of picnics and pipes



Esfahan is the jewel of Iran – invariably the first place listed on the “Have you been there yet?” questionnaire rattled off by most Iranians – and the tree-lined boulevards, magnificent square and several kilometres of parkland hugging both sides of the river make it easy to understand why. Said parkland provides a perfect setting for the Iranian national pastime of picnicking, which is a real boon for Esfahanis, given that most of their fellow countryfolk seem perfectly content to picnic in emergency stopping lanes or petrol station driveways. Fridays see the crowds swell to mosh pit proportions and each family totes a veritable battery of gear: at least two burners with accompanying gas bottles; pressure cookers (why waste time cooking at home?); giant samovar; various other tea apparatus; water pipe(s); bedding for post-lunch snoozing.
Shamed by our lack of picnic preparedness, we were forced to take our eating, drinking and smoking to the Azadegan teahouse which, thankfully, also happens to be The Coolest Place in the Whole Wide World – down a series of junk-strewn laneways, with a few mangy chooks clucking outside the door lay this cavernous gem with a decor that would best be described as “garage sale chic”. A beaded curtain divided the “crusty old men” section from the “hip young things” section – these are my sort of cool kids: the kind who chow down on lamb stew – and we went there every day like the true tragics that we are. A lady remarked on our last day that we looked like teahouse professionals, as we negotiated a table full of tea, sweets, doogh, stew and pipe with seemingly natural dexterity – little did she know she had paid us the highest compliment we could have hoped for.
Imam Square is flanked by the sprawling bazaar at one end and the beautiful blue and gold-tiled Imam Mosque at the other, both of which we wandered at length soaking up their sheer scale. The square is probably the only place in Iran where a handful of India-style touts exist, although clearly rank amateurs. A few tips, guys, if you really want to make it big in the business of snagging unsuspecting tourists – don’t tell me in the first 30 seconds that you want to show me your brother’s carpet shop, and when I politely refuse, don’t smile and walk away immediately, telling me to enjoy my time in Iran and pointing me in the direction of the place I’m looking for. Sheesh.



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One Response to “of picnics and pipes”

  1. Marshie Says:

    Hi Guys! Iran sounds great! Any culture that takes picnicking so seriously has got to be good in my books. And I’m glad to hear you nailed teahouse lounging to the point of being complimented.
    Lots of love. xxx

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