Café Naderi: A nostalgia for the young.

Have you ever felt nostalgic for something that you don’t even share a past with? An era, a history you have never experienced firsthand, but have heard enough about that could allow your imagination to go wild?

Naderi Café is one of those places with a history beyond my generation’s grasp that has made so many of us envious of the fact that we were born a little too late!

Located in the heart of Tehran, Naderi Café (aka. Café Naderi) was built 90 years ago as part of a, then, newly established pastry shop. The owner, Khachik Madikianes an Armenian immigrant, had cleverly understood the intellectual class’s desire to gather in cafés that could imitate those in Paris. 

His idea was a huge success, of course. Naderi Café soon became the number one hangout place for renown writers and poets such as Sadegh Hedayat and Ahmad Shamlou

The establishment has seen and overcome so many obstacles throughout its existence, so much so that Farzaneh Ebrahimzadeh, a well-known historian, writes: ” Café Naderi, a place that has a historical memoir, embedded in its walls…”. 

The café was confiscated a short while after the Islamic Revolution and it remained closed for the majority of those years. 

Almost a decade was passed when finally the establishment was given back to the private section and it opened its doors to the public once more; with little if any renovations and changes. On my last visit five years ago, the food was still being served on the tinfoil platters and the French press was still poured in little old-fashioned white cups.

I, like so many of my peers, have only heard about the Café’s glorious years; when writers, poets, and journalists would gather around a table to talk about the latest political and social events; of what was happening in the world and what impact would it have on the country.

“There is this thing, this feeling that makes me come back every time,” a classmate of mine once said, “I don’t know what it is. It just feels different, you know. I mean, all of these people, these activists that we’ve heard so much about used to hang out at this place. It’s exciting. It’s almost as if by just merely sitting here you’re a part of that time and those events,” her eyes twinkled like a small child as she looked around the old, worn-out tables and chairs, the snow-white tablecloths, the red curtains that were still carrying a shadow of their old elegance.

“It’s the nostalgia that brings people back,” Ebrahimzadeh writes, “It’s the history behind it; maybe the fact that the 1953 coup d’état occurred right around the corner…” she reasons.

Iran has seen so many political events over the past 100 years. It has witnessed the rise and fall of a dynasty, has gone through a revolution; an upheaval that was called “The last great revolution” in Modern Era by Robin Wright; it has also experienced eight-years of war (lasting more than either World Wars in length).

I was born in the late 80’s and in my (well let’s just say three decades of living, and leave it at that!)  have already witnessed a few major events in the country’s political climate. Each of these changes has brought with them a certain rhetoric, a unique ideology and as a result, a sense of “ownership” for its participants. And even though my generation was in the forefront of the 2009 Green Movement, it seems that many of us still feel a little left out. Some of us still long for the past we never saw and those we never got to meet.

Ebrahimzadeh might be on to something about Naderi café after all. “Nostalgia” is what always takes us back.

Feature Image by:Mahmoud Pakzad, “Old Tehran”, (Did Publishers, 1994)


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