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A-Z Of Capital Cities: Tehran

Tehran, the capital city of Iran, is a city that should be on everyone’s bucket list. With such a rich history and culture, Tehran has something for everyone. From visiting the vast array of museums and palaces to finding a bargain at the grand bazaars, it is unlike any other city you have visited before.

Despite being a busy city, Tehran unexpectedly boasts over 800 beautiful parks and is surrounded by mountains. Stunning flowers and tall trees line the streets. The government has protected many old trees which makes it necessary for builders to build around them. You can sometimes see trees going through balconies or placed in the middle of the road. Also, water runs down from the upper city through wide gutters alongside the roads resembling small rivers.

Smoggy Tehran

Tehran is a great skiing and hiking destination with numerous ski resorts on its doorstep. The most famous pistes are Tochal, Dizin, and Shemshak. Tochal Ski Resort is the world’s fifth highest ski resort, at over 3,730 meters. It’s also a great place to go hiking and to enjoy the tranquil scenic views over Tehran. Tochal has an 8-kilometre-long gondola lift and two parallel chair ski lifts  that go up to 3,900 meters near Tochal’s peak (at 4,000 metres). From the peak, you have a spectacular view of the Alborz mountain range, including the 5,610-metre-high Mount Damavand, a potentially active volcano, which is the highest peak in Iran and the Middle East as well as the highest volcano in Asia.

Teapot on samovar

Darakeh is a neighbourhood located north of Tehran and is a popular hiking area. Like Darband, the hiking trail of Darakeh begins with many open-air cafés and restaurants. Whether it is sold on the street on a trolley or in a cozy tea house you are never far away from chai (traditional tea) in Tehran.

Valiasr Street is the longest street in the Middle East and is the hub of different activities in Tehran. Many shops and restaurants are located on Valiasr Street as well a large number of parks such as Mellat Park, the largest park in Tehran. Tall trees line the street that runs from Tehran’s railway station in the South of the city to Tajrish square in the North.

Bazaar

Tehran has a wide range of shopping opportunities, from traditional bazaars to shopping districts and modern shopping malls. Experience the buzz of The Grand Bazaar of Tehran and Tajrish Bazaar, the biggest traditional bazaars in Tehran. The Grand Bazaar, a labyrinth of stalls full of locals, is located in Southern Tehran and has corridors which are over 10 km in length. You can find anything in the bazaars from fresh fruit and nuts to clothes and exquisite jewellery.

Tehran is home to many historical monuments, such as the royal complexes of Golestan, Saadabad, and Niavaran. The most famous landmarks of the city include the Azadi Tower, a memorial built during the Pahlavi period, and the Milad Tower, the world’s sixth tallest tower with several restaurants, a food court, a hotel, a convention center and a world trade center.

golestan palace

The lavish Golestan Palace complex consists of 17 structures including palaces, museums, and halls. Nearly the entire complex was built during the 200 years of rule of the Qajar kings. You can see the Sun Throne, also known as the Peacock Throne, of the Persian Kings and visit the Mirror Hall (Talar e Aineh), famous for its extraordinary mirror work. Golestan Palace is a UNESCO world heritage site.

preparing lamb liver kebab...

The Iranian cuisine itself is enough to convince you to visit Tehran. Iranians pride themselves on their food. Most people spend their free time at cafes, restaurants or eating at friends’ houses. Food is fresh and very healthy. It is common to see Iranians queuing for fresh bread from the bakery as Iran has over forty types of wheat breads. Typical Persian dishes are combinations of rice with meat, such as lamb, chicken, or fish, chelow kebab and vegetables such as onions, various herbs, and nuts. Characteristic Persian flavors include saffron, dried lime, cinnamon, and parsley. Iran’s agriculture produces many fruits and vegetables. A bowl of fresh fruit is common on most Persian tables and dishes of vegetables and herbs are standard sides to most meals.

Iranians are the friendliest and most hospitable people you will ever meet. You are likely to be offered food and drink from strangers, as part of their welcome offering. They love having picnics and they will even find a spot in the mountains to have a picnic during winter. On the first day of the Iranian New Year in March, it is a tradition to leave the house and enjoy nature.

Tehran is nearly a mile high above sea level and as a result is cooler than other cities in the Middle East. Summer temperatures are around 36°C and not humid. It goes through all four seasons. Spring is the most pleasant time to visit. And before you leave, make sure to try a taxi ride in Tehran! The traffic may look chaotic but they have an art of getting around as they weave between each other and form a little system.

Tehran is a surprise for any visitor; it has a wide range of diverse cultural sights to be discovered. You could easily spend a few weeks there and not see everything. There are also many other beautiful cities in Iran such as Isfahan, Shiraz and Rasht. Tehran is a city not many people know the beauty of but a visit there will definitely ensure that you are left wanting more!

Nellie Khossousi

Featured Image: Babak Farrokhi. Embedded images: Franx’ , Blondinrikard FröbergKamyar Adl , Saleh and Paul Keller via Flickr 

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