Tehran

Tehran by CC user kamshots on Flickr

Introduction

Serving as the capital for one of the more controversial nations in the Middle East, the Iranian capital of Tehran nonetheless contains many of the relics of this countries’ recent and ancient past.  Despite its utilitarian appearance, high population density and pollution, Tehran stands as one of the more comfortable metropolises in the region during the summer due to its elevation, with summer temperatures averaging a dry 32 degrees (as opposed to lowland areas, which can bake in 40+ degree heat, or languish in unbearable humidity near the coast.

Adding to its appeal are well over 800 public parks throughout the urban area, where the populace relaxes in the cool that predominates just after dusk.  The main draw for the roaming culture hound will be the abundance of museums and monuments here, which document the mighty Persian empire of the past, and the Iranian Revolution that occurred during the modern era.

Golestan Palace by CC user parmida on Flickr

Cultural Experiences

The main historical event that will be on the mind of most travelers to Tehran will likely be the Iranian Revolution that ousted the US backed Shah in 1979, after which the Ayatollah, the Supreme religious leader of Iran, rose to prominence. The first one, Ayatollah Khomeini, passed away in 1989, leading to the construction of the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini, where his body lies in a covered tomb alongside his son.

The central complex is housed in a spectacular mosque-like structure which will be the centrepiece for a 5,000 acre complex that will eventually contain a shopping mall, an Islamic university, and other facilities that will have things of touristic and cultural interest when completed.

Following this, check out the Golestan Palace, by far the oldest historical monument situated with the general vicinity of Tehran. Built in the 16th century, and last housing the royals from the Qajar dynasty who ruled Iran in the 19th century, 17 structures contain various museums, halls and royal living quarters, all of which collectively comprise one of the best organized learning experiences for visitors to this city.

After you have finished weaving through this complex, take time to enjoy the lush gardens outside, a feature that brings many locals onto these grounds on a regular basis.

To complete your briefing on the history of Tehran and the country that it administrates, head over to the National Museum of Iran. The primary attraction on offer here are the many aspects that define Iran’s ancient past, back when it ruled much of the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Southern Europe as the Persian Empire.

Pieces as old as 7,000 years are on display here, which include a mummy that was preserved in a salt mine, with ended up keeping all his clothes and jewels in pristine condition as well!

Azadi Tower by CC user christiaantriebert on Flickr

Other Attractions

To segue from the last section: if you enjoy looking at shiny things like the type preserved on Salt Man, then check out the Treasury of the National Jewels. This collection is the largest in the entire world, with one of the largest cut diamonds (Daria-i-Noor) and the largest uncut ruby on Earth standing out amongst the various icons of decadence on display. A 50,000 rial entrance fee is required on entry, which will no doubt go towards adding to thia envy-inducing collection.

One definitive landmark that you should see before leaving for destinations further afield should be the Azadi Tower, a massive monument designed to commemorate the 2,500th anniversary of the dawn of the Persian Empire. Lit up in national colours at night, this symbol of past glory also contains an interesting museum that contain 50 individual pieces that represent various period’s in Persia’s/Iran’s history, ranging from paintings to pottery.

A more modern phallic object that is also worth a look is Milad Tower, which ranks the fourth tallest of its kind in the world.  Visible from anywhere in town, reaching this observation tower that also contains a revolving restaurant at the top. Be sure to reserve your tickets in advance, as it is very popular among locals and domestic tourists as well as foreigners, and bring your wallet, as the restaurant is very pricey!

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