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Norooz in Shanghai
Photo essay: What we found was as pleasant to our eyes as it was to our hearts

By Sandra Nunez
Photos by Sina Farzaneh
March 22, 2007

I woke up by the sound of a voice telling me Eid Mubarak! It was 8:07 am, the start of a new day, the first day of spring, the official time for Norooz in China. A week ago we had jumped over the fire,giving our yellowness away and hoping for the goodness of the red to come into our lives and hearts. Today we were celebrating the new start we had been preparing ourselves for: Norooz had finally arrived.

We headed to Shiraz, a Persian restaurant in the heart of Shanghai, for lunch and had the classics Koobideh and Zereshk Polo in a little table outside. Tourists and locals would all walk by and look at us, wondering what kind of food we were eating, wondering who we are. It was nice to see them read the sign "Persian Restaurant" and see them smile saying: "Oh, Iran!"

Coming from the San Francisco Bay Area, where the Iranian community is so big and united, we felt some sort of nostalgia for our friends and family back home who were sure celebrating with a bigger group than ours. Little did we know that our idea of the Iranian community in Shanghai would change that same night. A friend of us called us and said he made a reservation for 10 at a restaurant called 1001 Nights.

When we arrived what we found was as pleasant to our eyes as it was to our hearts: A huge restaurant full of Iroonis celebrating with their families, just like us, this new start. The smell of Koobideh or "Persian kabob" as the Chinese call it, the background music playing "Dokhtar Bandari" and the thousands of kisses and voices saying Eid mubarak reminded us that no matter where we are in the world, there will always be a place where a little piece of home will be found.

We met iroonis from Sweden, France, the US and even a whole family who flew out from Tehran to visit his son in Shanghai, and although most of us never met before, every family got together and became one huge family for a night. But what was captivating was to see Chinese, German, French, Turkish, Lebanese and South American friends celebrate with us, opening up to the Iranian culture, learning the real Iran, not what they may have heard or seen on TV. It reminded of last year, celebrating Charshanbeh Soori back in Berkeley at the Persian Center, where anyone who would walk by Durant Ave. would join us even if they did not know what it was.

At the end of the night, we went back home feeling grateful for the new friends, for the new family, for the new start. For me, the fact that even in China you will find someone every March 21st that will trade the classic "Ni Hao" for an "Eid Mubarak" it's what makes me realize that Norooz is indeed as magic as we all grew up thinking it is. After all, what else besides magic and good feelings can the first day of the spring bring us? Comment

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Sandra Nunez

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