I recently had another opportunity to visit Iran and thought to write about some (not sum 🙂 of my impressions this time around, in different blogs with pictures. The most obvious of all was the economic pressures most people are struggling with. For example the gasoline subsidies were taken off the table (without much attention given to it on the news before it was implemented, but funny enough once the news was out the Taxi association was telling the media that Taxis cannot increase their fares until another 2 or 3 weeks yet people were haggling over fares with drivers. They have pounded or trying to pound this idea in the public that “wages” have increased so the skyrocketing inflation is a result of higher wages and not the other way around!
Anyway, in this blog I wanted to talk about the exchange market or better yet the “underground” exchange market, except nothing about it is underground and as above ground as possible and on display on as many public venues as possible! The pictures in this blog are from the main Bazaar in Tehran and right before you get into the Timcheh section of Bazaar where you can find all kinds of china and households goods and where they actually take the tourists to visit. I saw few tourists on that day.
As I was entering the main meidan before entering the various entrances to Bazaar I saw few people on a structure that I thought was the bathrooms! I was in Iran during the early days of 1988 protests and at first I thought there were some fights or arrests or something strange going on. As I got closer I heard those people on platforms yelling as if they’re selling something and crowds were surrounding them.
As I got closer and in the middle of the crowd I asked someone what’s going on and he said they’re selling Dollar! As soon as he said it someone from behind me yelled from the bottom of his lungs; I AM BUYER FOR 3000 DOLLARS and nearly shattered my ear drums! I almost turned around and told him YOU SON OF A BITCH! WTF?!
So I walked around and took these pictures. I felt sorry for these guys being on display like that with Bluetooth or cell phones on their ears and asking presumably their bosses on the phone what to buy or sell and how much and in the end for only so much profit for themselves. They weren’t moving millions just a thousand here or there and with 50-100 or so Tomans profit for each dollar, at the end of the day not much is left except shattered vocal cords and ear drums!
They were selling other exchanges as well and not just the Dollar, a lot of Durham and Dinar as well. I saw this “show” in other squares and meidans as well but didn’t get a chance to take any other pictures. It’s like a day laborer standing area except it’s much more crowded. They say the regime doesn’t like these gatherings and they are illegal but they are all over the place. They say it starts at 11 AM and by noon the prices are set and yelling begins!
To me this is yet another example of the harsh economic conditions which brings people to make a living any way they can. They open and close small businesses all the time and what’s there one year isn’t there the next. Couple years ago these homemade exchanges weren’t in existence. They sprouted during Ahmadinejad when Dollar jumped to 4000 Tomans, it’s now hovering around 3300. I can imagine it being or becoming a dangerous business with shadowy Money Launderers calling the shots! If you look close enough some look to me like they’ve lived outside Iran (you can tell and perhaps the reason that guy yelled at my ears thinking I’m a buyer 🙂 and their fate is now going on bathroom platforms and taking bids.
They were saying some (again not sum 🙂 of the money exchanged here are counterfeit and the legal exchanges have licenses from Bank Markazi. I’m also not sure how you’d buy money and be safe, I mean let’s say you buy several thousand Dollars what next?! Do you receive that cash in front of all those people and just walk away?! There are thieves and purse snatchers on motorcycles everywhere! Didn’t they teach them not to pull out a bag full of money in front of strangers?!