You Say I Ran, I say E Ron – (A Pictorial Peek)

Banafsheh, who I like to call B, is a dear family friend, trilingual attorney, witty wordsmith, and (gratefully for me) avid shutter bug. All of the pictures in this post (unless specified otherwise) are hers that she shared with me. (Mer30 Banafsheh joon!) This first pic is of B peering into the viewfinder of a diorama — a 19th century mobile-theatre device invented in France — imported to and popularized in Iran by Mozafar od-din Shah, the then king of Iran, who came across its prototype in Paris.

This intriguing contraption of moving images — the cutting-edge technology of its time, offering the masses peeps at never-before-seen images of exotic people and lands — came to be branded as shahr ‘e farang, which literally means “City of Europe” but is more aptly (thanks to @arefadib) translated as “The Unseen World.” Anecdotal evidence has it that its entrepreneurial operators (who were called amoo shahreh farang) would set up shop on street corners and attract customers by sing-songing: “shahr, shareh farangeh; hameh chish khosh ab va rangeh …” which means: “the city is a European city, and everything there is colorful and beautiful …” People lined up.

Here’s what that early-adopter techie king looked like – photo via Wiki:

Now, this particular shahr ‘eh farang device that B can be seen charmingly peering into in the picture (above) is housed in a shiny, relatively new (circa 2007, I believe) public space in Tehran called Borj ‘eh Milad or Milad Tower.

Here are some pix of it:

Milad Tower seems to be a rather impressive space –jayeh abroomandaneh as B calls it- thoughtfully and tastefully laid out. Apparently, it is a multi-purpose compound — an international convention & trade center with a hotel, restaurant, IT park, etc. — meant for both sightseeing and commerce.

And judging by the pictures, it looks like it’s situated high enough to offer a sweeping vista of Tehran. A vista guarded under the watchful gaze of the statue of Ferdosi, beloved iconic poet, “the Homer of Iran,” the savior of the Persian language:

This place didn’t exist when I lived in Iran. Here I am, with the aid of a modern-day shahr ‘e farang, raptly peering at images of a distant homeland – at sights entirely new to me.

Looking at these pictures, I feel … I feel like Rip Van Winkle. And can I tell you something? … I’m homesick. HOMESICK. Is it alright for me to say that?

[If I was originally from almost any other country, I would not worry about being judged for this sentiment, and I would not ponder -as I have, at some length- about whether it is OK to express -expressly!- that I miss my home country. (I do. Deeply, profoundly.) But “Iran” is such a loaded word – with so many connotations, stereotypes, prejudices and mistrust. Some fair. Some unfair or uninformed. I almost always feel perched on or walking a tightrope up high, when talking about or hearing about Iran. This is not a carefree identity, but it is one that I care for fiercely. With uncompromising, legitimate pride. No fear or need of anyone’s permission for that. But that’s not the end of the story, because I’m a hyphenated person. The hyphen is the clasp knotting a necklace strung with seemingly incongruous beads – joining Iranian to American. Rumi to Walt Whitman. Not so incongruous, after all. The hyphen is a talisman. But a hyphenated identity is a mercurial one, its strength is its fluidity, fusion, and expansive comprehension; its flaw, the fact that it is learned not innate, and in the eyes of many, on either side of the hyphen, suspect. Maybe that’s why I’m a fan of Phillip Dick’s Blade Runner. I relate to the plight of the androids. But then again, I remember that there’s this globe, somehow balanced in the sky, in space, graced by the infinite mystery and majesty of the universe, and we’re all on it, and we’re all … just the same.]

On a less wordy more fun note, let’s end the tour of the tower with a tower of ice cream. I mean … WHOA!

Until next, off I go to dream of electric sheep.

ps. With all the talk of shahr’e farang, I’ll have to link to the fabulous Shahre Farang website. Go take a peek!

