In the gridlocked streets of Iranâ€™s capital city, traffic jams are a way of life.
But while most of Tehranâ€™s 9.5 million drivers find them a daily nuisance, one group of inhabitants canâ€™t get enough.
In fact, they wish for eternal traffic jams that would give them a few minutes to romance with beautiful belles. Every Thursday and Friday evening, groups of young men with spiked hair, jeans and tight T-shirts jump into their cars and speed towards two of the cityâ€™s busiest roads, using the fumes as cover for illicit romance.
With strict morality laws banning unmarried men and women meeting in public, and house parties raided by police on the lookout for â€œimmoral and indecentâ€ behaviour, dating in Iran is extremely difficult. In fact, other than the few minutes of road romance that â€˜coolâ€™ dudes manage to machinate, romance is a total no-no even in public places. Itâ€™s a sacrilege and anyone found to indulge in it are liable to punishment.
So the Middle Eastâ€™s longest street, Valiasr Avenue, and the smart Africa Boulevard have become the hottest sites in Tehranâ€™s dating scene. While their families escape the summer heat by picnicking in parks, the boys use the traffic as an excuse for pulling up alongside cars filled with groups of girls, whose mandatory headscarves are pushed as far back as possible on their carefully arranged hair.
â€œI want to kill myself for you!â€ a boy cries as he spots a pretty girl in the next car, while at a set of traffic lights girls giggle and throw their phone numbers to the boys who have managed
to snatch a few minutesâ€™ conversation with them.
While flower sellers and accordion players walk the streets, happy to take advantage of the amorous drivers and the jams they create, not everyone is so keen on the meetings.
As I head up Valiasr Avenue, police cars have closed part of the road. â€œThey always do this,â€ one girl explains. â€œThey are diverting the traffic to stop everyone driving up and down â€” they only do it on a Thursday and Friday night.â€
But it would take more than this to stop the flirting â€” at a busy roundabout two cars have crashed and, before the police arrive, the boys have just enough time to swap numbers with the girls they have hit.