Sunday, December 25, 2011

Azadi Cinema

Beside the central Book City, the other very good place near my flat is Azadi Cinema. It's just 20 minutes from my house to there by bus. Unfortunately, I went only one time there and it was for seeing the film Nader and Simin, a Seperation in May. Not because I'm lazy, this time because I've got no friends with free time to come with me to the cinema!

Azadi cinema complex is the biggest, the best, and newest cinema in Tehran and the whole Iran. It was first founded in 1969 by Rohani brothers. They first wanted to call it Broadway, but changed their mind about this Western name and preferred the name remind them of their childhood hobby, so they called it Shahr-e Farang. It means Peep Show in English and before the advent of films and cinemas in Iran was very popular.

Shahr-e Farang or peep show
The first film which was shown in this cinema was Marlic Hills by Ebrahim Golestan. Showing famous films of those times in this complex made it soon a hunt for film-lovers. Those days long queues in front of the cinema was a familiar scene for the people of Tehran passing Abbas Abad street.

Azadi cinema in the past

Later the name was changed to Azadi which means freedom, and it wasn't unusual since the Revolution 1979 names of many places and streets were changed to make the atmosphere more Islamic.

Written in Persian on the cinema wall: Azadi
The complex caught fire three times, once in 1976, and again in 1990 but it survived. It was in Friday 18th April 1997 at 1:50 pm when people watching the Iranian comedy film The Summer Vacation the air conditioners in the right salon caught fire and the fire was spread fast in the salon. People got badly scared and ran away. Glasses broke and thick smoke was everywhere. Though the fire-fighters tried their best, some salons were damaged badly. This made the cinema a to be closed for years.

Azadi Cinema after it was burnt

For 8 years there was a burnt broken building there till it was knocked down and a whole-new building was made in 2008. It has got 8 floors and 5 salons, including one 600-seated salon and four 200-seated salons., 2 restaurants, 3 cafes and 2 business floors. Every month around 120,000 people visit this complex, so it's number 1 highly-visited cinema in Iran.

No Mass for Christmas

My Armenian colleague was privately complaining to me last year no one in the office wished her a merry Christmas. I reminded her I had sent her a text message. She said she knew, but beside me no one else did that and it made her upset.

She is right. Christmas is ignored in Iran. Not because Iranians don't know what Christmas is, they know, but the truth is Christmas has never been widely celebrated over here. The main reason I think is during history Christmas has been a time for Christians to celebrate the time Jesus Christ came to this world, and Iranians have not been Christians. 

I know these days in the modern world Christmas has lost its religious meaning and it's mainly a holiday to relax, have fun and see your family. I also know the 25th of December is a holiday even in many non-Christian countries, and I should remind you the large number of Iranians are non-practising, but I think the main reason Iranians don't celebrate it goes back firstly to the religion, secondly to traditions, historically speaking. 

The minority Christians in Iran are Armenians. They are the descendants of those Armenians who fled Armenia when the Ottomon Empire started the massacre of Armenians and some of them rushed to Iran. They dispersed in many Iranian cities and built churches, the most famous of them the Vank Church. They celebrate Christmas among themselves or by going to their churches.

However, when it's around Christmas you can see many shops put a Christmas tree in their displays, and it's kind of cheerful. Iranian youth like Christmas. I saw some of them talking about it on their blogs and facebook pages. I personally love its hustle and bustle, Santa, presents, cards and all those lovely Christmas decorations. 

Yet it's a bit meaningless to wish an Iranian a merry Christmas, especially those who are in Iran and not abroad. I think Iranians overseas are accustomed to it, as other aspects of living abroad. But I've never seen any Iranian tell the other "Merry Christmas". When I see my International friends sending me Christmas ecards, I smile. It's just like a Jewish friend telling me "Happy Hannukah" or a Muslim friend telling you "Happy Fetr Eid"!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Connotation of Animals in Persian Language

In English language cow is an offensive word for a woman, and monkey is a child who's playful. But they've got different meanings in Persian language. Here is the connotation of animals in our language, and all of them are offensive:

