This article adopts Ray Oldenburg’s definition of third places and argues that the eight characteristics of third places
are demonstrated in the tea houses of Masulih. In many vernacular communities, participating in informal public gathering
places, or third places, is one of the daily routines of local inhabitants. The male inhabitants--including seniors
and shopkeepers, as well as the shepherds who migrate seasonally with their herds from plateau of Gilan to Masulih-
-regularly visit and socialize in Masulih’s tea houses. Recently, tourists also have become regular visitors of the tea houses.
Qualitative research methods were conducted during extended field work in Masulih during 2008 to 2015. In-depth
interviews with local inhabitants placed them as local experts. This allowes for a deeper understanding of the use of the
tea houses as third places. In addition, research was conducted through visits to the tea houses at various times of the
year in order to record their seasonal usage. While not every vernacular settlement in Iran is a tourist destination,
Masulih, with its tea houses integrated in the bazaar, sees regular and steady tourist visitation. Masulih’s rich cultural,
architectural, and tourist landscape generates a complex research ground. This article suggests that tea houses, as third
places, are vital for informal regular gathering of local Masulih residents, seasonal visitors, and tourists.
Keywords: Masulih, Tea houses, Third places, Tourists, Local inhabitants.
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