Friday, May 27, 2005

Tehran Stock Exchange

Walking into Tehran Stock Exchange, the Bourse as it is known, I get the feeling this place is very different from NYSE or AMEX.

The building sits on a major north-south street in a busy section of Tehran. There is no evidence of any security which I am used to see both here and in New York.

Men with funny Farsi accents, from small cities in central Iran, sell a variety of business dailies right outside.

The doors are wide open but the entrance is crammed with men just standing there. As you walk in the stench of body odor hits you in the face and welcomes you to a packed room of men and a handful of women.

Everyone standing tightly, almost touching each other, and staring at a series flat-screen monitors for the latest updates on a wall. At the end of the entrance hall a few computers kiosks provides on-line information.

On far left, a guard in forest green uniform, one of the many of Iranian military outfits, stands by an unpretentious door which provides entry to the actual trading room.

Upstairs a glass rotunda provides a bird’s eye view of the trading floor and a big board which posts the latest changes and top movers. There are seats around the U shaped glass area but all are taken and much like downstairs the place is overcrowded.

Men sitting around debating and watching the changes as if they are at a soccer match as they play with their tasbeh, prayer beads, with one hand.

The place has a feel of an Off Track Betting location than a sophisticated stock exchange. I see a few men squatting in a corner reading their papers, and one guy fervently talking on his mobile phone with tension.

Shady middle aged Iranian men, unshaven and wearing buttoned up shirts with no tie huddle in small groups. Perhaps sharing the latest on a jockey or wheatear their horse runs well in the!?

There is no sense of urgency here. No sell sell sell, or men signaling for buyers. All the trading is done on the floor. Administrators, who sit behind computers, take calls and place orders inside the trading room.

I get the feeling some people are just here to watch their stock or may be the exchange.

After I take my pictures I swam my way back through the sea of people. Through my struggle with my heavy backpack, I hear “take my picture mister”. Younger men realizing that I am a reporter and perhaps a foreigner, practicing their latest international communiqué.

I smile and node and continue to push through. In this polite society you don’t need to say ‘excuse me’ or ‘I am sorry’ as you bang your way out.

Stepping outside and into Tehran’s heat, I now have to deal with midday traffic but I don’t miss the body odor and the constant touching.

Ramin Talaie – Tehran, Iran - May 25, 2005

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