11/27/2008

A Night Out in Tehran

Back in Tehran, I checked into the Esteghlal Hotel and collapsed on the bed, exhausted. I've spent the past few days and nights trying to suck the life out of short stopover in Iran--even if it's meant near insomnia. Today I took a needed break, saving some energy for the night.

For dinner, the group reunited for a final banquet at yet another extravagant restaurant, with live Iranian music beating in the background. The servers walked out balancing giant trays stacked with our familiar main course: kebab. Having eaten nothing but kebab since landing almost a week ago, I can say with authority that these particular chicken and lamb slices were top-notch. I'm was grateful at not having to look at the bill.

Mid-meal, another Iranian TV crew pulled me aside for a repeat of the interview I'd had in Esfahan. They spoke with several of us, and then we enjoyed our final minutes together before returning to all corners of the earth; at my particular table sat a Malay, a Singaporean, an Iranian, a Turk, and a Dane. The conference was officially over, certificates awarded, souvenirs packed, and most left fat and happy, wallets bulging with business cards. I said some goodbyes before meeting up with an old Iranian friend for a night out on the town.

Since there are absolutely no pubs or nightclubs to speak of in Tehran, a night out is actually a night in. But it is a fact that many Iranians do like to party, and no laws are going to stop them. For the the less wealthy/unconnected, alcohol is as unattainable as it is illegal, but even these go out on the town: youth go out in droves on Thursday nights, most hanging out on the streets sipping tea and coffee. As my Iranian friend happens to be quite well-connected, however, our party took place behind the closed doors of a private apartment on the ritzy slopes of northern Tehran. Picture Syriana's opening scene. A table was stacked with alcohol, smuggled from Armenia, while well-dressed boys and girls trickled in, the girls mostly undressing just past the door. Following routine procedure, the police showed up mid-way through the night. The music was quickly shut off, people spoke in worried whispers, half the guests put on their jackets and half the girls rushed to put their scarves back on while all milled about the door, waiting. I wondered With a single word the music was blasting once again, coats were re-hung, hijabs thrown off; the cops had been sent away with loaded pockets and the party would continue, late into the night.

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