Shopping, like OMG!

Panjshanbeh, the 5th of Khordad, 1390/Wednesday, May 26th, 2011

So today we went shopping for mantos! In case you don’t know what they are, mantos are basically long shirts with 3/4 sleeves. Islamic dress code in Iran dictates that women should dress modestly. Although I have been borrowing mantos I found in the closet at the apartment (Thank you Sara and Alla), I felt bad borrowing their clothes, especially since they’ll need them once they come back. Sadra and I headed out to get a taxi and arrived at Milad-e-Noor a large shopping center in Tehran. What an adventure we had! This mall had six levels of maze like shops, which at first attempt difficult to navigate. After awhile all the stores look the same and you forget which ones you visited. Also there is no convenient store directory to tell you where shops are. I looked at one store from the outside that looked promising on the second floor, but continued upwards. On the way down I forgot what floor it was on, let alone what floor I was on. That is why a directory would be a great addition. And if you think going to the information desk and asking for help is a good idea, you’re in for a rude awakening. However if you don’t mind aimlessly shopping, walking up and down angled hallways not caring to know where you are in relation to anything. This is your kind of place.

Now I bet you wouldn’t have guessed, but Tehran is home to Abercrombie and Fitch. Who knew a store known for racy models wearing nothing in ads make some of the coolest, hippest, mantos in town?? Of course I’m kidding about A&F actually making mantos. Something I love about Iran so far is the blatant copyright infringements going on around town. Just because America is the Great Satan, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be walking around in a great pair of Levi’s. Iran still has Pepsi and Coca-Cola, even though I’m 99% positive their executives were run out of town with the rest of foreign companies after the ’79 Revolution.

From Blog photos

The problem with manto shopping I found is that Iran has two sizes. Teeny Tiny and Itsy Bitsy. After a few attempts at trying smalls and seeing they were too small, I headed into stores looking for mediums. Now practically every shop at the mall, which is the size of a large closet, works one to two young men with flat ironed hair, tight shirt and even tighter pants. Trying to help me they would kindly tell me that medium was too big for me, take the shirt from my hands and replace it with a small. *sigh* So trying to be nice I would try the shirt I knew wouldn’t fit me and say “Look it doesn’t fit” to Sadra. I could barely button up the top, and if I could, I wasn’t able to move my arms at all. Still the salesman would say “small is the best fit for you.” *greater sigh* So I resigned to the fact that I was too much of a giant for size small. However, I have noticed that when a manto is too large you look pregnant. At least that’s what I think I look like when I wear a larger manto. I managed to find a blue manto that was acceptable looking and bought a new scarf. OMG. The last store we visited I found yet another manto, which I thought was stylish but not suffocating the life out of me slowly like a corset. I asked Sadra to buy it and I notice him haggling with the salesman. Seeing Sadra and the salesman arguing with one another over the price of the manto I was annoyed. I couldn’t believe they were asking for more money than what the manto was worth. I wasn’t going to stand for it. “Forget it,” I said, “let’s go!” I only found out once we left the store that it was the other way around. Sadra was trying to haggle the price of the manto down and the guy was explaining that they don’t do that sort of thing in the store. Needless to say I was too embarrassed to re-enter the store and ask to buy it again. Sadra you owe me a pink manto.

But of course what trip to the mall isn’t complete without lunch at the food court?! Now all I’ve heard from every Iranian outside Iran is “Iranian fast food is like the best ever. EVER!” I’m here to disprove this theory with two words “Good Father.” Good Father or Pedare Khoob is a pizza/pasta/sandwich/burger joint that models itself after the movie “The Godfather.” You’ll find classic photos from the movie as well as the phrase “An offer you can’t refuse” printed on their receipt. (To which I reply, “Yeah. Yeah, I think I can.”) Strike one against this restaurant, modeling itself after a classic movie, but then translating the title of this infamous movie incorrectly. (Godfather = Good father?) Strike two. Not having fries to go with a burger. What kind of blasphemy is this? Instead the restaurant offers pieces of roasted potatoes in a cream sauce with mushrooms, pieces of corn, baked in mozzarella and drizzled with mayonnaise. I was not a fan. Strike three. Serving a hamburger on some kind of focaccia bread that falls apart as you eat it. So I challenge Iranians reading this blog to recommend names of fast food joints in Iran to impress me as Pedare Khoob is not doing the job. However, the restaurant does get points for offering fast delivery, even if that delivery includes running over potential customers in front of their restaurant with a motorcycle. I feel a delivery slogan coming on… If we don’t try to run over three people on the way to your house, it’s free. Very entertaining!

