Searching for Tehran

We are more alike than different


Searching for Tehran
by Marjaneh Zomorodi

I recently moved to New York City from Southern California.

I left Iran for the United States to get a better international education and return to better my country, like so many of the Iranian diaspora now living in the States. I studied linguistics and planned to work for the Iranian Red Cross, The Red Lion and Sun Society. I planned on becoming an interpreter and attending international conferences to make sure my country would always be represented.

I left Iran when I was in high school, too early in life to know that I was not equipped with the knowledge I needed to make this journey. Somewhere in my subconscious, I had always been searching for Home. Not being aware of what I was missing, I tried to convince myself that “home” is where your family resides. I still think this is somewhat true, but I needed something more. It has since become clear to me that there is a difference between emigrating by choice, and emigrating by force. It has taken me a while to find my identity again. Now I know I am an Iranian-American, but for whatever reason, much of my time spent in America outside of New York left me unsure of who I was.

I could never understand why New York City – this singular city – was more distinctive and extraordinary than all the other cities I had visited. It was as if I had to come, as if the city called me, as if the universe kept sending me back. The pull was so strong that I finally decided to make the move. The city comes with so many possibilities; it is as if there is a message here that I have yet to comprehend. I have often sat quietly looking out my window at this beautiful city, listening to the sights and sounds, trying to hear what the universe is telling me.

One day this winter, I was walking on Sixth Avenue, arm in arm with my son, when I said, “Why do I love this city so much?” It was a question I had asked myself a million times before. I was speaking to him but I felt like I was talking to myself as well. I was confused, searching and still wondering. As we were speaking, a honking taxi zoomed by.

I looked up, and for the first time in 36 years, I saw Tehran.

The Tehran I had left 36 years ago. Suddenly everyone around me seemed to have dark hair, everyone was rushing somewhere with coats and gloves; the buildings were old, people in all different sizes, the streets narrow and congested, the honking buses going by ,the venders on the street, people yelling to each other about this or that. These were the sounds of my homeland. I started crying. My son, clearly confused, looked at me and smiled and gave me a hug. I could not speak, I could not put into words the longing and searching I had felt for 36 years. Suddenly I had arrived as close as anyone could get to Home, and it felt right – it felt just. I felt comfortable and more alive than I had felt in years.

I had gone to an international school in Iran, growing up with Indonesians, Hindus, black and white Americans, Armenians, Europeans, from Jewish, Baha’i, and Moslem faiths. New York has all of these people – living side by side in close (and sometimes tiny) quarters just like we did. I understood it was possible to find home again, that we are all so similar and that our differences only make this world more beautiful. Everyone here lives together while preserving their own cultural heritage. I found Tehran in New York City. I now fully realize my new identity: I am Iranian-American.

This city daily proves the world can live together. People from all different walks of life, different religions, cultures, and language all come to call New York City their Home.

I hope to write more of the experiences that I have had since I arrived that prove we are more alike than different. With all the upheaval in the world, this city is a vital organ – a beating-heart example of the hope we all need to hold on to.


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Marjaneh Zomorodi

New york

by Marjaneh Zomorodi on

Thank you for your comment, I'm glad you enjoyed it.:)


I feel

by Paykar on

the same about New York and Chicago. It is the crowds , sounds, sights and yes even the smells. We ( spouse and I), couple times a year, leave our  mostly homogeneous city of Minneapolis for Chicago, just to resurrect the feeling of being "Home" by walking the streets and moving with the crowd...



Anahid Hojjati

Dear Marjaneh, thanks for a great article

by Anahid Hojjati on

I visited New York city in fall of 2000. I also found many similarities between New York city and the Tehran that I grew up in. Mostly the crowds. The fact that you can walk to many places, people selling many items on the side walks, and many other factors that you mentioned in your article. Thanks for sharing.