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Thursday, 3 December 2009

Party in the Park

I ask a young guy if he's come to the square to hear what Dinner Jacket has to say. "No, my principal said I will get credit for my Arabic course if I come, and I haven't studied for the exam". Today, in this square everyone stops short at criticising the president.

Certainly the 10 year old children can't be counted as politically aware supporters, despite the flags, posters and banners they are carrying. But none the less the square is pretty full with over 10,000 people, and the support seems genuine beyond the hysteria that any big event whips up.

At first I'm not allowed close to the stage area as the thorough searching reveals I have a massive camera, but by the time the president has turned up 4 hours late the enthusiasm for searching has evaporated and I waft through the barrier and as close to the stage as the packed throng allows me. By this time my paranoia about taking pics has eased and I snap away, but once I have the best shot I'm going to get I still feel the urge to make an exit.

As I turn to leave, a Mullah in the crowd makes a leap to grab my hand. This is how it starts, surrounded by a massive crowd I've no escape and it will get ugly quickly. A sharp jerk and maybe I can break away from his grip and build enough momentum to barge my way back through to where the crowd thins and then run. If I hesitate each second could cost me dear.

"Welcome to Esfahan," the Mullah smiles "Can I translate for you?"

I get a simultaneous translation of the last part of the speech which has already lasted a
good 40 minutes. I'm in time to hear that western governments should keep out of Iran peaceful nuclear programme and something about Bush not wanting to accept some theological premise as a precursor to political negotiations.

It’s strange for me to hear religious ideas so unapologetically at the forefront of a political speech, but that is precisely the point of the Revolution.

The ebb and flow of the oratory is excellent and give easy queues for the cheering crowd to join in. "God is great, God is great, the Supreme Leader is good too!" I struggle to resist the urge myself. The loudest response comes after I hear the words "Inglistan" and "Ameriqui" in the words.

As we walk out after the speech the Mullah asks me where I'm from. "Inglistan? Oh very good." he says sincerely without a trace of irony. He gives me his number and invites me to call if I have any problems while I'm in Esfahan. He's one of many that have done this, and my mobile is burgeoning with so many names I don't remember who they all belong to but no doubt a call to anyone would bring instant help.

The Nuclear programme provides a lot of support for Dinner Jacket, and if the West's stance wasn't so entrenched, or at least fairer with respect to Israel’s arsenal, then he'd be less able to use it as a rallying cry.

Esfahan is a religious city, reflected in its monuments and history, so naturally more inclined towards Dinner Jacket's hardliner religious political stance. But the night before the rally, I find a place to park up out by Pol Khaju, a beautiful bridge illuminated at night, and full of young guys and couples for whom Islam and the way in which it's applied here are only a nuisance.

The arches of the bridge provide an excellent acoustic and boys meet to drum, dance, smoke water pipes and play cards. They are Esfahan’s hoodies. Every 10 or 15 minutes when the crowd has grown too big around the musicians it all stops and disperses to the whisper of "Aroza" (the police) and like a Chicago speakeasy you'd never know there'd been a frenetic concert seconds before as the cops stroll past twirling their batons. Welcome to Esfahan’s nightclub.

The boys revel in talking about sex, asking me how English girls are, joking about
shagging each others' sisters and mums, and showing me Iranian porn on their mobiles. I learn a plethora of Farsi insults. Magit tell me that if you meet an Iranian girl once you can get her number and then SMS her for a while. "The next time meet her..." he mimes a sharp scissor action with a beady grin, his fingers coming tightly together like two bodies intimately embraced "SEX!”

Amongst the musicians and singers, an old guy in his 60’s dances, sings and plays a flute-like tune from his sinuses. The sounds is beautiful, his movements graceful and his voice enchanting. The boisterous lads, who must be a third his age, reverently listen and clap the beat. By midnight it's too cold and the last revelers shuffle off the bridge into the darkness of the shore.

Playing music and dancing in public is forbidden so it's no wonder that the Dinner Jacket's open air rock concert rally can stir up the frenetic response it does. Dinner Jacket: A vote for parties and music.

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