Name a place on earth without an Apple Shop, official or non-official? Well, what about Tehran! But not so, my friend. There is a small but fervent community of Apple disciples in Iran, and buying the latest iPhone or iPad, while not exactly cheap, is definitely possible without too much sweat. Most definitely, if you happen to live in Tehran; it’s harder in the province, such as Isfahan or Shiraz – but not impossible.
In fact, I figured this out during one of my infrequent but regular trips to Mirdamad, a central location in Northern Tehran, which is synonymous with a giant five-floor shopping centre that is called Paytakht and sports any kind of technical equipment you could possibly need or want. There is nothing you cannot get there, or if you can’t, they’ll get it for you within the week. How, that has to remain their secret, but let’s say that most of the dozens of shop owners at Mirdamad regularly travel to Dubai, where taxes are unknown and Apple products as much bought for fashion and prestige reasons as for practical use. And so it happens that the latest iPad2 can appear faster on the coffee table of a wealthy Northern Tehran citizen than in the sweaty hands of a, say, Scandinavian Apple fan.
When I lived in Iran, iPhones were just becoming popular and there were only a few around in the country. And yet, the early adopters – and salespeople – of Mirdamad had already brought over a first set of iPhones from the Emirates, despite the fact that they could not legally be operated in Iran – or at least not if you wanted to telephone with them – and thus had to be jailbreaked (or is it jailbroken?) to work with the local Government provider. One has to know that until 2008, the Iranian Government had a tap on all new phones that entered the country, and required every owner of a phone to register its IMEI number with the relevant ministry. Which meant that most mobile phone users there used phone bricks the size of, well, bricks, in other words the same style of phone that was popular everywhere else in the world until the early 2000s. In any case, the iPhone were an instant hit, despite the resale price, without contract, of 1,000 USD – or 1,000 greens, as Iranians call their currency, the Dinar, when speaking to the farangi (foreigners). Most confusingly, they themselves usually use the term Toman, which is the name of the ancient currency that predates the Dinar, and because 1 Toman is 10 Dinar, all calculations in Toman have to be divided by 10.
But I don’t want to talk too much out of my league, since I don’t know enough about the mobile phone business, nor about currencies. Instead, I wanted to write a bit about my experience with the Mirdamad mega-techno-shop. Incidentally, I was reminded of this when reading today’s obituary by Radio Free Europe (RFE) of Steve Jobs with reference to Iran:
People from all over the world, including Iran, are mourning the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
Many Iranians have expressed sadness over Jobs’ death on social-media sites by reposting a video with Persian subtitles of a famous speech given in 2005 at Stanford University, and sharing news stories and pictures of the Apple innovator.
Iranians are fond of Apple products, which reach them despite the sanctions the Islamic Republic is facing over its sensitive nuclear work….