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Dec-07-2012 14:43printcomments

Inside Iran: Naderi Café

For many, Naderi café has become an indispensable part of life.

Naderi café and hotel
Naderi café and hotel

(TEHRAN Iran Review) - Naderi café and hotel is the name of an old café in Tehran. Naderi café is located to the east of Hafez overpass along Naderi (the present-day Jomhouri-e Eslami) Avenue and is topped by a hotel.

Naderi café and hotel were built in 1927 by a Russian immigrant called Khachik Madikians. It was named so because it was build along the then Naderi Avenue. The founder started his career in Tehran first with baking confectionaries and he used Naderi restaurant to introduce Iranians to European foods for the first time. Later on, he built another hotel with the same name close to Naderi café. After Grand Hotel, the Naderi Hotel was the second hotel to be built in Tehran.

Construction of Naderi café and hotel began in 1928 concurrent with the construction of the buildings of the Iranian railroad and a number of banks. It was build according to the Western, especially German, style as a place for entertainment. In addition to the café and hotel, the complex also included a confectionary shop.

At that time, the complex was known as Naderi hotel - restaurant, but later, due to special features and importance of its café, it was known as Naderi café. It was a place frequented by such dignitaries of the Iranian arts, literature and culture as Sadeq Hedayat, Bozorg-e Alavi, Mojtaba Minavi and many others who spent the nights there discussing various issues.

During the 1970s, due to unclear reasons, the Naderi complex was consumed by fire. For any other entertainment complex this could have been the end. However, Naderi café was very important at that time because it was a resort for such people as Jalal-e Al-e Ahmad and Forough Farrokhzad. On the other hand, the society at large needed such places. Therefore, these factors joined hands to prevent Naderi café from receding into memories and the place was rebuilt in its modern form.

The Naderi hotel and café complex has two entrances opening into Jomhouri-e Eslami Avenue. Naderi confectionary shop is perched between the two entrances. After entering the building using the hotel’s door, there is a big lobby on the ground floor. On the second floor, there are many hotel rooms on both sides of the corridor which serves as a connecting space with a linear pattern. The café is divided into two sections.

The first section is the main space of the café which is situated at the center of the complex and is used as restaurant. The external open space is, in fact, a garden with a waterfront in the middle and is covered with green trees and a small stage at one corner.

The main view of the complex is symmetrical. Of course, nothing has remained of the old arches of the building which have changed in line with the modern architecture. The façade is covered with simple, rectangular windows.

The two halls can accommodate 140 people. The first hall is special to coffee, tea and desserts, but the second hall is used to serve various kinds of food.

Naderi café is where the modern Iranian literature started to bud. The café had a big garden attached to it. In later years, the northern part of the garden was equipped with new tables and chairs. It was first used to host young people from bourgeois (capitalist) class. Before long, journalists and poets were gradually attracted to the café.

Perhaps, since major press and printing houses were concentrated at that neighborhood, their staff found the café a good place for social small talk, exchange of viewpoints, and reading poems, on their way back from work to home.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Naderi café was frequented by such intellectual figures as Sadeq Hedayat, Jalal-e Al-e Ahmad, Ahmad Fardid, Simin Daneshvar, and Nima Youshij, to whom the café owes a lot of its current fame.

The poets and writers of that time, which had been just gotten rid of Reza Shah’s dictatorship, enjoyed more latitude for publishing their freedom-seeking ideas and poems. Connections with the outside world were more common. Such literary discussions were usually in vain at home and in presence of common people who usually did not appreciate them. Therefore, Naderi café was considered a suitable place for this purpose.

Intellectuals and artists usually found people like themselves and every group chose a café for their gatherings. Those who went to Naderi café and usually drank a cup of lemon tea or tea with a slice of lemon were more concerned about modern literature. During the years when the number of cafés was growing, so did the number of political activists as well as opposition groups. Those who frequented Naderi café, however, were mostly concerned about poetry, journalism and novels.

Perhaps, this is the main factor, which has helped Naderi café to still continue to live after all these long years, which exceed 50.

Another interesting feature of Naderi café is inclusion of a special place for its regular visitors. They would sit there from early morning to late in the night reading and writing poems, drinking tea and smoking cigarettes.

When they were not there, their places were left empty, or were vacated as soon as they entered the café. Many new words were coined on the paper in this café and behind these very tables and many new works came into being there.

At the moment, Naderi café is run by grandchildren of Khachik Madikians, who are current owners of Naderi hotel and café. Although the existing environment at Naderi café is very simpler than many other restaurants and cafés, it is always full of customers.

Many of them come to that nostalgic place to sit on one of the chairs, which had been once the seat of Iran’s cultural dignitaries, and take a short journey back in history.

Old dishes, glasses with chipped edges, and plates with cracks in them are all part of the history of Naderi café which are still used to serve the customers.

Nothing has changed inside the café: chairs, cups and even the cutlery are the old ones. Internal decoration of the café has not changed. The tablecloth is the same bony color which was 50 or 60 years ago.

These are the main features of Naderi café. Garcons at Naderi café and restaurant have been working there for 40 years and the complex, especially the café, has become an indispensable part of their lives.

In fact, they are now part of the history of this cultural place and every one of them has many memories of the days when the café was experiencing its heyday and its customers were renowned people.

They say sound waves travel in the space forever and we have read reports about scientists endeavoring to recover the sounds of life. If some day the voices which echoed at Naderi café could be retrieved, including the voices of Hedayat and Bozorg-e Alavi, how do you think would the subject of their discussions seem different from our current concerns?

Compiled By: Firouzeh Mirrazavi - Deputy Editor of Iran Review

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