Cow: an ignorant person or someone who eats too much
example: Look at that cow passing the street without looking at the traffic light.
Fox: a sly person
example: She came into the office pretending she doesn't know anything. What a fox 
Donkey: an idiot
example: Hey donkey, it's in that cupboard not this one.
Monkey: a very ugly person
example: Have you seen his wife? She's ugly as a monkey.
Mouse: a coward
example: I shouted at him I don't wanna see him. Hewas quiet like a mouse.
Gorilla: a hairy person
example: If I don't wax my feet I'd soon turn into a gorilla.
Bear: a big person, usually when you want to remind sb they've grown up
example: You're a big bear now and you expect your mum collects you after school?
Buffalo: a very big person
example: His dad is just like a buffalo, about 120 kg.
Finch: a very young person, usually referring to teenagers
example: This finch asked me out. I'd show him who's the boss around here.
Giraffe: a very tall person
example: I'll be a giraffe in those high-heels.
Vulture: a cruel person
example: That vulture didn't listen to the convict and asked for the death sentence.
Hyena: a dishonest, cruel person
example: The robbers jumped on me, beat me and took all my money like hyenas.
Wolf: a clever person in a dishonest way
example: In this society full of wolves how can a simple man like him succeed?
Bat: sometimes referring to criminals
example: The night bats raped and murdered about 13 women in 2 years.

Friday, December 23, 2011

O Love, Your Azure Face Cannot Be Seen

picture taken from: Artpics, photo by: Patryk Morzonek

Nothing much to say. On the days you think life and light have both deserted the world hand in hand, this song would be nice to listen to. This time I don't translate the lyrics for you, I want you just to listen to it and if you listen carefully you'll find some very familiar words in the lyrics. Can you guess what this song is about? Here's a tip: The title of the song is "Love and Death in the Time of Facebook". There's this sentence in the lyrics I specifically like: O love, O love, your azure face cannot be seen...

The Iranian Kiosk Band are just amazing.


Anybody been to the city of Kerman knows what I'm talking about. Kolompeh is a name of a  kind of pastry which is special for Kerman, a city in south of Iran. It's so delicious. Inside, it is filled with mashed dates and usually there are pistachio pieces on it. It can come in other tastes too, like coconut. When I was in Kerman I bought 1.5 kg of this cookie and didn't know how lovely it is. Back at Tehran I regretted why I didn't buy more. I actually see sometimes Kolompeh in pastry shops and 2 times I bought them but they weren't as tasty as Kerman's Kolompehs. If you ever visited this city don't miss such wonderful cookies. They're fabulous for eating with your tea in pleasant evenings.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lions and Vultures in Tehran!

You really hear weird news sometimes. I used to think lions have been extinct in Iran and though I've seen vultures at the zoo I didn't think they can be found on pavements of Tehran! It was reported last week a big vulture was seen in one of Tehran's neighbourhood and people called 125. They took the bird with care and delivered it to Pardisan Park. I used to think vultures as ugly but in the picture the big bird looks young and nice:

Also, last week on Thursday a man was driving in a highway when he saw a big animal walking near the Lavizan Forest Park among the trees. He got very surprised and immediately called 125. Five minutes later the group was there but as it seemed catching the lion cub might be hard 2 other groups were also called. After 50 minutes they managed to catch the cub without hurting it. Two days before another lion cub was caught in this area as well. The head of the operation said "We assume somebody brought these two cubs illegally or bought it from an animal smuggler, and the cubs have run away or maybe when the person saw they cannot keep the cubs they left the two in the forest park".

Little baby! Look how cute it is, even when it wants to show it's scary by showing the teeth and growling:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Persian Language in Japan

When I was a student at Tehran University, I saw many International students from different countries in campus. Some looked like Asians, with straight black hair and slanted eyes, some looked like Westerners, tall with brown hair and green-blue eyes, and a few of them were black which showed they've come from African countries.

I knew they've come over here to learn our language Persian, and it was always interesting to me some people travel to Iran to study Persian and they love learning it. As we have languages like English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Urdu, Japanese, Chinese and even Latin being taught in Tehran University and some other Iranian universities, I know we have Persian language being taught in some universities abroad.

Below is an Interview with an Iranian teacher in Japan and I read 2 weeks ago. It was very interesting so I decided to translate it all on here (all rights reserved!):

Persian Language in Japan
Shahrzad Samarghandi
Radio Zamaneh

Kamyar Abedi is a Persian language teacher at Osaka University, one of the biggest cities in Japan. Mr Abedi is very much interested in expanding Persian Language and Literature and it's been 3 years he's teaching Persian to a group of Japanese students.

In an interview with this University teacher, he talks about his experiences and his contact with the Japanese and how much Persian language and literature is known among Japanese youth.

Kamyar Abedi: Each year about 20 students enter the University to study Persian language and these students finish the courses around 4-5 years or maybe 6 years. On average, each year about 60-70 students in different classes from the first year to the last year are studying Persian.

Q: After finishing the university and studying Persian language, which jobs usually these students do?

KA: After graduation because there are not many jobs in regard to Persian language, most of these students start working in jobs irrelevant to Persian language. A few of them, maybe about 3 or 4 ones might find a job which is connected to Persian.

Q: How's Persian literature in Osaka? For example do your students show interests in Persian literature?

