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Welcome to my blog! True to my name, Shiva the Spy, I will be your eyes and ears in Iran, bringing you detailed accounts of everyday life from my perspective. You'll have a window into the social, cultural, political, and historical aspects of the country. I will bring you the stuff that American media can't...or won't. So, check back regularly for stories, photos, commentary, and anything else your curiosity calls for.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Sugar, Spice, & Everything Nice

A couple of nights ago, my friends and I visited a sofre khaneh (the name for a traditional Iranian cafe) on Tajreesh. It was an old mansion that had been converted into a dimly lit, rustic-styled lounge that served as a hangout for a mainly young, hip crowd. The interior gave the impression of a mudbrick dwelling, with pregnant lanterns vividly splashed with teal, cherry, goldenrod and electric blue hanging from arched door frames and ceilings; thick wooden tables and benches lined the walls, while in the corners were takhtes--wide, raised wooden planks draped in Persian rugs and adorned with heavy pillows that provide seating for an entire family. Takhtes make up the customary dining furniture at sofre khanehs and chai khanehs (tea houses).

Before we ordered our ghalyoon (the Iranian name for the hookah), I spotted a sign on the wall that read, "Attention: Women and youth under 18 are strictly forbidden to smoke." Meaning, neither women, nor minors, were allowed to smoke. Apparently, this law was only enacted this summer. I wondered why women would be restricted from smoking the ghalyoon, when outside, in public, they can be seen waving around their stinky cigarettes. My American friend, Leila, took a stab at an explanation and exclaimed, "Haven't you ever gotten high off hookah?" Um, no. But I can see how the possibility of women getting light-headed after a few deep inhalations, and starting to behave flirtatiously and out-of-control, could be a reason to ban them from smoking, altogether. No, just kidding. I still don't know why women, grouped with kids under 18, cannot smoke hookah.

Of course, young men and women were all smoking ghalyoon in the cafe, in spite of the notice, chatting and laughing, watching movies on their phones, and whispering sweet nothings to their dates. In other words, patrons did what they wanted, paying no attention to the signs. It became obvious that this notice was posted as a mere formality, a rule not meant to be enforced.

So, Leila and I, the only girls at our table, went ahead and smoked up a coconut-flavored storm. It was fun.


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