In Iran, "Great Satan" means great pizza
TEHRAN, Nov 3 (AFP) - The United States may officially remain the "Great
Satan," but there's no denying that a breezy US lifestyle -- fast
food, baseball hats -- has captured the imagination of Iranians.
With more than half the population under 30, Iran finds itself faced
with a kind of "cultural invasion" from the United States despite
a 20-year freeze in diplomatic relations.
From pizza delivery drivers willing to brave the hazards of Tehran traffic,
to fake Coca-Cola available at almost any kiosk, the appetite for things
American shows no sign of slowing down.
"It's great. For 42,000 rials (five dollars) we get a huge pizza
and drinks as well," says Taghaneh Samieh, who lives in Tehran's Mahnaz
Engineer Kiusmar Khosvar, who takes his family out to the "Dania
Bozi" (Games World) restaurant twice a week, says his children enjoy
the chance to have fun while the family dines.
"There are more than 200 fast-food restuarants in Tehran, but this
one is the best. It has a playground, pinball machines for the teenagers,
hamburgers, fries and pizza -- and plenty of ketchup for everyone,"
His wife Farzaneh says the conversion to US-style fast food began under
the imperial regime of the shah, who was overthrown by the 1979 Islamic
"After the revolution it slowed down some. But it picked up again
after the (1980-1988) war with Iraq," she says.
A psychologist who asked not to be named insisted that, while the food
might not be the sophisticated fare locals are used to, many Iranians like
the feeling of being part of modern international culture.
"It's true that the quality in these restaurants is mediocre, while
Iranians are used to good food. It's a cultural reverse. But the family
aspect -- so important to Iranians -- is provided for in these fast-food
"They feel like they're participating in the world of today,"
he says. Many young Iranians, whether from the capital's well-heeled northern
suburbs or the poorer south of the city, find other ways to express their
affection for the United States.
T-shirts emblazoned with the logos of American universities or US baseball
teams are a key to modern-day "cool," and for many help keep
the dream alive that they might one day see the United States for themselves.
"My dream is to go to California, where there are tons of rich
Iranians," says taxi-driver Ahmad Taghi, acknowledging the difficulty
of applying for a visa when there is no US embassy here.
"I've tried in eight different countries. But alas, I'm poor,"