KA: Not many people know enough about Persian literature. However it is known to some extent as well, because some stages of research is related to Iran or Central Asia and the Middle East and it's mixed with regions around Persian literature places. In the last 100 years, means the 20th Century, some parts of Persian literature have been translated into Japanese, whether directly from Persian or from English, German and other languages.

Q: We know the Japanese as tourist and travel-loving people and surely they like to travel to Iran very much and know the different parts and take photos. Tell us about your students, are they interested to have a trip to Iran?

KA: Yes, some of the Japanese students who have enough money come over to Iran every year. Some others travel shortly and some for a longer time for the purpose of improving their Persian language skills travel to Iran. To sum, Persian language students are very eager for Persian language and travelling to Iran. Also about travelling to Afghanistan. Though there's a war over there they go over there too. We have students who travelled to Tajikistan and even to Uzbekistan. These students go there and get enough knowledge of Persian language there.

Q: The Japanese are so much interested in travelling that it became a part of their culture. In your opinion was this habit among them from the past or is it a new behaviour in the Japanese' history?

KA: In my opinion this great interest in travelling has become more in the modern time. In the last 100 years the Japanese' interest for knowing other cultures became much more. Perhaps because they have tried to know the world better. I think in ancient times it was less, but I'm not very sure. At least about Iran it can be told in these 100 years the traveller memoirs the Japanese have written about Iran and the Persian language territory are not comparable to the old times.

Q: Although the Japanese are people who have seen the world and also they are economically developed, but they've kept their old traditions and they don't see them opposing each other. In your opinion what's the reason of that?

KA: I suppose Japan has an uninterrupted history. In the last millennium or maybe the last 1500 years Japan's history is very uninterrupted. Exactly despite other countries like Iran, Tajikistan and Afghanistan and in short the Persian speaking regions and other countries which become interrupted historically speaking. In Japan there's no such interruption. In fact the concept of nationality, the cultural concept of this country was very uninterrupted and maybe because of this they have strong ties with their traditions or some part of their traditions and these traditional behaviours haven't been vanished with today's world and still exists. While in many other countries they've been gone.

Q: The Japanese have much difficulty in learning Indo-European languages. Does your experience also show this? How's your students deal with the Persian language?

KA: In the first year it is very difficult. Especially in the first term you should work on phonetics very hard. Because some vowels and consonants don't exist in Japanese language and you should try much so the students learn them. Some are more interested and they learn fast, some learn slower and some learn really hard or they can never learn very well. Anyway they're far from Persian vowels and consonants but naturally those are more language-talented learn them well. The first year of teaching Persian to the Japanese is not easy at all, it is difficult but with the perseverance they Japanese have they learn most of it.

Q: When I was passing courses in Samarghand University, we had a Japanese teacher who had come over there voluntarily with his personal finance and taught Japanese to a group of students, but unlike our other Middle Eastern or American teachers didn't stay after classes to spend time with their students and know them better and have better relationship with them. I didn't see many Japanese in my life to have better judgement. How your experiences have been? Can you make friends with them quickly and fast?

KA: Making the acquaintance of the Japanese is not hard but making friends with them is. You are right, but I think despite we Middle Easterners, whether Iranian, Arab or from other countries, make friends slowly. We make friends quickly and might cut out ties quickly. But the Japanese get close to each other very tactfully, they think about making friends very much and after time these ties get stronger. Maybe they think longer than us. We think shortly. I'm not sure about this. Maybe I'm judging soon as well and making an emotional judgement. The Japanese think a bit farther.

The most important trait in the Japanese is their strange perseverance and that they're a united nation. They're modest and at the same time they're very polite and courteous. The don't show much willingness in friendships. In thinking and culturally they might be far away from the Middle East or Central Asia and other Persian language territories. However you feel the new generation show more interest to know the world and have contacts with other people, including Iranians and Persian speakers.

Q: Russian sociologists introduce Japan's society as male-dominant. What do you think?

KA: I think the new generations change these habits. Means you feel women's role in society is much greater than the past and maybe this analysis the Russian sociologists give is mainly related to the older generations. You don't have such feelings towards the young generations.

Translated by: Mercedé

Friday, December 16, 2011

Me, Oscar Wilde, and the Central Book City

I'm one of the laziest people on Earth. Here's the proof: the best and biggest book shop in Iran is just 15 minutes away from my home, and I've been there just twice.

My second time there was last week. It was a sad Friday evening, I was sitting idly at my computer gazing at the flat monitor and feeling the whole world have died outside. I was sure if I stayed in my room for more than an hour I'd die from sadness and being bored. So I texted my sister and told her to get home and take me out with her to the central Book City. I knew going there has got therapeutic effects on me.

