International Writers Magazine: IRAN
Days in Tehran
Brian H. Appleton
Tehran is a very large and beautifully picturesque city with many
hidden worlds within worlds to discover, which runs downhill from
the foothills of the Alborz Mountains in the north all the way down
to the edges of the Dasht Kavir desert in the south. Never far from
the skyline is the immense Mount Damavand whose snow capped peak
can often be seen rising above the clouds like the Mount Fuji of
Tehran is a very
large and beautifully picturesque city with many hidden worlds within
worlds to discover, which runs downhill from the foothills of the Alborz
Mountains in the north all the way down to the edges of the Dasht Kavir
desert in the south. Never far from the skyline is the immense Mount
Damavand whose snow capped peak can often be seen rising above the clouds
like the Mount Fuji of Iran.
Since the revolution, 30,000 trees have been planted in Tehran and it
is one of the greenest cities you will ever see anywhere on the planet.
The traffic is jammed like L.A. or NYC but there is a subway system
which is clean and efficient and like NYC or Paris, the city never sleeps
and one can always find a place to eat 24 hours a day, including ice
cream and sweet shops and tea houses and water pipe cafes. To plan ones
visit most effectively one should stick to one neighborhood of town
per day since it can take 1 to 2 hours to get from the top of town to
the bottom or across town in traffic.
guide will get a permit to drive in the down town bazaar area. The
first stop is the National Archeological Museum or the Iran Bastan
Museum as it is known. This museum has a great collection of Achemaenian
bronzes, statues, capitols and friezes from Persepolis as well as
Lurestan bronzes and pottery, Sassanian and Parthian. The naturalism
of the animal depictions is amazing. There is even the mummified
head of a Parthian Lord preserved in salt with a gold ear ring in
his ear along with his felt boots. There are mosaics which once
lined the floors of palaces installed by Roman war slaves.
For lunch you will
go to the Omar Khayyam Restaurant in the bazaar neighborhood at Khayam
Street, where the proprietor will proudly show you their mention in
the Lonely Planet series on Iran and you will sit cross legged on a
carpeted low platform and eat dezee, which you will mash with a mortar
and pestle and you will drink dukh (carbonated yoghurt) to go with it.
The restaurant itself is quite architecturally picturesque as it is
converted from a former mosque.
In the afternoon you will spend at least an hour and a half wandering
the grand bazaar visiting carpet shops and seeing private collections
of antique carpets with animal motifs from Nayeen and Qom.
Then you will go to Ghavam Soltaneh in Jomhoori neighborhood just a
little north of the bazaar area. Ghavam Soltaneh was the first Tehran
residence of the famous late Prime Minister Ebrahim Ghavam of Shiraz,
which houses the national glass and ceramic museum.
will see many fine ceramics from Kashan 11th, 12th and 13th centuries
among other things as well as glass vases beautifully displayed
by contemporary cases and lighting designed by Italians. That
night you will dine on Azerbaijani style food like Benobi Kebabs
at Shiraz Benobi Kebab Restaurant on Shiraz Street around Shiraz
Descend into the downtown bazaar area and visit Golestan Palace
complex, originally the palaces of the Zand Kings, a dynasty of
Kurdish origin from Esfahan and in fact the tomb of Karim Khan-e-Zand
is to be found there. The Qajar then took over the palaces and
the loggia with the throne and tomb of Mozzafaredin Shah Qajar
can be seen there.
There is also a
fine collection of oil paintings of various royalties of Europe and
Russia and the first high rise in front of which is a palace with two
ventilation towers which sucked the wind down them to blow over an indoor
pool of water which cooled the rest of the rooms. The grounds and reflecting
pools of the Golestan complex are beautiful and you will see horse and
carriages which belonged to the Qajar.
You will have lunch in the Ferdowsi Grand Hotel Restaurant and smoke
gheylioon and drink tea in their tea room afterwards. Then you will
proceed to the National Jewels Museum in the Jomhoori neighborhood at
Istanbool intersection to see its collection of Qajar and Pahlavi Dynasty
pieces such as the Darya-e-Noor diamond, the Peacock Throne and the
That night you will dine at the "Entrecote Restaurant" for
fine French cuisine. Mr. Salehzadeh, the manager, says that it is a
branch of the famous Paris restaurant. It is located at No. 1 South
Shiraz Street, Khordestan Expressway.
You will go to the National Carpet Museum in Fatemi neighborhood and
have breakfast in the chic café there and see the oldest perfectly
preserved carpet in the world over 700 tears
old which agents of Empress Farah bought at auction in London to return
to Iran. You will see the finest carpets from every major carpet weaving
center in Iran both past and present such as Tabriz, Mashad, Esfahan,
Nayeen and Qom. Some are so large like the four in the main lobby that
they cannot be fully unrolled although it is a very tall room. You will
see many Amoghli family carpets. Amoghli is a famous carpet manufacturing
family from Qom for over three hundred years. You will see styles no
longer made such as Tehrani carpets. There are even carpets with portraits
of famous statesmen of all nationalities woven into them as well as
of Qajar royals. There is one with American Presidents featuring George
Washington in the center.
For lunch you will go to Lux Talaee in Semiran for Baghali Polo and
Maeeche, which is a boiled lamb shank under a pile of lima bean rice.
