Life in Iran under U.S. sanctions

By Alex Nouri. Part three. Click here to read part two

Iran has been under U.S. sanctions for nearly 40 years. During that time, it has lost much business with many international companies. The most recent companies that have pulled out of Iran on certain home-based products are LG and Samsung. High inflation has left its mark on society; higher prices on all products and services while wages have not increased proportionately have resulted in increased poverty, a fact the Iranian government does not acknowledge for obvious reasons. To understand the plight of people better, let’s look at some basic facts and numbers to grasp the situation better.

Unlike the U.S. and Europe, Iran uses the solar calendar; the New Year is called Norouz, meaning The new day, and it starts on either March 20 or 21, the first day of spring. The solar year is now 1399. Through the Gregorian year 2019, the official starting monthly salary mandated by the government for a typical worker was 17 million rials equivalent to $117.00 U.S. dollars. The rial is the official currency of Iran, although Iranians use tomans, which is equivalent to 10 rials.

Products by the numbers

Appropriately, let’s look at the price of some basic products used on a daily basis and (where applicable) per person. All prices are in the rial.
White bread, one bag: 75,000; traditional oven-made bread: 3,000-20,000 per bread; butter, 8 ounces: 100,000, labneh cheese, 5 ounces: 105,000; eggs, six-pack: 104,000; Twinings tea bags, box of 50: 439,000; spaghetti, 25-ounces: 55,000; cooking oil, 30 ounces: 350,000; lemon juice, 20 ounces: 175,000; ice cream, 23-ounce container: 150,000; salad dressing, 16-ounce bottle: 95,000; Coca Cola bottle: 20-ounce: 20,000, 50-ounce: 40,000; chicken: 80,000 per pound; meat, ground chuck: 300,000 per pound; mushroom, 1 pound: 130,000; potato: 60,000 per pound; head lettuce: 110,000; tomato: 70,000 per pound; cucumber: 27,000 per pound; carrot: 32,000 per pound; yellow apple: 90,000 per pound; tomato paste, medium can: 80,000; biscuit, small bag: 40,000. One toothbrush: 115,000; soap, one bar: 30,000-40,000; shampoo: 100-000-150,000; kabob sandwich: 150,000; kabob meal with rice and grilled tomato: 210,000-600,000; Snapp ride, identical to Uber and Lyft: 100,000-200-000 rials for about a 5-mile trip depending on traffic; one city bus ticket: 10,000 per ride in any one direction.

Alex Nouri of Ann Arbor Michigan, who is visiting Iran on a family trip, is providing a look at one of Tehran’s streets under the current Cover-19 crisis

Also, Snapp is used for food delivery, a system similar to Uber for food, and operates nationwide. Delivery men use motorbikes to deliver food in a fast and efficient manner.

The above prices are clearly high and unbearable to most. An average good lunch or dinner for a family of four could cost between 150,000-2000,000 rials. The middle class has shrunk since 1979, the beginning of the current regime. Most households in Iran are now in the category of poor despite official claims to the contrary. Although there is virtually no scarcity of food, a pleasant surprise particularly considering the impact Corona Virus has left on food availability in some developed countries including the U.S., it is, nonetheless, obvious that life can, and indeed is, difficult for most Iranians.

Motorbikes that Iranian use for food delivery.

As far as housing, a rental could cost anywhere between 2-5 million rials per month depending on the location. This range does not include housing in upper-class neighborhoods. 

Last week, the government has increased the starting salary by about 13,000,000 to a total of 30,000,000 rials. But even that increase will most likely not do much to alleviate the pressure families feel. The hardship has affected social life in Iran, where most families do not invite other family members any longer because of the exorbitant expense associated with preparing a meal. That, in turn, has resulted in a culture that is less interactive than it was decades ago as I recall personally. My wish is for U.S. sanctions to be lifted and the engines of the economy to go into full force.

Article by Alex Nouri, CPP, Author. Alex could be reached at


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