Iranian New Year

From March 20, for 13 fun-filled days, it’s Norooz – the biggest Iranian festival of the year. <em>Time Out</em> has the lowdown

Amir Ghaffarpour
Amir Ghaffarpour
Pegah Jalali
Pegah Jalali
Farah Navder
Farah Navder
Ebru Gundes
Ebru Gundes
Andy
Andy
Persia Persia
Persia Persia
Shabestan
Shabestan
1/7
What is Norooz?

Norooz, the Iranian new-year holiday, is celebrated on the first day of spring – according to the Persian calendar – and goes on for 13 days.

The holiday is commemorated by spring cleaning and the purchasing of clothes. On the first day of the Iranian New Year people dress up in their new threads and begin the holiday by visiting their elders, followed by family and friends. On the 13th day (sizde-deadar) they spend the day outdoors.

The last Tuesday before the New Year is celebrated by the Iranian festival of fire (chaharshanbe suri). This involves people going to beaches and creating bonfires, then jumping over them while singing a traditional Iranian song. The custom is performed to ward off evil spirits.

One of the most important traditions is the haft sin, a table that is laid out with seven different things, all begining with the letter ‘s’. All of these traditions symbolise starting afresh and new beginnings, the basis of Norooz.

Amir Ghaffarpour, 34, PR & event consultant, Iranian

‘My company is holding a polo event on March 20, so I’ll be working on the New Year this year. I will still try to get away to Iran to be with my family just after, or organise a party of my own, but either way – a celebration is a must. For Iranians, Norooz is all about tradition. Every elder gives the younger people money as a gesture of merriment, so the younger children are always the happiest! There is the haft-sin table, the traditional foods, and many more.

Unfortunately I don’t have close family in Dubai so I would be glad to go to Iran and celebrate there; this is a time that should be spent with people you love. If I get the chance I will be sure to attend some of the events here in Dubai. There is always something happening in this city, for every holiday, and Norooz will be no different. This time of the year is about looking ahead and focusing on the good. For me it is an opportunity to celebrate and remember the love I have for my family and friends.’

Pegah Jalali, 24, student, Iranian

‘For us Iranians, Norooz is a time to start afresh, forget past mistakes, and move ahead, and we do so with celebrations that last 13 days. Preparations begin early on with spring cleaning and shopping for the haft-sin table. My family and I start growing plants and order items from Iran which aren’t available here. We commemorate the event itself by eating something sweet, hoping for a sweet year ahead.

All dressed up in our new clothes we spend the fortnight visiting our elders and hoping to get some cash! Having sabzi-polo mahi (fish and herbs) one of the customary Iranian foods is a must. The last Tuesday before the New Year we have another tradition, jumping over fire. This is to ward off the evil eye. We used to go to beaches when I was younger but it’s become stricter around Dubai now. I think it might be held at Hatta this year. For me the New Year is about family, and new beginnings. I love that it is a celebration I can truly call my own.’

Farah Navder, 20, student, Parsi

‘The Parsi community in Dubai is equally thrilled about the coming of Norooz. It is a time to spread happiness, friendship and harmony. During this time, we decorate the house with garlands of roses and jasmines and visit friends and family to exchange gifts and greetings. We lay a table with various items, such as fruits, nuts, flowers, a lit lamp, a mirror, candles, a silver coin, a goldfish bowl, painted eggs and some bread and sugar, each attributed with a symbolic meaning. Along with these, we also lay seven different food items beginning with ‘s’ in Persian, which are meant to symbolise creation and welcome the spring.

Parsi delicacies play an extremely important role in celebrating this festival for me. Ravo, which is made from a mixture of sugar, milk, eggs and nuts, is a traditional sweet prepared on the morning of Norooz. During this time, we make it a point to visit Persia Persia which is one of my favourite Iranian restaurants in Dubai. The excitement surrounding the celebrations and the excessive socialising is fantastic and never fails to amaze me.’ Manjeet Varerkar

Events

Jamshid & Ebru
Renowned Persian singer Jamshid and sultry Turkish musician Ebru Gundes will be making their first appearances in Dubai. March 24, 9:30pm, Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, Dhs250 (standing), Dhs500 & Dhs700 (sitting). Call 050 456 7807

Andy
Popular Iranian music legend and surprisingly named Andy (fondly known as the Prince of Persian Music, right) performs at an exclusive event. Expect dancers and giveaways. March 20, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dhs2,000, Dhs1,500, Dhs1,000. Call 050 956 2994

Restaurant deals

Shahrzad: We like Shahrzad for its food – which is always handy in a restaurant. From March 20 to April 1 they’ll be serving up a traditional Iranian menu, along with live entertainment, for Dhs300 a head.
Hyatt Regency, Deira, 04 317 2222

Persia Persia: An ambitious restaurant (they even named it twice) Persia Persia isn’t settling for just Iranian food, but preparing an international buffet on March 20 for Dhs280. And there’ll be live music from 8:30pm until midnight, followed by DJ Davar until 3am. Blimey.
Wafi Pyramids, Oud Metha, 04 32 44100

Shabestan:
Tremendously popular (and Highly Commended at the Time Out Eating Awards 2008), Shabestan is hosting a traditional Iranian menu from March 21 to 28 for Dhs185, along with live Iranian music.
Radisson Hotel, Deira, 04 222 7171

Darya: Persian foods explored at Darya, with traditional Iranian cuisine for Dhs145, not including drinks.
Samaya Hotel, Deira, 04 703 3333

Iranzamin:
The nattily named Iranzamin will be counting down to the New Year on March 20 with, you guessed it, live Iranian music.
Emirates Concorde Hotel, Deira, 04 229 2931

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