Monday Jan 28, 2008

Dizin in December

Dizin, Tehran, Iran (December 2007)

Dizin had enough snow for skiing in this late December day.

In the middle of the week, the slopes see only a few Russian and British ski tourists and some folks from Tehran and other nearby cities.

So much snow and so few people to share it with!

Monday Jan 14, 2008

Getting off LH601

This was LH 601, Jan. 6, scheduled to depart at around 3 am Tehran time from the IKIA airport. We got on board and the snow started and it did not let go. Visibility was quite poor and roads to the airport were later closed.

We got off the plane at around 10 am and taken to a "transit" area for another 10 hours or so, and later to a hotel. (It stopped snowing at around 7 pm on that day.)


I've written about the problem earlier.

Press TV reports the dismissal of the IKIA airport managing director.

Wednesday Jan 09, 2008

3 days late

My family and I were supposed to be back at work and school this Monday but it was not meant to be.

Like the German soccer team, Hansa Rostock, we also got stuck in the heavily snowed out Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKIA) in Tehran. (Hansa Rostock had a friendly with Iran's B national team last Saturday. Besides the really bad whether, one may blame the delay on the lack of adequate winter equipment and staffing at the new airport which just opened a few months ago.)

When we disembarked Saturday night, GMT, it should have taken us 20 hours, including layover and taxi rides to and from airports, to get from my parents' home in Tehran to our home in the South San Francisco Bay Area. Instead, heavy snows in Tehran and its international airport undid all our planning, and the same trip took 100 hours to complete, including two nights of stay at hotels in Tehran and Frankfurt due to cancellations, delays and missed flights. These 100 hours include, among other delays, taxi rides, check-in and re-booking waits, etc., 7.5 hours of sitting in a plane stuck in a snow blizzard, 10 hours spent reconsidering options while waiting for word on the weather in the transit zone of IKIA, a night at a Tehran hotel, 10 hours of waiting for news form the airport, 10 hours of waiting at the airline check-in at Tehran to ensure that we could restore our place on a new flight, now as "stand-by" passengers, another 7 hours of sitting in the plane while the path out of the gate was blocked by planes abandoned in snow, and a night spent in Frankfurt due to a missed connection. All this and more after our early morning Jan. 6 flight was canceled due to heavy snow. (I guess this was my birthday present.)

My wife and I missed three important work days, which we now have to "account" as vacation, and the kids were automatically dropped from the school rolls but we hope to be able to overcome these problems.  

The only positive thing I can say about this experience is that we made and met a lot of good friends on the way -- others who were going through the same or very similar ordeals, connecting through to other locations in Europe, Canada and the U.S. 

I will post photographs and videos later. 

Tuesday Dec 18, 2007

The Lions' "Eyes"

The classic Pol-e Khajoo ("The Bridge of Khajoo") in Isfhan, Iran, is not simply a 350-year-old bridge built by the Safavid kings.

It is an architectural marvel with many mysteries. It acts as a dam and a two-level walkway. Its stone steps and arches function as halls for classical Persian singing, in individual form at random times and in group gatherings every Wedensday evening. (Unfortunately, this Wednesday evening, we will be on the road to Yazd and will miss the singing, which I've only actually observed in the summers.)

Last night, as we strolled from along Zayandeh Rood ("Zayanda 'Birth Giving' River") river, we looked for Pol-e Khajoo's "candles." These "candles" are silhouette which form when multiple edges of Khajoo's archs and caverns are viewed from the right angle as one walks on the banks of Zayandeh Rood towards the bridge, with a "candle" forming and disappearing in each cavernous arch as one walks closer and closer to the bridge. As one finally arrives a the bridge, the closest arch produces the last "candle." (Puzzle: Wind, Water, Earth and Fire are finally put together.)

Walking through the stone caverns and the downstream steps, down to the Zayandeh Rood reminded me of a few years ago, a Wednesday evening, when we stood there listening to a boisterous group of Isfahanis sing and listen to classic, Persian "opera."

At the far end of the bridge, my brother, who is visiting from Turkey (I'm visiting from California), pointed to one of the stone lions on the other end. (There are two of these "art deco" stone lions, protecting the bridge, one on each side.) He said he had noticed how the eyes of the lion on the near side was shining with a faint orange color and he had wondered whether he was imagining it because of exhaustion. Now, he had turned to look at the other lion, and it had the same shining "eyes," faint but still shining. I looked, and he was right! (My quick  analysis was that this was some kind of black body radiation from the black stone lions. They each have a small semi-spherical cavity on the sides of their mouth which might be responsible for this glow but there may be other reasons for the glow.) 

From each end of the bridge, the lion on the other end forms a dark shaddow in the distance but the glowing "eyes" have a natural form. The effect—an animal gazing in the dark of the night—brings the stone lions to warm life in the cold, winter nights of Isfahan. 

Thursday Dec 13, 2007

Taking the Tehran Metro

It is getting really late here in Tehran but a friend at work had sent me a request asking me to write a few things about what I'm doing. 