And it had. The moment I put my feet in there, I felt good. Seeing books, people, the lights and the soft music made me all well. I immediately went upstairs to find what I had in my mind and to buy it. I saw it some time ago but I felt at that time it wasn't a suitable time to buy it. But on that evening I knew only a book in English with beautiful watercolour painting of roses on its cover can evaporate my unhappiness.

It was a collection of John Keats poems. And I do love it. It's now sitting happily in my bookcase.

Now about the Central Book City:

Book City is a name for a chain of book shops in Iran. The first time I saw one of these shops was back in my teens, around 13 years ago. The book city shops have both books and stationary. The Central Book City was in a street called Zartosht street and it had just one floor and an amphitheatre for weekly meetings and debates. Later on the central Book City was moved to a bigger 3-floor place near our house. Yes!

As I said the place has got 3 floors. The first floor is for Persian books, music records and CDs. There's also a small lovely cafe in the corner with pleasant smell of coffee and tasty cheesecakes. Upstairs is for books in other languages, including English, French, and German. There you can many good books from other countries, like my John Keats book. Downstairs is special for stationary, toys and crafts and postcards. I found a lovely mug there and I'm planning to buy it ASAP.

Anyway, I had a really good time there, leafing through books, checking music CDs and picking up colourful pens and looking at crafts and postcards. As we were standing behind the cashier counter and waiting for our turn, I looked up, and saw a big banner up on the wall with various black and white pictures of writers and poets. Among all those pictures, Oscar Wilde caught my eye, leaning his head to his arm with that nice long coat. I looked and looked and looked at him, and as he was looking at me too, I felt I'm not sad anymore.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Who Knows about Persian Cats? No One.

One of the Iranian films I really enjoyed watching this year was No One Knows about Persian Cats. That's actually a long title for a film and it wouldn't give you any idea what it would be about till you watch it yourself.

For me it is a cheerful film, if you just ignore the ending. Have you ever seen musical films full of fantastic songs? It is like them, though it's not a musical film. It's a film about music.

No One Knows about Persian Cats is the story of a boy called Ashkan and a girl called Shaghayegh, who both sing in Indie Rock genre. Whether they're a couple or not, it's not stated in the film, but you see they spend most of their time together.

The both try to form a band and get out of Iran to give a concert in London. They also need a visa to do so and illegally try to have it with the help of a man called Nader who's also a music lover and has got a crazy life. The tree explores Tehran in search of people who are willing to work with them to gather a band.

The whole film is their story of meeting the underground singers and musicians, and the difficulties these people have in producing their work and giving concerts. In one word, the pains Iranian musicians suffer.

You can hear many different genres of music in this film, which would be so enjoyable. I specifically love the soundtrack 'Drunk with Love' by Rana Farhan. Listen to this beautiful soundtrack on here:

I really, really, really love it!

The bands and singers who appeared in this film are: Take It Easy Hospital, Rana Farhan, Hichkas, The Yellow Dogs Band, Shervin Najafian, Ash Koosha, Mirza, The Free Keys, Mahdyar Aghajani, Darkoob, Hamed Seyyed Javadi, Nik Aein band.

Rana Farhan

The people who played in this film are: Negar Shaghaghi, Ashkan Kooshanejad, and Hamed Behdad. The director is Bahman Ghobadi.

From left to right: Ashkan Kooshanejad, Negar Shaghaghi, Bahman Ghobadi and Hamed Behdad

The awards this film won are:

  • Cannes Film Festival (Special Jury Prize)
  • Miami International Film Festival (Audience Award)
  • Sao Paulo International Film Festival (Best Foreign Language Film)
  • Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (FICC Jury Award, Jury Prize for Cinematography, and NETPAC Jury Award)
  • Tokyo Feilmex (Special Jury Prize)
No One Knows about Persian Cats was released in countries like: the US, the UK, France, Belgium, Australia, the Netherlands and Israel during 2009-2010.

I strongly recommend you to watch this film, especially since it can be found free online with English subtitles. Watch the trailer:

Read also:

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gamishan Pond

Ponds are one of the most serene places on Earth. If you have ever been beside a pond, you know what I mean. A cool breeze caresses your cheeks, birds flying peacefully high in the sky, and the sound of waves makes you feel calm. I have seen 2 ponds in the North of Iran. This pond, called Gamishan Pond is in the north as well. The photos look like a foggy dream, make me sleepy!

Photos by: Aboutaleb Nadari
I took these photos from Mehr News Agency website.

The Age of Boredom

There are just days I feel I cannot move fodward in my life. I just feel like a slug getting stuck in the mud (do slugs ever get caught in t...