From Blog photos

Sadly I have also found great entertainment in people watching in Iran. Don’t get me wrong. Iran is full of beautiful women. I think their strong cheek bones, large eyes, dark thick hair, enhance their looks tremendously and add invaluable wealth to their gene pool. Yet for some reason, some women think they become more attractive if they pluck their eyebrows into oblivion, replacing them with tattooed eyebrows that go 3/4 up their forehead and angled in such a way that with the added effect of their metallic eye make up, it looks like antennas found on various insects. A different trend in women’s fashion has me puzzled as to how it’s accomplished. A woman first places her hair in some kind of ponytail/bun on top of her head. Somehow with a little hair magic, this woman adds 10-12 inches on the top their head. The look is touched off with a scarf laid over it, preferably in some kind of animal print. The achieved look resembles a woman with a head in the shape of a cone. A cone head. Also, since when did women changing their voices to sound like small girls become more attractive? Alas I hadn’t noticed until Sadra’s mom pointed it out and now I notice it all the time. Every time I hear a cone-headed girl say “Salaam, chetori?” as if they took a shot of helium I find myself laughing. Let’s not forget some Iranian men who think it’s flattering to their round figures to wear tight shirts, as if to suggest the belly they have underneath their shirt is not the result of eating large sums of kabob, but hours at the gym. Beneath that doughy physique lies washboard abs. You just need to squint your eyes a little. Now I know I’m talking about looks, but people watching pertains to many different aspects. Those were just things I noticed today at the mall, which is of course the place you hone in your sense of style. **Disclaimer** I do not think this way of all Iranian men and women. As a good majority, Iranians style themselves very nicely and appropriately. 😉

After the mall, we ended up having a small party at the apartment for Sadra’s birthday. Two of his cousins, Vahid and Saeed, along with Saeed’s son Koroosh were in attendance (Side note Vahid and Saed have a brother name Farid. The fact that their names all rhyme I think is quite adorable and well just plain Iranian). Also in attendance was of course Sadra, myself, his mother, Reza (Sadra’s sister’s fiancé) and his two older brothers. Like any Persian gathering, there was too much food to be shared among the group of people, so we easily have leftovers until next week. Jokingly Reza asked us to do lunch with him tomorrow before he leaves for Zahedan on a weekend business trip, to which Sadra’s mom looked on with daggers in her eyes. Instead he’ll be coming over to eat some more food tomorrow for lunch. It was great meeting Sadra’s cousins and I can’t wait to meet the rest of them. Which reminds me, I have spoken to some of them over the phone, which has amounted to them speaking lots of Farsi, and me awkwardly staying silent between pauses in their questions as I can’t speak Farsi. And let me be frank, awkward phone silences are the worst to break. Truly.Truly.

Well that’s it for today. Khodafez!

6 thoughts on “Shopping, like OMG!

  1. What’s the style of dress in the home? Is that where you can finally lounge around in your Star Wars jammies, a tank top, and an uncovered bun? Or is modesty kind of an in-home thing too? Sadra should go back and pick up that lovely manto. =)

    1. Style of dress as home is anything goes. Iranian homes are very private and like any home a sanctuary. Although you might see a woman in chador outside, inside in the privacy of her home she could be wearing a mini skirt with high heels.( Of course if she had guests over that would be a different story.) You’ll see in clothing stores clothes that can’t be worn outside in public, however women buy them to wear at parties or private events or even at home.

  2. Laura,
    I am enjoying reading about your experiences. Your writing is very funny at times and poignant as well. As I read your blog, I can’t help but think this should get published. Your writing allows anyone reading your blog to feel like they are there with you. Travel Writer par Excellence. All I can say is more, more, more. . . . I read about you every morning at breakfast. Love, Mom

  3. Laura,

    I read Nate the description of the fast food experience. He just about vomited hearing about the roasted potato side you were given – mayonnaise is NOT his favorite. Sounds like you are having a really interesting experience. I second your mom by saying you should consider publishing your writing. It’s really well-written and always leaves the reader wanting more – which is a difficult task to accomplish! Look into it! Seriously. Can’t wait for the next entry!

    Love you!

  4. Bahahahahah love it!!!! My biggest pet peeve her is the tattoed eyebrows, fake noses, and fake cheeks– not to mention the GOBS of fake designer things the girls here think are sooo fashionable!! Btw–Coca Cola bought out Zam zam, the prominent Iranian soft drink company, about four years ago. Since then everything here is in fact made by a subsidary plants of coke and pepsi as Pepsi also started up a factory here to compete. In the end Coke seems to have won though as Coke, Dasani, and Fanta are everywhere! Tehe I’m expecting to see your cone head soon!

  5. LOL for a second i actually thought A&F were making mantos :S
    in new in tehran & this is really gonna help me on shopping so thanks a ton!
    do remember what floor A&F was on by any chance? 😀

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