If you have never been to Iran, don’t judge it by the political see-saw you grasp from the news. Yes, at this point in history, Iran is governed by a clan of spooky moralists with – as it appears to me from what I saw – a rather corrupt bureaucracy below them that is hypocritical beyond belief. But what they do not manage to stifle is a modern, 21st-century, open-minded, unprejudiced, hospitable, warm and cultured population that loves the world and its people. And Iranians have these trusting button eyes. All of them.
Young locals enjoy talking about house parties, secret dating places and second citizenships; the older generation recall their happy student times back in the US. What I have heard and seen there was completely contrary to popular perception. Persians are high energy people, certainly no terrorists, and many speak fabulous English; most of them have relatives in Canada, the US, the EU and Australia, which keeps them connected to the world, even though their passports permit only very limited visa-free travel.
The two amusement parks in Tehran are drainingly dull, though: Velayat Park is a new, charm-free indoor park for infants, and Eram Park - remarkably run-down, given that it’s a permanent establishment - hosts two fun fairs at its opposite ends (there is a zoo in the middle) featuring all kinds of rusty amusement rides. Expect carousels, bumper cars, ferris wheels, ghost trains and soft drinks.
Notable is the old and frail yellow looping roller coaster in Eram Park No1. I must admit, I was scared. The loop is the tightest I have ever seen and the soda can-shaped ride vehicle's headrests are too low to keep your head stable. One can hear the riders’ joyful screams rise when the coaster plunges into the loop and vanish within a second once they enter the murderous brain-turner itself. With every new rider, over and over, the same screams and the same silence in the loop. I had to try it. And it really hurts. It took me a while to completely get rid of the persistent neck-tension following this experience. This thing is evil.
Yet, when you turn around, and you see all these smiling, button eyed Iranians in these corroded rides around you, smiling at each other, smiling at you, you can bear that little neck crack. This coaster must feel like living in Iran today. It doesn’t kill you, but it is genuinely uncomfortable and, in the long term, not really healthy.
Time is running
Tehran in September 2011
A mysterious city, completely different to other capitals in the Middle East
Taleghani Road in central Tehran
Embassy of the United States of America, Iran. Closed by force in 1979.
And this is what graces its walls today
The Statue of Liberty corpse
On the same day, on another wall, 10 miles west
Donald is out with the Seven Dwarfs
Wall painting at the entrance of Eram Park
Eram Park is Iran's biggest amusement park
Mickey is here, as well
Locals on the way to the park
Young Ray Liotta? No, an Iranian guy with a soft spot for being photographed.
Iranian teenage girls
Lake in the center of Eram Park
Luna Park 'Eram' in Tehran
Para Tower ride
The evolution of D: 3-D cinema
Ride operator taking a break
Hunted by Iranians
Look at this determination!
And here it is: probably the world's worst roller coaster!
Extremely tight loop
Soda can-shaped coaster cars
Plummeting into the loop
This is the point where riders stop screaming, because...
Let's take a look from a different angle
Pain in the back seat
Another rusty roller coaster
Eram Park atmosphere
Ghost train full of spirits
Ghost train cars. This is the low-quality ride you would expect.
This picture proves that (look closely):
America is everywhere
Famous US computer game Monkey Island seems to be popular in Iran
Iranians are really friendly to foreigners!
Eram Park Tehran
This was supposed to become a water park
Construction came to a halt, though. Moral issues?
Eram Park was open only in the evenings (at least in September 2011)
Evenings in Eram Park
Velayat park in southern Tehran
Here you can take the bumper car
You can enjoy the toy train
Or play the 'Complete Destruction Machine Gun Game', made in Japan
Tehran view from the mountains in the north of the city
Up in the mountains: 5-D cinema in an unanticipated location
Made in Italy
Iranians getting ready for their multi-D experience
Here you'll also find the Iran Segway Club
The Segway is an American invention
If any accidents occur, just call the US costumer service number!
They will help you (in fact, they probably would)
Iran's ugly face. But that's just one of the two faces of Iran...
...the pretty one you will experience when you go there!