In the afternoon you will proceed to the Reza Abbasi Museum in nearby
Seyed Khandan ( laughing descendant of the prophet) neighborhood, which
has the finest collection of solid gold Achamaenian Rhytons as well
as silver, bronze and ceramic ones, which you will find no where else
in addition to 1 and 2nd century AD glassware and ceramics from Kashan,
Kerman and other sites, Islamic armor and even glass water pipes. The
museum is small with only three floors of exhibits however they are
some of the finest collections of their kind in existence.
For dinner you will go to Gilac Restaurant at Park O Prince Avenue where
you will dine on Kebab Torsh in the style of Gilan on the Caspian and
eat MirzaHosseini mashed eggplant for an appetizer along with pickled
garlic and also Grilled White Fish.
You will go to the Niavaran Palaces and have breakfast at the café
on the grounds. There you will see the palace which served as the
administrative offices of the Shah on the ground floor and to entertain
guests in the basement level. You will also visit the adjacent little
place once belonging to the last Qajar King Ahmed Shah, which was
given to the Shahzadeh, the Shahs oldest son and is filled
with his memorabilia and childhood books.
For lunch you will go to SBU Restaurant in Evin and sit cross legged
on carpeted platforms amidst the trees and running streams and dine
on Shishlik Kebabs and fresh
baked taftoon bread.
In the afternoon
you will go to the Saad Abad Palaces in Semiran neighborhood,
which were originally built by the Qajars and taken over by the Pahlavis
until Empress Farah grew tired of her in laws and had Niavaran built
instead. At Saad Abad you will see a palace where Reza Shah The
Great lived and you will see a unique style of stucco designs on top
of mirrored glass walls. You will see many antiques like a silver serving
dish weighing several hundred pounds, a leather wall papered dining
room with a table set with Limoge crystal glassware and also many memorabilia
of Reza Shah including his Futan on the floor of his bedroom where he
preferred to sleep. The grounds are incredibly verdant just as they
were at Niavaran.
That night you will dine at Darband, up in the foothills at the top
of the town at the Koohpaye Restaurant full of fountains and flora reminiscent
of the hanging gardens of Babylon and there you will eat trout and or
Bakhtiari Kebabs, which are chicken and steak on the same skewer with
green bell pepper.
On Day 5:
You will have continental breakfast in the lobby of the Esteglal Hotel
in Elahiyeh neighborhood and then proceed to Darabad to the Museum of
Natural History of Iran with a great collection both of live and stuffed
fauna including birds and ibex on display along with fossils and minerals
and a nice garden for strolling in.
For lunch you will go to Chiminey Restaurant for its quiet elegant atmosphere
up in a hillside forest overlooking Tehran for fine continental and
Iranian dining including duck with wild mushrooms. Alternately you can
go to the restaurant in Jamshidieh Park shaped like Turkmen Yerts in
Niavaran neighborhood at the foot of Tochal Mountain and dine on giant
meatballs, Kuft-e-Tabrizi or Kooko Sabzi, six inch high spinach soufflé.
The park is full of beautiful wild tulips in the spring.
In the afternoon your will go to the family owned private cemetery Zahir
Ol Dowleh to see where many of the most famous contemporary Iranian
national poets, writers, musicians and sufi philanthropists are burried
such as Forough Farrokhzad, Iradj Mirza, Bahar, Rohani, Rahi Moayeri,
Darvish Khan and others.
Then you will proceed
to the teahouse and gardens of the late General Amirahmadi and his wife
in Elahiyeh neighborhood and take tea and pastries while enjoying the
scale models of some of the most famous architecture in Iran such as
the Ali Gapu of Esfahan, Soltanieh Mosque, which was the tallest dome
in the world in the 14th century, the mausoleum of Ibn Sina, the Golestan
Palace and many others.
For dinner you will go to "Touch Restaurant" on the corner
of Kamranieh and Farmanieh Streets on the first floor of Kooh-e-noor
Shopping Center where you will find charm and exquisite décor
and comfort along with an attentive, polite and friendly staff and great
world class nouvelle cusine such as tomato and basil soup, rice paper
wrapped vegetables, fish grilled in tamarind and ginger or marinated
steak and for desert baby water melon cuts, cherries and apricots with
. There are many other restaurants and cafes and museums such as the
"Time Museum," which has a collection of clocks, the "Contemporary
Art museum," the "Ancient Coin Museum" and there is even
a museum about SAVAK as well as a small museum in Elahiyeh neighborhood
with a collection of photos from the revolution. While you are there,
you may want to go to "Classic Café" which is a very
trendy and chic place to grab a cappuccino or a latte and to see and
be seen among Tehrans younger jet set or if you happen to have
a local friend with "parti bazi" (influence) you could get
in to the Bashga-he-Engelob or "Revolution Club" which was
the former Imperial Country Club then known as Bashga-he-Shahanshahi
and play a round of golf.
You might catch a show of folkloric dance at Rudaki Hall or depending
on the time of year, a film festival such as the "Tehran International
Short Film Festival" or the "Tehran International Animation
Festival" and there is also contemporary theatre around town which
you can learn about on
It is important to understand that Tehran is a world class city with
no lack of things to do for a tourist and in fact three weeks would
better serve a visitor than one week in order to see it all. There are
many beautiful parks with water features and some of the most beautiful
public sculpture worldwide and many side trips worth considering like
one to the national cemetery Behesht e Zahra to see Imam Khomeinis
mausoleum and the acres of graves of the young martyrs of the Iran-
Iraq war, which is on the way to or from the luxurious and convenient
new Imam Khomeini International Airport.
© Brian H Appleton
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