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Tehran: an impressive adventure

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You should definitely dedicate a few days of your Iranian travel plan to Tehran, a large cosmopolitan city full of museums, restaurants, parks, and kind and welcoming people.

Tehran can be divided into northern and southern parts. The northern districts of Tehran are more wealthy, up-to-date, multiethnic and expensive whereas southern neighborhoods are less attractive but cheaper.

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The city of Tehran is the centre of Tehran Province and the capital of Iran. It is located to the south of Alborz Mountain Range, and its main language is Farsi with Tehrani accent. Being closer to the mountains, the northern parts of Tehran is much colder than the southern districts which are closer to the central and warmer parts of Iran.

There are different theories suggesting the origin of the name “Tehran”. Some of them believe that “ran” is a suffix which means mountain hill and it is in contrast to “Shemiran” which is located to the north of Tehran. In this respect, Tehran means the “lower side” and Shemiran means the “upper side.” In another theory, Tehran is supposedly coming from “Tehram” which means warm area and Shemiran is coming from “Shemiram” meaning cold area. It is also assumed that Tehran is the simplified version of “Tah Ray An” meaning the end of “Ray”. Ray is a city to the south of Tehran which was a very important and populated city. The writer of a historical book called “Merat Albaladan” argues that at the times of war, residents of Tehran were taking refuge in underground cells, hence the name “Tehran” meaning underground.

Tehran had numerous natural endowments such as the aforementioned underground cells. Being surrounded by mountains, it is an appropriate home for those who need to hide in case of danger. On the other hand, it was on the path of Caravans which made it an ideal place for bandits. Before Shah Tahmasp chose Qazvin as his capital city, the city of Tehran was occupied mostly by bandits and outlaws.

When the Safavid came to power, its proximity to Qazvin turned Tehran into an important city. The Safavid kings regarded themselves as the descendants of Seyed Hamzeh who was also a descendant of the 7th Shiite Imam, therefore they required an appropriate place to stay during visits to their ancestor. The tomb of Seyed Hamzeh was near Tehran, and Shah Tahmasp I was fascinated by its beautiful scenery. He commanded his men to border by ditch and rampart. Supposedly, in the Safavid time, the city was protected by 114 towers signifying the 114 Surahs of Quran.

Numerous bridges, palaces and caravanserais were built in the area during the time when Shah Abbas was in power. To the north of the fortification, a governmental post was built consisting of a Persian garden and a palace that were separated by protecting walls. Soon after, more palaces were constructed in the complex, turning it into a work of art that is known today as Golestan Palace.

During his clashes with the chief of the Qajar Clan, Karim Khan chose Tehran as his capital, and after winning the war he held his ascension to the throne in Tehran with the self-proclaimed title “Vakil Al Raaya.” Tehran defended bravely at the time of Afghans attacks; thus when they were defeated, Afghans wrecked the city with all its gardens and trees and left them in ruins. Nader Shah managed to revitalize Tehran and turn it again into a thriving city. He gathered the leaders of Islamic nations and made an alliance to unify the kingdoms.

Up until the excavations in Qeytarieh and Abas Abbad regions, the oldest hints of inhabitation belonged to the city of Ray. Nonetheless, the new investigations proved that the history of living in Tehran dates back to no less than the second millennium BC. The most important tourist attractions of Tehran include Niavaran Palace, Golestan Palace, Sa’d Abad Palace, National Museum, Abgineh Museum, Museum of National Treasury, Museum of Contemporary art, Reza Abasi Museum, Carpet Museum, Tajrish Bazaar, Toghrol Tower, and Tehran Grand Bazaar.

Tehran Grand Bazaar, a labyrinth of bustling alleyways, bazaars, and shops, is a fascinating, and somehow daunting, place to explore. Despite being known as the Grand Bazaar, most of the architecture is less than 200 years old, although there are some hidden gems among them as well. You would rather want to visit the Grand Bazaar in the morning, when business is brisk but not yet frantic – since later in the day the chance of being run over by a fast-moving handcart is high.

Located on the southern slopes of the glorious, snow-capped Alborz Mountains, Tehran is the most secular and liberal city if Iran. Give it some of your time – as you should – and you’ll soon realise that it is much more than a chaotic jumble of concrete and stupid traffic covered by a cloud of smoke. Tehran is the vibrant heart of the country and it is the place to get a good grasp on modern Iran and what its future will likely be.

The tower was built in 1970 as a symbol of modern Iran by Hossein Amanat in three floors and a museum. After 1979 Revolution, its name was changed from Shahyad to Azadi.