I've been in Tehran now for the last two days, and besides reading the local papers, eating Persian food, and visiting with my parents, my grandmother, my aunts and my uncle, I had a chance to get out a bit. Earlier today (3 am California time), and along with my family and my brother and his family (visiting from Turkey), I took the Tehran Metro from the Beheshti station, near my parents' home to the Sa'di station. Ticket price for all seven of us: less than $2. Objective: to travel to the electronics bazaar near Sa'di square to buy a new home phone system for my parents, to buy a new fax machine for my dad and to pay a short visit to Cafe Naderi, for  cappuccino, ice-cream and cake. (The cappuccino could be better but the Turkish coffee was excellent. Incidentally, Panasonic rules the phone and fax market here, and the choice was rather quick given the abundance of supply.)

The Tehran Metro Art is quite astounding and the continuous improvements in the last few years in passenger management, traffic and ticketing (including RFID installations) are quite nice to see, and of course, what might impress some visitors most would be its cleanliness.


Route: Line2
Station: Azadi
Art Name: Winter
Artist Name: Ali Mehdi Heidari
Dimensions: 4.95\*2.40 (meter)
Art Kind: Tiles


The only problem is that Tehran can use scores of other stations and many more lines (see the current map), and unfortunately, at one point, I did read in The Washington Post that the large Chinese conglomerate which originally supplied some of the electric powered wagons used in the Tehran Metro  was subsequently, and very soon, put on the sanctions list by the U.S. This was about 3 or 4 years ago, I believe. I did read later, somewhere in the Iranian media, that Iran is now making these wagons in the country but I'm sure it will always be much more convenient and timely to use some of the production capacity in China or elsewhere to supply the lines and more capital investment can surely help with building the remaining lines and stations...but Persians, like all traditional and rooted cultures (and that just happens to be a good starting definition for any culture), are a patient people and will always value honor, commerce, justice and generosity more than threats and hand-outs.

Monday Dec 03, 2007

Cool -- Skiing in Iran

Hiking at Valenjak
Tochal, Summer 2003

I just talked to Mr. Shemshaki at the Iran Ski Federation, and it looks like all ski resorts near Tehran have good equipment rental programs. So, there's no need to pack the equipment as we get ready to leave for Iran on vacation starting next week!

Furthermore, it seems that Tochal, a ski resort whose telecabins are accessible by taxi just on the northern edge of Tehran, is already open for the season, and the other resorts are expected to open in the next week or so.

We have been on Tochal, for hikes, many times in the past in the summers.

It'll be great to visit it in winter for skiing.  

Wednesday Jan 10, 2007

Joobs of Tehran

Small water ways (joobs) have criss-crossed Tehran, from the time it was but a small village 250 years ago to the present, when it has become the indigenous metropolis of the Middle East.  Better city planning during the Pahlavi regime, when the city experienced its initial, real growth into a modern metropolis, could have made these canals a more wonderful feature of the urban fabric. These short videos were taken experimentally with a Nikon digital photo camera during the last week of November, 2007. Since Tehran Metro has been built, the air pollution has seen a real reduction, and these water ways add a very nice natural touch to the urban landscape. They flow from the portion of Alborz Mountains range just north of Tehran. (Tochal the highest mountain just north of Tehran carries snow through the summer.) It is accessible directly from Tehran by one of the world's longest telecabins, and many use it for skiing in the winter time.


Friday Nov 24, 2006

Thanksgiving in Tehran

Since I have been traveling to Europe to attend a work-related meeting the week after Thanksgiving, I decided to see if I could take an extra day off to pay a visit to family and friends in Tehran during the Thanksgiving holidays. I was fortunate because the circumstances came together and made this possible. So, the moment I arrived in Frankfurt earlier this week, I went to a ticketing agent and purchased a ticket to Tehran. Only 370 Euros from Frankfurt to Tehran on a flight that takes only 4.5 hours. (I paid about that much in the summer of 2004 for a train trip from Frankfurt to London and back.)

In contrast to its hot summers, Tehran is quite cool in November. I arrived at midnight and took a taxi from the airport to my parents, a very smooth ride on the freeways that connect the different parts of the city. My parents were waiting, and after a short nap, I went out to buy sangak bread freshly made in the neighborhood. There had been snow in higher elevations in the city, and as I walked back to have breakfast with my parents, I could see the magnificent mountains to the north covered in a white blanket.

Unfortunately, I was only there for a few days and had no time for mountaineering, an activity everyone who visits Tehran should accommodate in their travel schedule. Instead, I spent most of my time visiting family and friends, includling my good friend and prominent painter Bobak Etminani, who also took me to a birthday party where I met a group of Berkeley (California) friends after more than a decade. We had lots of lively conversations at the party and afterwards, and I had a good chance to touch base with Bobak about the recent turn in his work.

Please stay tuned. I will try to include some images of Bobakäs recent paintings in a blog entry after I return to the States. I will also post some photos on my flickr album.

I should probably end this short diversion by saying that I don't make it a habit to leave my wife and children behind in the U.S. during Thanksgiving holidays. Really, my absence this year was not that bad. Back in California, my family have had very good visiting campany, including many friends and a grand-mother, and they were invited to a very large, extended-family Thanksgiving dinner at my wife's uncle.




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