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What we wanted to see
Not the same as what the Iranian Consulate in Dubai wanted to see

By Helia Azimi
March 1, 2002
The Iranian

The Dubai Shopping Festival was first held in 1996, with one of its main attractions being the Global Village. A huge space of land, designated for this brilliant idea, was divided into different sections with each participating country being allowed to rent a space.

Each country's embassy was responsible for the design and management of their own pavilion. At the end of the Festival, the Crown Prince of Dubai and Defense Minister of the UAE would award the organizer(s) of the best pavilion with a trophy (not to mention national recognition). Iran had never won anything in any of the festivals. It's shameful to admit that the Iranian pavilion was avoided like the plague.

I believe it was the Iranian consulate in Dubai, which was responsible for the organization and renting out of the spaces in the pavilion. Maybe that is why we had stands selling dampaayee pelaastickee (plastic slippers) and asbaab baazi (toys)! Did anybody really care that these were made in Iran? Is that what we wanted the world to see? Our own homemade dampaayee? What's next? Aftaabeh lagan?

As an Iranian, I merely passed by the Iranian pavilion in the 2000 festival and was instantly turned off. I can safely say that most non-Iranians can't recall anything remotely special about our pavilion. The few that can remember have nothing positive to say.

Last year all that changed.

An Iranian man, having resided in the U.A.E. for some 35 (Mr. Latif Naseri -- owner of Sadaf Group in U.A.E.), decided to shoulder the responsibility of the Iranian pavillion. For the sake of further promoting Iran and giving the rest of us Iranians something to be proud of, this gentleman spent 3 months tirelessly contributing his time, finances, and energy to this cause, with the help of his right-hand man, Mr. Jafari.

Once completed, the Iranian pavilion was a true work of art. It was one of the most magnificently decorated sections of the Global Village. The walls of the pavilion were made almost identical to our own Persepolis. This patriotic Iranian flew in the manpower (19 talented people) needed for the design and construction of the site from Iran.

The Iranian pavilion was not only known for its beautiful exterior, but also for the magnificent variety of shops. The "khaar baar forooshi" was, by far, the busiest and most popular among non-Iranians. Rest assured we had no one selling dampaayees and aroosaks anymore. Most stalls sold artwork and handicrafts by some of the greatest talents within Iran. The shopkeepers were extremely satisfied with their profits, especially since they still had customers after midnight on the final night of the festival!

The gorgeous traditional dresses worn by the Iranian female representatives (designed by a well known fashion designer in Tehran) were very similar in design to those worn by the so-called "Shaahzaadehye Hakhaamaneshy" (Achamenid Princess). They were, of course, fully covered in order to abide by the national dress code. Yet, their attractiveness and charm was undeniable.

The entertainment was beyond imagination. The only sounds heard from the Iranian pavilion in the past years were of shopkeepers trying to lure in customers. Last year, however, one of the prominent sounds heard in the East Wing of the Global Village were the sounds of our own traditional music. Four different bands were flown in from Iran to play traditional music throughout the duration of the festival. The bands were Lori, Bushehri, Shirazi, and Bakhtiari.

The variety of music and songs played every night was fantastic. You had to be there to see the Kurdish tourists forming a dance group and dancing freely, almost rebelliously, to the sounds of their native homeland. Or the Arab-Iranians (from the South of Iran) moving their bodies liberally to the fast beat of the Bandari music with their dish-dashas (long garment worn by Arab men)! And the older men and the little girls moving so sweetly to the Shirazi music being played every other night.

This was the true representation of the Iran we Iranians had longed to see. This was the Iran we wanted the world to see.

Needless to say, Iran DID win the best pavilion among all the other participating countries! Finally, the hard work had paid off and it was well worth it. Well worth the time, energy, and expenses. We were proud.

The Iranian Consulate, however, didn't quite share the same views. The clothes worn by the"shaahzaadehaa" were too attractive (AS IF the designer had intended otherwise!) I wonder what would have been Islamic, Iranian and not so attractive? Chaador namaazeh gol-glee maybe? Another complaint was that there were too many people dancing. Try telling the Arabs they can't dance on their own soil!

The dresses were asked to be removed a week after the festival started. The shop renters were hassled so much by the Iranian authorities that most have sworn never to return (despite the profits and attention their products received). The music was put to a stop once the month of Muharram started.

And, unlike other ambassadors, the Iranian ambassador was not willing to acknowledge the pavilion and greet one of the highest authorities in the UAE (Crown Prince of Dubai /Defense Minister of U.A.E.), on his tour of the Iranian Pavilion. After all the politics played by the Iranian government last year, Mr. Naseri decided not to take charge of the Iranian pavilion again.

We rose from one of the worst and least talked about pavilions to the best, most attractive and most talked about pavilion in one year (with an award to prove it). Even with the "3 Islands" issue hanging over our heads, most of the prominent newspapers in the country wrote full pages on the beauty and attraction of the Iranian pavilion.

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