More than 50 years ago, Ahmed moved from Tabriz to Shiraz to start his formal education. As per his parents’ advice, he sought shelter at the home of Atef, who was his father’s friend. Atef worked for the government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who was soon-to-be the last shah of Iran. Ahmed had come to Shiraz to study, but he found something much more important: Ghodsi, the love of his life. He first saw her on the day he arrived when she opened the door for him and it was love at first sight. Luckily, the family had no objections and a few months later the couple got married. Ahmed and his wife never parted, through the ’79 coup and the Iranian revolution that followed, which left Ghodsi’s father unemployed,
When I met them, in 2016, they were both in their seventies and are well settled in Tehran with two of their grown–up children. Ahmed had acquired his family carpet-making factory in Tabriz and was running a very successful international business.
They invited me to their home in Vanak, a neighborhood in the northern part of Teheran, which was one of those spacious apartments that brings to mind the prosperous time under the rule of the Shah. The living room floor was covered in silk carpet worth thousands of dollars, produced by Ahmed’s factory. In order to preserve it, Ghodsi covered it with another, cheap factory-made rug that was removed only when the couple hosted very important guests. Obviously I wasn’t one of them.
The house tour finished in front of the hand-made silk kilim hanging above the couple’s bed, a depiction of Ghodsi and Ahmed’s favorite scene from the film Titanic when Leonardo DiCaprio holds Kate Winslet at the ship’s bow. I couldn’t believe how kitsch it was, yet how important for these two people.
“Can you do me a favor Aleks?” Ahmed asked. “Can you find the home address of this man for me?”
“Who?” I asked surprised. “Leonardo DiCaprio?”
“Yes! The boy. I want to send him this carpet. It’s very expensive and made of silk!”
I was speechless with astonishment. “I’ll try, Ahmed “
From the bedroom we returned to the kitchen where I was invited to help Ghodsi cook. If she hadn’t hadn’t asked me to help, I’d have volunteered, because I had been told that the women of Shiraz were some of the best cooks in Iran. We prepared fasenjaan,a famous Iranian dish. Even now when I think about it, I ask myself if there can be anything more sophisticated and indulgent that a chicken stew cooked in rich sweet and sour pomegranate juice,mixed with earthy walnuts?
By the way, a friend managed to find the Leonardo di Caprio fan club address, which I sent it to Ahmed, I’m not sure whether he managed to send him the precious kilim.