– We Iranians, we live a simple and modest life. – Ali said turning left to the luxury apartment district. I’m sorry, did I say “apartment”? I meant pension houses ready to accommodate four generations of a large family.

A half of living room no. 6 in one of the many Shah's palaces. Living rooms in private homes look exactly the same.

A half of living room no. 6 in one of the many Shah’s palaces. Living rooms in private homes look exactly the same.

– We can’t afford as much as Europeans. – Ali was carrying on while the porter opened the door to a staircase to which I would gladly move in. The elevator took us seven floors up and Ali invited us to his flat with square footage of somewhat around 400m2. The only thing that one could consider modest in it was the lack of table and beds, but this is the general furnishing tendency in Iranian houses. People live their lives on carpets. Therefore, Ali sat down on his hand-woven carpet high as a decent kerb, rolled up his sleeves, revealing his custom-made Constantin watch and concluded:

– I wish I had the money to travel like you guys…

My first thought: sell your watch. My second thought: no, you don’t. My third thought: Iranians could well compete with Poles in complaining!

The government shoots themselves in the foot by making it hard for Iranians to leave the country. If every citizen had an obligatory 6-month survival in Europe, generally considered a fairytale land where people dive from a cotton candy cloud into the Piña Colada river, a vast majority would come back with their tails between legs, seeing that nobody gives money away for nothing and a small owned studio is the dream of many a German and French. Kind of like a canary that dreams of getting out of the golden cage with bird bath only until the first pigeon steals its long-sought bread crumb.

My jaw kept dropping lower and lower as I listened to how many people aren’t even aware of those in need in their own country. I would ask:

– What does real poverty look like in Iran?

They would answer:

– Well, you know, you can’t afford to get new clothes every month, you can’t send your kid off to college abroad and if you really have no money, then you must rent a flat, because you can’t even afford your own one!

This obviously does not mean that there is no poverty, it only shows how far away from reality many middle class people are (that’s right, middle class!).

Iran is a rich country. The natural resources hidden under all those piles of sand can keep the nation going for another hundreds of years. The government may give petrol away for 20 cents per litre and gas, water and electricity for around 25$ monthly per household. Starting a business is simple and cheap, one may easily set all ideas into motion, hence the ubiquitous multi-tasking: a philosopher owns a tile factory and a language school manager exports dates to Europe. At least half of the women don’t work because they don’t have to, and since they don’t have to then why bother. Citizens don’t pay taxes.

The only question is: is it better to be a canary or a pigeon?

The Golestan Palace - one of the places where the Shah used to live before the revolution.

The Golestan Palace – one of the places where the Shah used to live before the revolution.

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All of the former Shah's palaces currently serve as museums

All of the former Shah’s palaces currently serve as museums

The shining.

The shining.

One of the kids' rooms in Niavaran palace.

One of the kids’ rooms in Niavaran palace.

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Tabiat bridge - the pride of Tehranians and winner of a bridge Oscar

Tabiat bridge – the pride of Tehranians and winner of a bridge Oscar

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Iran loves America.

Iran loves America.

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Poster exhibition on the premises of the former US embassy

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