During his visit to Cuba in 2012, former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, “Thankfully we are already witnessing that the capitalist system is in decay, on various stages it has come to a dead end — politically, economically and culturally.”

But the changes that have been taking place in Iran in the last few years seem to contradict this.

Despite slow mobile internet connections, high prices for imported – most of the time smuggled – technological products, and constant governmental censorship of the media, Iranians are frantically buying smartphones, tablets and flat screen TVs.

Shopping has became a near obsessive ritual for young people, and especially women, who have now turned to buying beauty products and high-end western brands to fill in the void of entertainment options and to “rebel“ against the array of restrictions they are subjected to.

Even if traditional Grand bazaars continue to be the favorite places to shop for regular Iranians, they now face competition from huge shopping malls, which were erected in the outskirts of major cities across the country. And these offer western-style hypermarkets, international brands and colourful gaming arcades to list just a few temptations.

In his recent opinion piece for Al Jazeera, Dott. Richard Javad Heydarian described Iran “as one of the most promising economies of the 21st century – and perhaps the next China”, a lion ready to awake.

Perhaps “the lion“ is getting ready – In the last few months we have witnessed improved relations between Iran and the West, while the upcoming negotiations for the lifting of the sanctions could pave the way for even more changes in the country and consequently also within the region.

— Thomas Cristofoletti

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