The Cultureist * – Madi Jahangir takes us on an armchair tour of Tehran, Iran’s most culturally diverse, modernized city famed for its gardens, cafes and thriving art scene.
ON YOUR FIRST DAY HERE, SEEING THIS IS A MUST:
If you are interested in archeology and the ancient history of the country, you can satisfy your curiosity at the National Museum of Iran. The museum presents many old national antiques and art pieces, with the oldest dating back to the Lower Paleolithic period. It is not only a good place to understand the history and diversity of Iran, but the museum is also ideally located close to Tehran’s vibrant grand bazaar, the beautiful Golestan palace and the dazzling Treasury of National Jewels – it also spares you from walking among the traffic and crowds as you acclimate to the city.
MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THIS, BUT TO GET A TRUE TASTE OF THE LOCAL CULTURE…
No doubt walking the pavements in Valiasr, the longest street in the Middle East. Valiasr’s beautiful tree-lined exterior is the reason why Tehran was given the nickname “The City of Plane Trees”. The three-lane, 18 kilometer road, which stretches from northern Tajrish Square to southern Rahahan (Railway) Square, is by far the most beautiful street in the capital and hosts a variety of shopping centers, public gardens, museums, hospitals and cultural centers. It also passes through several neighborhoods — from modern areas in the north to more humble areas in the south — offering a small glimpse of Tehran’s cultural diversity, urban landscapes and dynamic lifestyle.
FOR A GLIMPSE OF DAILY LIFE, I RECOMMEND THIS FORM OF TRANSPORTATION:
Tehran Metro is the most comfortable, clean and convenient form of transportation in the capital. The metro, which is still under plans for expansion, carries more than 2 million passengers a day and the price of a one-way ticket can be as inexpensive as 10 cents. (Nothing in comparison to some other cities I’ve been.) Visitors also have the opportunity to admire sculptures, mosaics, scriptures and calligraphy installations, which decorate the corridors. The 700 artworks installed in different stations have transformed Tehran metro into an underground museum of Iranian art. So while traveling to different areas of Tehran, keep in mind that the metro stations can be destinations themselves.
IF I HAD ONLY 24 HOURS TO EXPLORE TEHRAN I WOULD:
Have Haleem (an Iranian wheat pudding) for breakfast at any local cafe in Tajrish. Then take the BRT (Bus Rapid Transportation) and head down to Valiasr Street to Valiasr Square. Spend some time wandering the pavements, stopping to browse the shops or have a cup of tea (this is one of the best ways to see daily life in Tehran). Then take the Valiasr metro to Tehran’s Grand Bazaar for some carpet shopping while wandering what is possibly one of the oldest markets of its kind in the world. From there, explore the beautiful streets that lead to Golestan Palace, the Treasury of National Jewels and Iran’s National Museum to learn more about Iran’s cultural heritage and the country’s historical role in shaping one of the world’s first civilizations. Around lunchtime, treat yourself to a traditional Iranian Chelow-Kebab at Sharaful Eslam restaurant.
To really grasp the immensity and magnificence of Tehran, you do not always need to explore the city through its crowded streets and impressive palaces. Rather, soak in a magnificent panoramic view of the city at night from an open observation deck atop Iran’s tallest skyscraper, Milad tower.
And to add a bit of silliness and fun to your experience don’t forget to take a picture of you and Tehran’s most notable landmark, the Azadi Tower. It is perhaps the most popular touristic activity in Tehran. Just think of it as documented proof that you’ve been to Iran. Then you can show your photo in front of Azadi Tower to friends and say: “Look, I had such an amazing time in Tehran and I’m wishing to be back soon!”
* The Culture-ist is an online magazine for people who passionately care about the greater world around them. Read the rest of interview with Madi Jahangir, Dream of Iran‘s editor on The Cultureist website.