Azadi Tower (Borj-e Azadi)

Azadi tower is one of the landmarks of Tehran which is located in the central part of the city. The tower has played a key role in Iranian’s historical events for the past 50 years. Before the Islamic revolution of 1979, It was called “Shahyad Tower” which meant the King’s Memorial. Hossein Amanat, a young student, designed the tower in 1970. He won the architectural design competition which was held open to all Iranian architects. At the time, it was built as the symbol of the modern Tehran and as a celebration of 2500th anniversary of the Persian Empire.

It took about 28 months to finish the construction and on its opening day, the King and the Queen of Iran unveiled The Cyrus Charter (Cyrus Cylinder, which is currently kept in the British museum) dating back to 2550 years ago. Important ceremonial events were being held at this tower, and it was during the 1979 revolution that several protests and demonstrations organized by the opposition parties took place around it. For this reason, its name was changed to Azadi Square after the revolution; in Farsi, “Azadi” means freedom.

The Azadi tower has an area of around 50.000 square meters. Its design is a combination of Sassanid, Achaemenes and Islamic architecture. Looking from the top, the tower is like an octagon, while the main pillars do create a rectangle with 42 and 63 meters’ sides. On the higher section of the tower, the pillars join together and form a four arched vault. The main arch is in the centre of tower; it was inspired by Eivan-e Kasra which belongs to the Sassanid era. Islamic architecture has inspired the upper arch, and the space between the two arches are filled with Rasmi-Bandi that is a type of decorative design made of sloped arches that fills the space under the vault. Iranian mosques use a similar form of decoration as well.

Azadi tower contains 8000 marble pieces, three floors, four lifts and two sets of stairs. It is about 45 meters high while 5 meters of the tower is built below the ground. Hossein Amanat believes that the design of square follows the tradition of Persian Gardens, although in a small scale, whereas the exterior design and the style of tower is inspired by the dome of Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque in Isfahan. Now, the tower includes several underground museums and different halls such as library, science hall, gallery, Iranology hall, the communication hall, and conference and concert hall. You can reach the top of the tower by means of elevator or stairs. There are some galleries with temporary exhibitions and displays and a cafe in the basement. In order to reach the tower, which is situated in a large egg-shaped park, you probably need to patiently bypass the traffic that is an almost constant element of the Azadi Square.


The Azadi Museum is located in the basement floor of the tower. There are black austere walls and a concrete ceiling Inside. Heavy doors open onto a crypt with dim lights coming from display cases, each of them containing an object. The museum is home to a number of gold and enamel items, painted pottery, marbles and paintings. About fifty pieces, each of them representing a specific period in the history of Iran, are presented in the museum.

Gold sheeting, square flagstones, and terracotta tablets from Susa covered with cuneiform characters were amongst the first items on display. Before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the main case belonged to a copy of the Cyrus Cylinder, while the original one is kept at the British Museum. A translation of the cylinder’s cuneiform writing is engraved on a wall of a gallery with golden letters. A similar plate in front of the cylinder listed the Twelve Points of the White Revolution. Adjacent to the Cyrus Cylinder, there was a gold plate honouring the original presentation of the museum by the Mayor of Tehran to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Potteries, ceramics, polished porcelains (for instance a seventh-century blue and gold dish from Gorgan), an illuminated Quran, and miniatures highlighting milestones in the history of Iran up to the 19th century are among the items on the showcase.

The first name given to this tower was “Darvāze-ye Kuroš” (the Gate of Cyrus), and at the time of the Centennial Celebrations, Asadollah Alam, chairman of the Council of Celebrations, calle it as “Darvāze-ye Šāhanšāhi” (the Imperial Gate).


Audio-visual theatre (1971)

in 1975, The original show which was produced in 1971 get replaced by a new one that invited visitors to discover Iran’s geographic diversity along with its rudimentary historical features. It displayed a number of national accomplishments, technical endeavours, calligraphic poems, and miniature paintings. The project, developed by a Czechoslovak company, involved more than 12,000 metres of film, 20,000 color slides, 20 movie projectors, and 120 slide projectors. These programs were directed by professor Jaroslav Frič (1928–2000). The entire system was being operated by 5 computers.

Gate of Words light show (2015)

Philipp Geist, a German artist, prepared a projection mapping installation called “Gate of Words” at the Azadi Tower on the occasion of the German Unity Day. The show was held from 3rd to 5th of October, 2015.

Throughout this presentation, the artist visualized the subjects of freedom, peace, time and space in a poetical manner. He developed a light projection including coloured words and notions in different languages, and abstract designs and images. The glowing words from English, German and Persian languages were moving on the walls of the tower in tune with the live music


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