You might also like

Comments (44)

  • […] are WORDS to go with these images. […]

  • apuginthekitchen 8 years ago Reply

    Great post, I love the antique contraption, so cool looking. The photo’s are beautiful and I do love your painting. The public space is breathtaking as is the vista. What a beautiful country and I can understand how much you miss it. You are such a wonderful writer, I hang onto every word.

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    I wish there was an emoticon to express how much your comment means to me. (= a *huge* amount) thank you!

  • B. Farajollahi 8 years ago Reply

    Eh!  In manam ke!!!!  My pictures look better on your weblog! lol Next year we are going together.   Ghorbanet Banafsheh

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    a’reh, Banafsheh, khodeti! it’s you! 😉 I love that pic and thanks for the others. Next year we’ll go together – it’s a deal!

  • Wendy Farajollahi 8 years ago Reply

    Love your blog! Especially the photo of my beautiful cousin Banafsheh! I’m glad you are featuring her photos. Never been to Eye Ran (Oklahoma pronunciation) and am always glad to find new items about it on line. Keep them coming!

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Hi Wendy, thank you and it is so nice to (e)meet you! I thought maybe people would be curious to know about Iran via real life pictures and am glad to have it confirmed, and have your beautiful cousin B to thank for it. I’ll keep them coming and hope you’ll keep coming back.

  • Lizzy (Good Things) 8 years ago Reply

    A beautiful post and well understood. That ice cream is awesome!

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Thank you Lizzy, that makes me very happy. 🙂 (That almost seems like a practical joke!)

  • yvonne rafi 8 years ago Reply

    I LOVE your title. Chucklemaker. It’s so important to have these types of posts. Iran is so beautiful. The culture is so rich. The people are so accepting and generous. i wasn’t born there. I wasn’t raised there. But, I fell in love there. I fell in love with my new home. Erase whatever negative images with which you’ve been bombarded. Oh, please, please, if you haven’t gone…GO. If you’re going…take ME.
    Thank you, Azita Joon and Banafsheh Khanum.

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Let’s Go! 🙂

  • oiyoufood 8 years ago Reply

    Oooh nice one ! I have to come back to this when have time to read.

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Do, Nargess joon, the pix are fun and the main story anyway

    oiyoufood 8 years ago

    Nah! Your writing is exceptional Azita. Just read this before my bed time read. Loved it! So beautifully written.
    I make sure to visit this ” jay aberoomandaneh”. haha!
    (p.s. loving your Mozafaradin shah painting! )

  • The Healthy Epicurean 8 years ago Reply

    What a stunning looking place

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Agreed! 🙂

  • tinywhitecottage 8 years ago Reply

    So wonderfully well written. We are “all just the same”! Spoken truth. I especially like your King drawing! I think the mustache is perfect! 🙂

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Thank you! ( So touched.) Ah the mustache … the mustache truly slayes me! Funny thing is that type of (statement) facial hair is now all the rage with Brooklyn hipsters!

  • ladyredspecs 8 years ago Reply

    Your heartfelt sentiment of a hyphenated identity is beautifully touching.

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Thank you Sandra – that means a lot. I mean it.

  • johnnysenough hepburn 8 years ago Reply

    – Although I can’t empathise with your ‘homesickness’, especially as I couldn’t wait to escape where I grew up, I do appreciate the memories, or founding blocks of it all. If all I’ve learned from that time is simply that we are merely dwarfed by the beauty and magnitude of nature then I’m okay with that – for now.
    – Love that you ended with the ginormous ice cream!

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    It’d have been entirely too maudlin and “smallest-violin-in-the-world” type of thing if not for the ginormous clownish ice cream! (Intrigued by your comment, wants me to ask you a bunch of questions but you are not one of those open-book let-it-all-hang-out bloggers so I’ll continue to dwell in mystery unless you want to share…)

  • mycookinglifebypatty 8 years ago Reply

    I’m lovin’ the hearts wall paper or background—whatever it is!

