirazi Salad. Chopped-up onions, cucumbers and tomatoes, mixed with lime juice. Available at your local Persian restaurant. It goes well with kabobs.
The second part of my Shomal trip was spent in a village near Nowshahr. Me and my cousin said goodbye to our buddies back at the frat house and joined our girlfriends, my aunts, uncles and other cousins in a couple of rented homes. Villagers often rent out their homes during the holidays for some extra income. I just don't know who ever thought it was a good idea to introduce cement blocks to an otherwise beautiful scenery.
It's always interesting to get a glimpse of the villagers' lives. A painting by the 5 year old whose father's house we rented out, photographed and published without permission for the whole world to see. A note on the wall read "All Love Mom Dad."
We took our cars high up in the jungle-covered mountains at Band Pay. The beautiful scenery makes everyone snap happy. But unfortunately the photos never do the nature -- full with the sound of birds -- any justice.
The view from halfway up the windy dirt road. The Caspian Sea is in the distance, but not visible in this photo due to the haze.
Back in Tehran where I spend the second half of my Nowruz holidays roaming the empty streets and freeways. I love Tehran when there's not much traffic. You can go all the way to the southern tip and back in no time, whereas when the travelers return it'll take hours to go anywhere.
As part of my new Iranian year's resolution I plan on eating better. I am hoping to find all the fine dining establishments in Tehran so that I don't end up only stuffing myself with junk food. So far I have discovered Blvd. on Valiasr, and Touch in Farmanieh.
I don't know what the name of these beautiful purple grape-like flowers are, but I love seeing them every spring. They remind me of my childhood and the fun associated with not going to school during Spring Break. (Update: These flowers are called Wisteria Vines. Thanks to everyone who pointed them out!)
Baby Kiana is now 15 months old. She's the jewel of every family gathering. She manages to make everyone laugh and smile with her every move. It's a tradition for families to go "Eyd Didani" (Eyd Visits) during Nowruz. My whole extended family for example visits my grandmother, who is the eldest member of my family.
The empty streets make it possible to drive down to neighborhoods I otherwise don't get to see. The further south you go, the more worn down the buildings look and the poorer the people are. But there is still a great sense of security. I wouldn't feel as safe when I would drive down to South Central LA for example. Though I should point out that like all big cities there are neighborhoods no one dares to go, not even the police!
Despite the ongoing sanctions, there are a lot of Western companies doing business in Iran. I was surprised to see Nestle bottled water from "the Springs of Alborz."

President Obama's Nowruz message to Iranians was very well received. Everyone I know either watched it or at least heard about it. I just hope that he follows his words with actions. I hope he recognizes the fact that the West in general and America in particular has in the past done Iran and the Iranian people wrong. After such recognition, he can continue down the welcomed path of reaching out, unclenching his fist and shaking the hands of those who will be there to shake it. Throwing out Bush's Iran policy is a must. And more importantly he needs to become the first American president in recent history who acts in the interests of the American people and not the Israeli lobby.

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