The Tale of Tehran

Tehran, the hustling and bustling capital city of Iran is home to some 13 million people and is ranked amongst the biggest metropolises in the world. Being the capital of this ancient country for more than 230 years, this beauty galore city has a lot to offer to the discerning eyes. Apart from being the political and economic heart of Iran, Tehran has provided the driving thrust behind artistic and cultural movements in the country. The four season city is also home to numerous museums, galleries and well-manicured gardens and parks not to forget its warm friendly people. The city is the 32nd capital of Iran and thus may not enjoy the rich ancient history that previous capitals such as Shiraz and Isfahan have. Yet, this city has provided the central stage in many contemporary events of not only the region but at times the world as well. In this documentary, The Tale of Tehran, we follow a young lady who embarks on a mission to get to know this marvelous City better.

Actress dialog: - Hello? Oh, hi. Yes, thank you. Oh, you mean set designing. Yes...great but... not much has remained of Tehran those days I think. Maybe only Golestan Palace and some other locations,ha? No, no, no. I didn’t say I’m not gonna do that. It’s so interesting. I will do this. Definitely. Just need some time, ok? No, I have to consult an expert and do some sight seeing to see some of those locations. But I will definitely do this. I will do this. Don’t worry about it. Thank you very much. Thanks. Take care. Bye bye.

Narration: Alright. Let's see where I should start? First, I gotta find the right expert. Or: To start my quest I had to find the right person with the right information. So I checked out some bookshops to find something about my subject. There was a book that caught my attention so I found the writer's contact and made an appointment with him the next day. Dr. Mokhtari spent a couple of hours to answer my questions.

Expert 1 subtitle Well, Tehran has been mentioned in historical texts since the third century A. H.. It’s attributed to a famous man who used to live in the court of an Abbasi Kaliph. You see the word Tehrani at the end of his last name. Tehran starts to be shaped as a city during the Safavid era.

Narration: A unique civilization and Islamic heritage that has flourished for over 25 centuries offers a distinct charm of oriental traditions. The capital of Iran has a population of well over 10 million, occupying about a sixth of the total population of Iran. All the main stream of politico-economical and cultural activities runs in and out of Tehran.

Expert 1 subtitle Shah Tahmasb lived in Qazvin that was then capital. Uzbeks frequently invaded Iran and captured the eastern parts of the country. Shah Abbas had to go all the way there from Qazvin. His army camped in Tehran. He gets to like Tehran and orders a fence to be erected around Tehran village . Narration: In the second half of the 16th century, this green village attracted the attention of Shah TahmAsb I, the Safavid King, who ordered that ramparts be constructed around it (1553 A.D.). From that time Tehran acquired the status of a city and grew systematically.

Expert 1 subtitle During Naser al Din Shah’s period based on the Paris Bastion plan a trench is built all around the city when Mirza Isa Vazir was in power with the help of a French man called Bohler. The city’s land area expands to 2500 hectares from 400 hectares. 12 gates are made and fences are removed. The defense system undergoes change as hedges are no more sufficient for defense. Narration: I decided to start with the oldest part in Tehran where the city began to grow. That’s tehran’s grand bazaar. Expert 1 subtitle The traces of the city’s ramparts have remained since the safavid era. That’s because those spots have turned to streets and still remain in five neighborhoods of oudlajan, bazaar, sangelaj and arg.

Narration: Refurbished trains take you all around the northern part of the bazaar at a decent fee. Both shoppers and tourists highly welcome the ride. There is also another way to take a tour of the bazaar area. Horse carriages are both fun and take you to some shopping areas.

The bazaar area is so huge. I spend a couple of full days touring it but just managed to see a small section of it.

Dialog in bazaar: - How much is it? - 118 dollars. - Is it made with hands? - Is it from Kerman? - It’s not clear where it’s made. It must be from Isfahan. The chisel is from Isfahan.

