In the capital businesses hit by years of sanctions are cautiously optimistic.
Tehran’s historic district of Tajrish – a former village on the foothills of the Alborz mountain – is now one of the capital’s busiest and vibrant neighbourhoods – home to luxury shopping centres selling Mont Blanc pens and Versace clothes albeit from unofficial boutiques.
The Iranian capital and particularly this area does not have the look of a city functioning under one of the world’s most stringent sanction regimes: businesses are running as usual and trade bans have not stopped imports of products from companies such as Apple Bosch or LG.
But beneath its skin Tehran’s soul has been badly damaged by a decade of internal political struggles and severe financial restrictions.
This weekend things are set to change as Iran finds itself on the brink of an extraordinary transformation.
The Iranian foreign minister and his European and American counterparts are expected to convene in Vienna to announce ‘implementation day’ – when the International Atomic Energy Agency verifies that Tehran has met all its commitments under last summer’s nuclear accord – triggering the removal of all nuclear-related sanctions and reconnecting Iran to the global economy.The ramifications at home and abroad will be profound – ‘the return of the biggest economy to the global system since the break-up of the USSR’ as a Morgan Stanley put it in a report.
Iran is the second-largest economy in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia – with a GDP of $400bn.
It has the world’s largest reserve of natural gas and the fourth largest resources of oil.
About 70% of the 80m population are under 35 and half of the population have smartphones and are members of at least one social network.