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Comfort zone
How can my non-Iranian girlfriend not like Persian carpets? I'm offended

May 2, 2005

This is a story about carpets but I will get to that later.

I got an email a few days ago and it went as follows:

From : Bijan XXX <bijan@XXX>
Sent : Thursday, April 28, 2005 12:15 PM
To : <>
Subject : Amir - you owe us an update

Your last article in the Iranian was exactly last year this time. Tell us what has been happening since... .


I have received a few emails in the last year, but for some reason this simple email form Bijan made me think I should write an update. I had not realised a whole year had passed and hence I sat in front of my laptop and started pondering.

Unfortunately no words were forthcoming for the same reason that I had not written for a year. I always try to write for about something to do with being Iranian, but I have had very little contact with fellow Iranians. I am back living in London after three years. I have a career job that I started the day after returning. I am living with my girlfriend in an apartment we bought together.

A normal everyday English life, with no interactions with any Iranians other than my family.

It was then that I realised “what” I have to write about: “how does someone keep their racial identity?”

I have written before about how confusing it is to class yourself, when you are born outside of Iran, speak Farsi as a second language, do not get told you look that Iranian by people and have hardly any Iranian friends.

What living with a non-Iranian girlfriend has shown me is; you try to keep you heritage alive in the strangest ways. For me it is all about carpets.

I personally have no Iranian artefacts in the house. Ghalyoon (water-pipe / hookah) are not strictly an Iranian-only thing. I don’t like ghalam-doons (pen-holders), or framed khat (Iranian calligraphy). I don’t really like Iranian music (sorry Shahrzad) or poetry (sorry Dad).

I am also not a huge fan of Iranian carpets, but neither is my girlfriend. For some reason though, her not liking the carpets -- now that’s a whole different story. How could she not like them!

“Why don’t you like them?”, “My name is Amir, they are part of my culture” and “My family will be offended if we get a non-Iranian carpet”. All comments I have made.

I have to explain that my girlfriend is very supportive; she wants to learn to cook loobia polo for me and likes most Iranian things. It is me in general who doesn’t like Iranian items in the house. However the one thing she doesn’t like is carpets.

Now I don’t know if my Mum will care and to be honest I really don’t (though I haven’t told my girlfriend this), but the idea of getting a cream rug, for under the coffee table instead of a nice farsh (carpet) offended me.

I guess those who aren’t sure of their identity, or confident of just being Iranian, use what they associate with their home or upbringing, to identify with, as an Iranian. And the Persian carpet has provided every one of us who has been brought up in Iranian families a kind of comfort zone, a sense of identity. Or maybe it’s just me?

Anyway that’s what I wanted to write about. Hopefully I’ll start carrying on writing again. Maybe I’ll even put in a serious effort on my novel!

Take care,

- Amir

PS I have already obtained my tickets to Iran’s three group games in World Cup 2006. Go Team Melli!

PPS I usually send what I write to my Dad before submitting it to, for a quick proof-read. This is my Dad’s reply:

Amir Jaan am,

Thanks for sharing your piece with me...

I made a few suggestive changes in the piece to facilitate understanding it, especially for Iranian readers. I hope you would like them.

... When are you planning to come here? Shokooh was suggesting that we should send you a small Persian carpet for your new dwelling but now I am not sure if you would like such a thing. Let's see what happens.

Qorbaan e to


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Amir Nooriala


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New Food of Life
Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies
by Najmieh Khalili Batmanglij

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