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Thank you for noticing Patty!!! It’s wall paper/background/whatever. I’m in a heartfelt/heartfull phase apparently, ha ha

  • Fae's Twist & Tango 8 years ago Reply

    – Interesting metaphor, a heartfelt post. Home is home. I miss Iran too.
    – New look for your blog! Lots and lots of hearts. Here is another one ♡ Fae.

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Home is home. Sigh, That’s right. Beautifully put. It must be tougher for you because you have Japan to miss as well. Love the heart you sent me Fae! Love! 🙂 & yup, new look. Hope you like.

  • chef mimi 8 years ago Reply

    A beautiful post. I wish the right people could read it.

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Thank you, Mimi, really appreciate the support. Nodding head – hope so too. Little by little? I’m inspired by Ai Wei Wei … not that I in anyway deign to dare to compare self to him- but I like his model of inspiring change. Viva technology! :0

  • Maria Dernikos 8 years ago Reply

    What an fascinating post. I read your heartfelt words and connected with what you wrote but I did love the way you then ended on a funnier note because as I read the line about a tower of…my eye glanced quickly down to the photo and whoa…is the word – I laughed – I have never seen an ice cream tower like that before. It reminded me a little of Mozaffar ad-Din Shah mustache!

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Maria, that is such a cool comparison, I hadn’t made the mental leap, but you’re absolutely right. The ice cream is comically exaggerated, just as that delightful mustache. Now you’re making me laugh!

  • laurasmess 8 years ago Reply

    Azita, I love each and every one of your posts. Thanks for sharing this snapshot of your heart (which correlates with the new wallpaper, which I love!) and your personal memories, knowledge and nostalgia. I definitely can relate as I feel the same about England every day.. I haven’t been back for a few years and it’s killing me, even though I love my new homeland of Australia. I love (LOVE!) your portrait of the Qajar king. The moustache is even better in your portrait… the stark white accentuates it’s majesty beautifully!! The ice cream tower is amazing also. I hope that you ate all of it. It deserves nothing less! Lots of love to you xx

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Belated but deeply felt reply: thank you dear Laura! 🙂 Hope we both get to visit our homelands sometime soon. xo

    laurasmess 8 years ago

    Agreed lovely xx

  • leduesorelle 8 years ago Reply

    How can one not be homesick for a place where “everything is colorful and beautiful”? xxoo

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Shahr shareh farangeh … ! 😉

  • […] the facial-hair-side, which may just become a de-facto theme of this blog (to wit: see that other fabulously-mustachioed king) Shah Abbas shaved off his beard at the age of 19, keeping only his mustache, thus setting a […]

  • Being born and raised in the Middle East, a Palestinian living in Amman. I understand the dilemma you face when you try to express nostalgia to Iran. Some people limit a country or a culture or even a whole religion to a headline they read in the paper or hear in the news. Trying to explain that it is so much more is not an easy task

  • Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    You put it so well and totally get it. Yes. Yes. Yes.

  • radhika25 8 years ago Reply

    What a beautiful post, straight from the heart! The others have said it so much better than I. But I can feel your yearning…your angst!

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply


  • Russel Ray Photos 8 years ago Reply

    Thanks for letting me camp out in your blog for a little while today. I had a great time and tried to leave my campsite as good as when I arrived. I’ll be back!

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    You are a model camper Russel! You have a free pass for life and a camping site – with the most choice tree shade- reserved exclusively for you!

  • […] tribes) do not live in the desert proper, and yours truly, moi that is, I was tenderly reared in Tehran, the capital of Iran, which is situated at the foot of the snow-capped peeks of mount Damavand.  There were 4 distinct […]

  • […] a salad; use it with the herbs-mixture of the kookoo sabzi; add it to an āsh as my dear friend Banafsheh likes to do; or use it to make vegetable stock.  A cautionary note:  consuming beetroot leaves is […]

Leave a Reply

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

I agree to these terms.