Tollab District in Mashhad: The Center of The World

Madi Jahangir – People from Tollab say: “Whether you are the worst or the best of the people, if you are from Tollab, you will become famous.” Tollab is an Arabic word and means students. Tollab district is one of the oldest and most famous districts in Mashhad, possibly founded by Ayatullah Haj Mirza Hossein Faqih Sabzevari for students of religious studies who used to reside in the city. Howevery,  many ordinary people started to move in and live there  later on.

Tollab district from top / Photo: Meisam Ahmadzadeh

Tollab district from top / Photo: Meisam Ahmadzadeh

Old districts in Iranian cities are an important part of shaping up the Iranian society. They are in fact the places to study and observe the original Iranian culture and social norms. None of those who live in the modern and luxurious areas can get the meaning of what’s district like, because they have less human interactions and close relationships with strangers in their busy urban lifestyle. But in old districts people grow up surrounded by many other people, in a real and somehow harsher environment and live these concepts of enmity and friendship, neighbours and gossip, bravery and cowardice, poverty and wealth, love and regret on a daily basis.

Ferdowsi mall in Tollab district

Ferdowsi mall in Tollab district / Photo credit: Mashhadgardi facebook page

Many Mashhadi people who have average income live in Tollab and they literally grow up in the streets. They are hard earners and for that matter, people of the district do not have a luxurious and carefree lifestyle. However, many famous Iranian officials, scholars and scientists are originally from the district. Tollab has had the most martyrs of Mashhad during Iran-Iraq war as well. “During Iran-Iraq war, every Monday and thursday, they held funerals for martyrs. In every funeral there were one or two martyrs from Tollab as if Tollab alone was enough to stop any army in the world.” A former resident of Tollab whis is a movie critic says in his article. But still every type of people can be found in Tollab. From the famous clerics to drug dealers.  This has made Tollab a collection of paradoxes. A district famous for being a strong revolutionary front against the Pahlavis and during Iran Iraq war, is also famous for the anti Iran government protests in 1992 and during Rafsanjani’s first term which left 6 people killed and many wounded.

Brick klins in Tollab / Photo credit: MashhadGardi FB page

Brick klins in Tollab / Photo credit: MashhadGardi FB page

In some parts of Tollab there have been many brick kilns which looked quite magnificent. Some of them were removed due to developments of the city. And let’s not forget the other famous place in Tollab which is the Deqqat ice cream. About 70 years ago, a teenager in Mashhad started to invent his own secret recipe of ice cream and sell to people. His name was Asqar and since then he was titled “Asqar Bastani” which meant Asghar ice cream. Haj Ali Asghar Ghafoori Moqaddam resided in Arg district. But used to bring his ice cream cart to Tollab and sell in there. Some say he has not even revealed the secret recipe to his sons who are continuing their father business. But his son said in an interview that there’s actually no secret recipe other than being honest with the costumers and using fresh ingredients.

Tollab's deqqat ice cream and the photo of late founder

Tollab’s deqqat ice cream and the photo of late founder

Ghaen saffron, Ghamsar rosewater, Birjand walnuts, Rafsanjan pistachio and finally Mashhad’s cardamom have made this magical ice cream a combination from all over Iran. But for people in Tollab, the taste of ice cream is reminder of a thousand memories. Deqqat ice cream is part of Tollab’s identity that people residing there carry with themselves and are proud of. “Tollab is the center of the world.” People from Tollab say.  By tasting Tollab ice cream – you bet – it is.

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