narration Tired and hungry, I found a nice and cosy eatery close to the bazaar. It was actually an old and typical house in Tehran that had been turned into a restaurant. The imposing interior design, the brick walls and arches, the turquoise blue tiles adorning the walls all take you back to over a century ago. Expert 1 subtitle Since Tehran was picked as the capital until 1285 when the city started expanding that’s the first half of the Qajar era and the periods when historical architecture prevails, you find numerous signs that I divide into two categories. One is the part that’s not influenced by the European culture that’s up until Nasser al Din Shah’s early years like Marvi school, Sepah Salar School and Imam Khomeini Mosque. Narration Imam Khomeini mosque is one of the greatest mosques in Tehran. That was built by order of the qajar king fath alishah around 200 years ago. The main prayer section of the mosque is 2000 square meters. Enamled mud tiles with seven colors and graceful intertwined leaves and branches decorate the walls. A 13 step pulpit or minbar all made of fine marble stones catches your eyes in one corner. The clergy deliver their sermons and speeches to worshippers from there. The mosque premises is 10.000 square meters long. The main entrance in the north leads you the main bazaar street with 18 steps. There’s a square shaped yard with one story walls on the sides. Two minarets are added to the premises almost a century ago and the clock between them is placed some 25 years later. Shop owners in the bazaar and passers-by converge on the mosque here upon the call for mid-day prayers, perform ablutions and prepare for congregational prayers led by a clergyman. Roving report 1959 A few years ago, these houses weren’t here. The old Tehran first built up by shah agha mohammad khan the eunuch king is ready to grow to a modern capital of an industrial state. Millions of bricks are cut out of earth to make this progress. It’s so hot now in Tehran that they can almost bake them outside. Expert 1 subtitle The city assumes three cores during this period. One is the old core, another is the ancient Rey that’s in the south and the third one is Shemiran. The joining of these three happens during modernity period that’s continued up to now. The historical face of Tehran is very different from that of other cities in Iran. One day I climbed up the Shams ul-Emareh building and took photos of the Oudlajan area, Naser Khosro Street. I was surprised when I took a look at the photos. I realized there were two main colors in them one being brownish orange that was of the gable roofs and the other green that belonged to the cypress and pine trees. The two make a good combination. The gable roofs have net geometrical shapes and the trees make their colors more visible. I was amazed at the fact that my historical city has its own features and colors.

Narration One of the oldest edifices in the center of Tehran, golestan palace was onece a royal residence it now boasts a stunning tranquil garden together with museum that displays objects from the qajar period. Golestan palace is located in the heart of the historic core of Tehran. It was originally built during the safavid dynasty. Following extensions it received its most characteristics features in the 19th century when the palace was selected as the royal residence and seat of power by the qajar ruling family. Diolog actress and palace expert -the design and structure of this part of the palace is a combination of Iranian and European arts for example you see stokeworking, tile working, mirror work and everything that we can say it’s pure Iranian but the structure and the design is inspired by the Vatican library. -oh, the Vatican library - specially the arc I mean - uha, the tiles are so unique -yes, of course and the color of these tiles are typical colors of the qajar period -it’s a museum here, ha? -we can say it’s the first museum in iran, the royal museum. It was not open for public but we can say the first museum of iran is here. - and who made these lights? -they are from venice -they are huge and beautiful -yeah, the one is bohemian from the Czech republic and these colored ones are from venice, Italy. -right. narration The complex displays architectural and artistic achievements of the qajar iran, that includes the introduction of European motifs into Persian art. It was not only used as the governing base of the qajar kings but also functioned as a recreational and residential compound and the center of artistic production in the 19th century. Emarateh badgir or the edifice of the wind towers was constructed during the reign of fath alishah around 1806. The building underwent major renovation including structural changes later on. The building is flanked by two rooms.there is a central room which boasts the finest stained glass window in golestan palace. Outside there are four wind towers of blue yellow and black based tiles and a golden cupola. The wind towers are constructed to allow the cooling wind to move through the structure. Expert 1 subtitle In 1905 moayer al mamalek makes the shams ul emareh building inside the citadel. Thisis the tallest building in Tehran then or the first tall building in Tehran. narration Its twin towers were made to watch both the city and the alborz mountains in the background. Shams ul emareh or the edifice of the sun is the most stunning structure in golestan palace. The idea of building a tall structure came to Nasser al din shah before his first European trip. The monarch wanted a structure from which he could have panoramic views of the city.

Expert 1 subtitles It’s built in such a way so that the royal family and the shah could watch outside it and the mountains whereas the residents of arg and oudlajan neighborhoods in the vicinity of shams al emareh building couldn’t see inside the building. Narration The building has two identical towers. The exterior view has multiple arches, intricate tilework and ornate windows. This building is a fusion of Persian and European architecture. Expert 1 subtitle Simultaneously, the city officials and the well to do people start making themselves European style buildings. You don’t find such buildings anywhere in Europe. Narration Then premier amir kabir orders the construction of topkhaneh square 150 years ago on a square plot of land. Cannons and heavy arms used to be kept in the area before construction of the square. It took ten years to construct the square which is one of the first passage ways of Tehran that connects the old part of the city to the modern one. Expert 1 subtitle Enghelab Ave. in the north, Shoush Ave. in the south, Kargar Ave. or simetri Nezami that’s later called Simetri Kargar in the west and Hefdah-Shahrivar Ave. which was called Shahbaz in the east. This is the Qajari city that is restricted to these four avenues and later expands northward as far as Ab-Karaj Boulevard that’s later called Elizabeth Boulevard and then Keshavarz Boulevard. That’s how the city starts to sprawl.

