Sleepless in Tehran

Following the conclusion of the deal between Iran and the West, a trickle of tourists has started to find its way towards Tehran, a city that offers an unparalleled grandeur. For a city which is also coincidently celebrating its 230th year of being, Tehran has surprisingly much more to offer in history and culture than others are willing to concede. Behzad Pourmohammadi, a Tehrani artist and a filmmaker, talks about what the city has to offer to its visitor.

Following the conclusion of the deal between Iran and the West, a trickle of tourists has started to find its way towards Tehran, a city that offers an unparalleled grandeur. For a city which is also coincidently celebrating its 230th year of being, Tehran has surprisingly much more to offer in history and culture than others are willing to concede.

tsi-oct-aaaaaThe 230th birthday of the capital Tehran is being celebrated in a festival, dubbed Tehran 230, in the oldest districts of the metropolis. The festival is being held in four regions of the city throughout the month of August and September to introduce the tourist attraction of the Hesar-e Naseri (Naseri Fortification), the city of Tehran in Qajar dynasty, where the majority of the population resided in the three main neighbourhoods of Udlajan, Chale Meydan, and Sangelaj. The epicentre of all the festivities is the Mashq Square. The Mashq Square, formerly referred to as the parade square, used to be a military shooting range during the Qajar period. It was then turned into a public park for a short period, and eventually, important governmental offices and museums were built around it. Tehran is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. The Qajar king Agha Mohammad Khan was the first to choose Tehran as the capital of Iran in 1776. With a population of around 12 million, Tehran is the largest city and urban area of Iran, the 2nd-largest city in Western Asia, and the 3rd-largest in the Middle East. It is ranked 29th in the world by the population of its metropolitan area. In the Classical era, part of the presentday city of Tehran was occupied by a median city which in the Avesta occurs as Rhaga. It was destroyed by the Mongols in the early 13th century, and remains now as a city in Tehran Province, located towards the southern end of the modern-day city of Tehran. Tehran was first chosen as the capital of Iran by Agha Mohammad Khan of the Qajar dynasty in 1796, in order to remain within close reach of Iran’s territories in the Caucasus, before being separated from Iran as a result of the Russo-Persian Wars, and to avoid the vying factions of the previously ruling Iranian dynasties. The capital has been moved several times throughout the history, and Tehran is the 32nd national capital of Iran. The city was the seat of the Qajars and Pahlavis, the two last imperial dynasties of Iran. It is home to many historical collections, such as the royal complexes of Golestan, Sa’dabad, and Niavaran, as well as the country’s most important governmental buildings of the modern period. Large scale demolition and rebuilding began in the 1920s, and Tehran has been a destination for the mass migrations from all over Iran since the 20th century. The most famous landmarks of the city include the Azadi Tower, a memorial built during the Pahlavi period, and the Milad Tower, the world’s 17th tallest freestanding structure which was built in 2007. Tabiat Bridge, which was completed in 2014, is considered the third symbol of the city. Tehran’s other famous landmarks include: National Garden (Baq-e-Melli), Shams-ol- Emareh of Golestan Palace, Grand Bazaar of Tehran, National Museum of Iran, National Jewelry Museum, Other Palaces and Museums, Churches, Toop Khāneh Square (Maidan-e Toopkhaneh), Valiasr Street, Tehran University, Tajrish Square, City Theatre, Vahdat Hall, Mellat Park, Ferdowsi Square, Tocal (Alborz Mountains), Darband Village, Darakeh Village, Azadi Stadium, and tsi-oct-fidsdanalothers. The majority of the people of Tehran are Persian-speaking people, and roughly 99% of the population understand and speaks Persian; but there are also large populations of other Iranian ethnicities in the city such as Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Lurs, and Kurds who speak Persian as their second language. Tehran is served by the Mehrabad and Imam Khomeini international airports, a central railway station, the rapid transit rail system of the Tehran Metro, as well as a trolleybus and a BRT system, and has a huge network of highways. Tehran County borders Shemiranat County to the north, Damavand County to the east, Eslamshahr, Pakdasht, and Rey counties to the south, and Karaj and Shahriar counties to the west. Tehran has a wide range of shopping centers from traditional bazaars to modern shopping malls. The Grand Bazaar of Tehran and the Bazaar of Tajrish are the biggest old bazaars in Tehran. Shopping districts such as Valiasr, Shariati, and Mirdamad have a wide range of different shops. A few of the well known malls across the city include Tiraje and Hyperstar, and smaller shopping centres such as Tandis, Golestan, Palladium Mall and Safavie. Most of the international branded stores and upper class shops are located in the northern and western parts of the city, while the rest of the shopping centres are located across the city. Tehran’s retail business is growing with several newly built malls and shopping centres. Tehran, as one of the main tourist locations in Iran, has a wealth of cultural attractions. It is home to royal complexes built during the two last monarchical periods of the country, including the Golestan, Sa’dabad and Niavaran complexes. There are several historic, artistic and scientific museums in Tehran, such as the National Museum, Malek Museum, Reza Abbasi Museum, Cinema museum, Glassware and Ceramics Museum, Museum of the Qasr Prison, the Carpet Museum and Museum of Glass Painting. There is also the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in which works of famous artists such as Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol are featured. Tehran is also home to the Iranian Imperial Crown Jewels, claimed to be the largest jewel collection in the world. The collection comprises a set of crowns and thrones, some 30 tiaras, numerous aigrettes, jewel studded swords and shields, a vast amount of precious loose gems, as well as the largest collections of emeralds, rubies and diamonds in the world. It also includes other items collected by the Shahs of Iran. The imperial crown jewels are on display at the Central Bank of Iran. Tehran International Book Fair is known to the international publishing world as one of the most important publishing events in Asia. There are over 2,100 parks within the metropolis of Tehran, with one of the oldest being Jamshidieh Park, which was first established as a private garden for the Qajar prince Jamshid Davallu and was then dedicated to Farah Diba. The total green space within Tehran stretches over 12,600 hectares, covering over 20 percent of the city’s area. Tehran’s Birds Garden is the largest bird park of Iran. There is also a zoo located on the Tehran–Karaj Expressway, housing over 290 species within an area of about five hectares. There are four parks in Tehran established exclusively for women, totalling about 80 hectares in area, in which the female mandatory dress codes are not required. Tehran is the largest and most important educational centre of Iran. There are a total of nearly 50 major colleges and universities in Greater Tehran. Since the establishment of Dar ol Fonun by the order of Amir Kabir in the mid-19th century, Tehran has amassed a large number of institutions of higher education. Some of these institutions have played crucial roles in the unfolding of Iranian political events. Among major educational institutions located in Tehran, Sharif University of Technology, University of Tehran, and Tehran University of Medical Sciences are the most prestigious universities of Iran. Allameh Tabatabaei University, Amirkabir University of Technology (Tehran Polytechnic), K.N.Toosi University of Technology, Shahid Beheshti University (Melli University), Kharazmi University, Iran University of Science and Technology, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Islamic Azad University, International Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Seismology, Iran Polymer and Petrochemical Institute, Shahed University and Tarbiat Modarres University are among the other universities of Iran located in Tehran. Tehran is also home to Iran’s largest military academy, and several religious schools and seminaries. Tehran has many modern and traditional restaurants and cafes, serving both traditional Iranian and cosmopolitan cuisine. One of the most popular dishes of the city is Chelo-kabab. Pizzerias, sandwich shops and kebab shops make up the majority of food outlets in the city. During the Qajar era, Tehran was home to the royal theatre of Tekye Dowlat located at the southeast of the Golestan Palace, in which traditional and religious performances were observed. It was destroyed and replaced with a bank building in 1947, following the modernization of Tehran under the reign of Reza Shah of the Pahlavi Dynasty. Before the 1979 Revolution, the Iranian national stage had become the most famous performing scene for known international artists and troupes in the Middle East, with the Roudaki Hall of Tehran constructed to function as the national stage for opera and ballet. The hall was inaugurated on October 26, 1967, and now continues to operate with Vahdat Hall as its official name. It is home to the Tehran Symphony Orchestra and the Tehran Opera Orchestra. The City Theater of Tehran was opened in 1972, with its main building designed by architect Ali Sardar Afkhami, and contains several performance halls.

