Hameed is the mountain-climbing, fast-talking, funny, well-dressed (he looks far better in narrow brown corduroy-striped jacket then I do) cousin of Roya Khaleeli, herself a fellow graduate of Blekinge’s sustainability programme who was living in London. With only a short introduction by email from a cousin he had not seen in twenty years, and despite a total telecommunications failure on my end, Hameed welcomed me with open arms in the middle of a busy work-day and took me to lunch.
In the style I have come to expect from everyone east of Romania, he refused to let me pay for my food, dismissed the interruption to his job of running an international logistics company, and then saw me safely to the bus. In that short couple of hours we also managed to discuss the relative differences in the on-the-ground realisation of ‘free market economies’, the power of the internet and cable TV (Al Jezeera) in breaking down cultural barriers and stereotypes, the evolution of Iranian culture through the generations, and the what is good, bad, and potentially deadly about living in Tehran. Oh, and he also ‘made’ me eat some chicken.
I think his style of dress that wouldn’t look out of place in any other global city, location of our meeting in the newer, trendier northern end of Tehran, way I saw him engage with his female staff, and international experience gave me some insight into the types of people who are probably pushing the authentic evolution of Iranian culture. By authentic, I mean he knew his Islam, was clear about the importance of his culture and family, and surprised other family-members by choosing to be in Tehran over other locations…but also equally clear about what he saw as the things that were constraining the development of Iran and its people.
A remarkable guy, and someone who I really look forward to the opportunity to repay his hospitality.