Narration Sieh tir is an old street in downtown Tehran which represents a symbol of unity between various faiths in iran. That’s because a number of religious centers and worshipping places are located here. Religious minorities in this country have been peacefully living side by side over centuries. Adrian temple was founded by a number of Zoroastrians from india. It consists of a few one story buildings and a two story community hall. After passing through the main gate a corridor takes you to a rectangular shaped space where the main building of the temple lies. Iranian Zoroastrians freely perform their religious obligations here. You have to cover your hair when inside. The fire in the middle chamber of the temple was kept burning since the temple was made. Tehran’s holy mary church was built by nikolay markov and founded by roman isaian in 1945. The premises used to serve as the residence of Armenian arch bishop until 1970. Armenian Iranians perform their prayers and special ceremonies here on a regular basis. In addition to holding prayers and special rituals in the church, people from far and wide come here to pay a visit to the old building and the fine objects and pictures decorating the walls of the religious site.

Narration The bank melli building was constructed by mohammad memarbashi almost a century ago. That’s when European neo-classis styles were combined with Iranian architecture and applied in government buildings. The edifice is a mix of Iranian historical architecture of the ackamaenid era with baroque style used in European churches.

Expert 1 subtitle In 1928 they decide to construct another building in addition to the post building. They call that baghe melli that’s a national garden. It’s a western style garden that’s supposed to have certain equipment that would serve as signs of a modern age and the European face of the city. this garden lasts five years from 1928 to 1033. Narration Tehran’s famous sycamore trees add to the beauty of this historical site maintaining the ideal image of Tehran: admirable constructions in the foreground adorned with greenery and often snow-capped alborz mountain and blue skies in the background.

Experts 1 subtitle The sings of the city have changed. It’s now turned into a modern city. Narration The national garden these days is frequented both by civil servants working in some of the buildings nearby passers by and curious visitors.

Expert 1 subtitle

This building by which we are standing is called the gate or entrance of the baghe melli as it’s publicly known but historically it’s called the gate of meidane mashgh.

Narration There are a number of buildings in the field, the oldest

one of them being the Kazak-khaneh , the quarters of Kazakh soldiers and

commanders built some 160 years ago. Kazakh soldiers elite brigade served

the Iranian army under a deal between Naser al din shah and Tzardom of


Expert 1 subtitle

The first military aircraft has landed here. The first ever bicycles are riden by two british boys here. Naser al Din Shah’s assassin, Mirza Reza Kermani is hanged here. Narration Nowhere in Iran do you find any historic district inside a city with such

huge proportions. The field was used as a recreational center for the king in addition to

being a military drills area. The king would watch his soldiers military

exercise from kazakhkhaneh edifice. The foreign ministry building was constructed 80 years ago with Reza

shah’s neo-classic style applied in it. It’s a mix of pre-Islamic

architecture and Qajari style together with a number of European elements.

Iranian Armenian Gabriel Gurkian constructed the building inspired by the

cube of Zoroaster of the Achaemanid era and Naghshe Rostam in Iran’s Fars


Expert 1 subtitle The building behind us is called kakh-e sharebani or palce of police HQ. Its construction started in 1932 and completed in 1937. Mirza ali mohandes, a well-educated Iranian architect, has designed it. The police edifice was meant to symbolize the power of the central government in running social affairs.

Narration Now from the national garden that doesn’t look much like a garden nowadays let’s go and visit a real garden elsewhere in Tehran. Welcome to farmaniyeh garden. This is one of the few remaining qajar style constructions in Tehran.

Expert 2 subtitle This is a typical Persian garden situated in northern Tehran. It’s almost 70,000 square meters and includes mainly broadleaf trees such as sycamore, maple, elm and walnut trees. Among conifer trees you see the pine of Tehran that’s very adaptable to the city’s climate. This is a Persian or Iranian garden where you don’t find any hills or mounds here. There is a central building in front of which is a pool of water that’s a must in Persian gardens. You can see the reflection of the building in the pool. The pool stretches down to the south of the garden and kind of divides the garden to two left and right sections. There’s also a building called koushk that goes back to the qajar era.

Narration Once you step into the garden, you feel totally detached from all the hustle and bustle of the Iranian capital city.

