"Resistance Station" at Haft-e Tir, Tehran. A sign displeasure towards Israel.

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"This week I wanted to write a comparison between ice-cream adverts in the UK and here in Iran", I jokingly answered to a weekly question asked by a friend. "It'll also be my 50th blog entry!", I added with a small sense of achievement, "I'm not sure I will mention it though, I worry about the day my writing becomes self-referential".

While walking between restaurants, battling with indecision, I explained my fascination for Iranian adverts:

This fascination was confirmed on a Fathers' Day gathering at my uncle's (without my father). At the time we struggled for comfort in a small room during another melodramatic Iranian series, compacted among a hive of hushes, gasps and, "yes he's such a bad man!". A welcomed television break allowed for tea and toddler-attention, caring for neither I sat nursing my weak stomach feeling delusional from the previous day's hospital episode where food poisoning had once again claimed me. During the break my family reconfirmed the plot to one-another, shifting tea cups away from the toddles' path while assessing the likely direction of the story-line. I, on the other hand, entered some alternative state where voices transcended to a blanket-tone, indistinguishable from one another and slightly louder than I might normally tolerate. The TV requested my eye as an ice-cream advert filled the screen. It felt like the fifth time I'd seen it and could well have been the second. Ice-lollies – tossed out of the screen hitting my eye at a computer programmed rate, cones – cream-filled at the pace of the narrator: empty cone arrives, metal arm drops, cone gets it, repeat. A glimpse into the production of your ice-cream, all very modern and clean.

"English adverts for ice-creams are nothing short of porn!", I concluded struggling to recall an exact example

As we arrived at the restaurant I'd managed to summarise the differences: an orgy of machinery and automation – lines of multi-coloured rods firming-up with flavoured ice or the rhythmic spitting of cream to holes of waiting cones. For those that don't live in Iran, one need only replace ice-cream with any other product we can see a nice cross-section of the Iranian advertising style – factories, conveyor belts and machines. "They are showing that they are modern and clean", my father once assured me. "They are showing they are modern and clean", I repeated as I entered the door of the restaurant. "English adverts for ice-creams are nothing short of porn!", I concluded struggling to recall an exact example. There was some vague point about illusions but I didn't get that far.

"Can we have menu?", I eventually asked the Arabic looking feller playing games on the computer. "The menus are being changed, we are serving this food until then", he stated while passing us a photocopied sheet in a plastic sleeve containing mostly Iranian dishes. It then dawned on me, we'd come to a Lebanese restaurant, owned by Lebanese. Topical. An eerie feeling arrived as I considered the timing.

"Can we order drinks?", I eventually asked the Arab looking feller playing games on the computer. I had been to the restaurant before and enjoyed warm service and an interesting variety of foods yet the previous staff were not present. "Where do you think they might be?", asked a friend, "Maybe they've joined Herzbollah", added the other partly in jest. "Maybe they've gone to help and be with their family", I pointed out while looking at the pictures on the wall at what was probably once a beautiful Lebanon.

"Can we have our drinks?", I eventually asked the Arab looking feller playing games on the computer. When they arrived we quizzed him about the ingredients in some items in the menu, "Sorry, I don't know", he repeated with each question. I ordered kebab and hummus. I silently enjoyed the similar Arabic spelling of Hamas to Hummus.

"Can we have the bill?", I eventually asked the Arab looking feller playing games on the computer. We'd skipped desert, even if it was to be clean and modern, things just didn't seem right in this restaurant. We made our exit strategy and left the Arab looking feller playing games on the computer.


  • Is there a healthy population of Lebanese in Iran or are they difficult to find? I've never heard of a Lebanese community there is why I ask.
    Since I've come home I've been telling myself to visit the (lone) Lebanese restaurant here to signify some sort of silent solidarity. Though the family that owns the restaurant wouldn't think twice about it and it'd only satisfy me.
    Congratulations on the 50th entry!

    By Anonymous Tahereh, at 11:17 AM  

  • You could probably mention the Magnum ads from a couple of years ago as porn. I think they were supposed to be based on the 7 Deadly Sins and there was a bit of protest when they were shown. Of course, there is also the infamous 'Flake' ads from the 1980s, but that isn't ice-cream.

    By Blogger Adam, at 3:07 PM  

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