Inside Iran: 25 Years Working Tehran’s Currency Corner

Iran’s informal currency market operates in the open, but exists in the shadows.

Hard Knocks & Street Trades: Inside Iran's 'Wall Street'

A few blocks from Tehran's Grand Bazaar, and across the street from the British embassy, the corner of Manouchehri Street is the heart of Iran's informal currency market.

It's the main open-air currency market in the city, a place where people can buy most of the major global currencies. Dollars and euros are the biggest sellers.,+Tehran,+Iran/@35.6968927,51.4212143,16z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x3f8e0184831f8749:0xb43d1b9431b5ae62?hl=en


Iran currently has two exchange rates — one formally fixed by the Central Bank of Iran and another informal, open market rate that's sold to the public via currency exchange shops and traders on street corners like Manouchehri.

Recently the government has tried to clamp down on traders who operate without licenses. Many of the traders here are working without formal permits and they don't like it when we try to film them.

One trader, Khosrow Abdi, agrees to speak. He’s been working on Manouchehri for 25 years and remembers how busy and frenetic the traders were when the rial suddenly lost its value a few years ago.

He says he hopes sanctions removal will improve things for the country as a whole, but he also says that they compelled authorities to implement better economic policies that have led to economic growth.

Iran and Sanctions: What You Need to Know

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
  • Iran has faced sanctions since 1979 – July’s nuclear deal only suspends U.S. and E.U. sanctions related to its nuclear programme
  • First UN Security Council sanctions imposed in Dec. 2006. Sanctions on Iran's banks and crude oil exports followed, as did exclusion from SWIFT and financial markets
  • Lack of access to international banking hits Iranian sectors reliant on imports or with big export markets
  • By late 2012, Iran’s currency, the rial, loses around two-thirds of its value against the dollar; oil exports are slashed by more than half
  • By late 2013 Iran’s GDP contracts by 6.8 percent. New President Hassan Rouhani has a mandate to negotiate with the West and secure a relaxation of sanctions
  • The July 13 agreement does not end U.S. sanctions related to human rights, ballistic missiles, or U.S. assertions that Iran supports terrorist groups in the Middle East.

By Golnar Motevalli

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