Expert 2 subtitle There are different sections in this garden that are inspired from old times. In those days they provided all their requirements within the garden. For instance we have a vegetable garden where we grow a number of Iranian as well as foreign vegetables that are consumed here. There is also this fruit tree section of the garden where we have tried to grow Iranian fruits as they adapt themselves to the environment here. Parrots fly very high. A bit lower fly the crows. In the past years because of urban constructions mina birds have also moved here so we have a variety of birds here that’s really fascinating.

Narration For centuries this has been the true concept of life Iranian style, peace and calm. That’s why every thing used in every corner of this garden helps you feel just like that. Built on patterns of the Persian garden, farmaniyeh garden benefits from and old but efficient irrigation system called ghanat.walls of ghanat are built on slope surface and water exits from under ground when the slope slows. This part is called mazhar it’s where water flows to the surface. Ghanat starts from the mountains and flows to the city bringing water to all buildings on its way.

Narration In the main villa building some walls are decorated with colorful tiles on which images of iran’s past kings and rulers are found finely engraged. The furniture and items in the room here help you travel through times in history. Some of these furniture date back to the mid qajar era and some to the Italian culture.

Italy ambassador It’s a privilege as the ambassador of Italy in Tehran to be able to enjoy such a beautiful premises. This property it’s mainly a garden a very big ancient traditional Persian garden in which you can find a few buildings of the qajar period that is the second half of the 19th century. But really the main nature of the place is the garden and it’s the typical Persian architecture . It’s also a big responsibility I mean the duty to preserve it to maintain it so both the Iranian people and our guests can enjoy it and the very idea of this place is to share the beauty of the Persian garden together with the Italian hospitality and quality of Italian food and way of life.

Narration Italian top diplomats have been the main residents of the garden in the past 80 years or so when they bought the garden. Nowadays elaborate, terraced vilas with large gardens have been replaced by high-rise apartment buildings. The large population and high prices have made the people choose to live. Moving around the city you get to see signs of modern urban development plans in every officials have tried hard and performed numerous projects to meet the ever increasing demands of the capital’s residents. High rise buidlings and towers with different Iranian and exotic designs can be seen here and there. More and more modern highways , overpasses and tunnels are being constructed within urban projects. They all give Tehran a modern face and a unique skyline. Vali asr is a tree lined street in Tehran, iran dividing the metropolis into eastern and werstern parts. Vali asr avenue runs from the Tehran's railway station in the south of the city

to Tajrish square in the north.

Valiasr runs for 12 miles (19.3 kilometers), north to south, and is filled

with traffic at all hours. It is one of Tehran's main

thoroughfares and the longest street in the Middle East. Valiasr Avenue is the main Shopping street in Tehran and the whole of the country.

Expert 1 subtitle

The next period that starts in Europe since 1960s and in Iran since 1350s is the time to turn to domestic or local designs. Modernists get tired and ask themselves as to why should the whole world buildings be made with one same style. So they prefer to start taking heed of indigenous cultures.among such works Azadi tower has a special position. This is a modern architectural style with a historical theme that covers the periods before and after islam.

Narration Iranian architect hossein amanat wins a competition to design the monument which combines the elements of the Sassanid and Islamic architecture. The iconic monument de martyr in Algiers shows great resemblance to this monument in its general design as well as details. Built from white marble stone from Isfahan region there are 8000 blocks of stone. The stones were all located and supplied by ghanbar rahimi who’s known as iran’s sultan of stone. It’s 50 meters tall and completely clad in white marble.

Azadi tower guide Everything here is Iranian the material the workmanship everything. It took almost 30 months to complete this tower. Narration The shape of each bloc was calculated by a computer and programmed to include all the instructions for the buildings’ walls. Completed in 1971 the so called gateway into iran was named shahyad or king’s memorial. Since the ismaic revolution 34 years ago it’s called Azadi or freedom tower. Azadi tower guide dialog with actress -This story includes 25000 pieces of stone from joshaghan in Isfahan. -25000 pieces of stones only on this floor? Wow! -Yeah, 25000 pieces of stone here.


The tower is meant to display the grandeur of Iranian civilization and

functions as a gateway to welcome visitors into the capital. taq-e nosrat

or arch of triumph is a sign of Iranian hospitality and their respect for

guests that’s why the tower is located adjacent to the airport to greet

every visitor. . Like many historic Iranian monuments, the expansive grounds

around the tower were intended as a venue for celebrations, parades and

other cultural events and activities. Tehran has had another nice addition in the past 6 years. A second iconic tower came into existence. The milad tower. The construction of milad tower to the north of azadi tower was completed in 2007 making it the 6th tallest tower in the world. Well well after two weeks of going around Tehran visiting places and getting expert advice and information I’m starting to feel I know enough to work on designing a set or even acting in a tv series now. Much more remains to be learnt about Tehran though.

The end

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