tsi-afinalasdThe first movie theatre of Tehran was established and opened by Mirza Ebrahim Khan in 1904. Until early 1930s, there were 15 theatres in Tehran Province and 11 in other provinces. There are many movie theatres in Tehran, with most of them located downtown. The complexes of Mellat Cinema and Gallery, Kourosh Complex, Azadi Cinema, and Cinema Farhang are among the wellknown cinema complexes in Tehran. Festivals such as Fajr International Film Festival, Fajr International Music Festival, Fajr International Theatre Festival, International Puppet Theatre Festival of Tehran, and Tehran International Animation Festival are also observed in the city. Tehran was the first city in the Middle East to host the Asian Games. The 7th Asian Summer Games was held in Tehran in 1974, with the participation of 2,363 athletes and officials from 25 countries. Football and volleyball are the city’s most popular sports, while wrestling, basketball, and futsal are also major parts of the city’s sporting culture. 12 ski resorts operate in Iran, the most famous being Tochal, Dizin, and Shemshak, all within one to three hours from the city of Tehran. Tochal Ski Resort is the world’s fifth highest ski resort at over 3,730 meters (12,240 feet) above sea level at its highest point. It is also the world’s nearest ski resort to a capital city. Tehran is also the site of Iran’s national football stadium at the Azadi Complex, which has a capacity of 100,000. Azadi Football Stadium is one of the largest stadiums in the world, where many of the top matches of Iran’s Premier League are held. Other stadiums in Tehran include Ararat Stadium, Dastgerdi Stadium, Takhti Stadium, and Shirudi Stadium. After years of illegal and anti-human sanctions, the nation of Iran in general and the city of Tehran in particular is all set to unleash its magic on the world. One only needs to say goodbye to inhibitions.