IRAN – 1974 … part one

Having started to share with you the memories of my three-months trip from it’s end, I have to move westwards now which brings me to … IRAN! It is undeniably a most fascinating country – whoever even attempts to doubt that, has – with due respect – no clue what he’s talking about. I have been most priviledged to have seen many of the big cities, Tabriz (only briefly though), Tehran, Qum, Isfahan, Shiraz as well as Mashad – and had on top the rare pleasure to have been guest of the more than 700 year old tribe of Gashgai-bedouins who pitch their tents deep in the southwest between Shiraz and Bushir towards the direction of the Persian Golf. My memories of them, especially of one particular little girl, is deeply carved in my soul.
As unforgettable treat there were of course the most fascinating historical jewels Persepolis, Pasagardae and the necropolis of Naqsh-i-Rustam …

Tehran, today’s population somewhere around 7,315,000, is the capital city of Iran (Persia) and the center of Tehran Province. I remember perfectly well when we entered the city after an approximately seven or eight hour drive coming from Tabriz, some 600 km to the west! I had no idea what I had to expect and was stunned driving through a city which – had I not known where I was at – I would never have identified as middle eastern. It all appeared so very much western to me. This impression deepened later on …

We had driven during the last two or three days with only short stops and were in dire need of a good nights-sleep in a normal bed and in particular a hot shower – in other word back to civilsation and so we allowed ourselves some two nights at the SINA Hotel. Somehow I want to say it is located on Takht-e-Jamshid but I am not sure anymore … this street name is clearly in my memory though. Maybe one of my distinguished Iranian readers can help me out here?
Incidentally it was the time of the All-Asia Games – which I had no idea about nor did I really understand back then what exactly they were all about and the fact that part of the teams were staying over at the same hotel we were, I found of course MOST exciting …

Even though the smog level was rather high back then already (which had not bothered me too much at that time), Tehran is a truly remarkable city and there is certainly a large number of places I should mention but due to the limited space available, I will stick with two particular sites I will certainly never forget – the “Shahyad Tower” and the Iranian Crown Jewels.

The “Shahyad Tower” (which means “Remebrance of the Shah’s“) but converted to “Azadi Tower” (“Freedom Tower“) after the “Iranian Revolution” in 1979 is already stunningly impressive when standing in front, but the moment I stepped inside, all I could do was look around, slightly bewildered though greatly impressed .. I was in for a REAL surprise as it is one BIG and incredibly beautiful museum, portraying Iran’s 2.500 years old, very rich history! It was constructed in 1971, has a height of 50 meters (148 feet) and is completely clad in cut marble. The architect is Hossein Amanat who had won a competition to design the monument.

What appeared so special to me in the first hand is the way it was set up … I remember not having walked but having been carried along by kind of a conveyor-belt, like at airports: you step on it and it transports you from place to place. That thing was unknown to me back then and absolutely baffled me. While standing there and trying to comprehend the surrounding, the entire history of the country was portrayed by ever moving and one into-the next merging pictures, uninterruptedly, almost 3-D! The same with the sounds … low-voiced comments, I don’t recall if in English though but that didn’t really matter as it was alone from looking at the pictures well understandable. The whole set-up was stunningly beautiful and wherever I looked, things were moving, changing, re-emerging which left in awe and with my mouth open. I loved it – I can say with certainty, it is one of the most impressive history-museums I have ever seen, anywhere … and, rest assured, I saw a whole bunch of them!

Ever seen the Iranian crown jewels? If not – make sure you have some Tylenol handy as they caused me substantial headache back then .. I didn’t forget that! I have never again in my life seen THAT MUCH gold, precious stones and diamonds, carates in the two-didget numbers of course – like there! The Crown Jewels, also called the “Imperial Crown Jewels of Persia“, is the by far largest, most dazzling and valuable jewel collection in the world. The collection is comprised of a set of crowns and thrones, some 30 tiaras, numerous aigrettes (an ornamental tuft of upright plumes), jewel-studded swords and shields, a vast amount of precious loose gems, including one of the largest collections of emeralds and rubies in the world and other items collected by the Iranian/Persian monarchs the Shahs of Iran (Persia) during the 2,500 year existence of the Iranian monarchy. Most of the items in the collection were however acquired by the Safavid Shahs who ruled Iran 1502 – 1736 AD.

So valuable are the Iranian crown jewels that they back the Iranian currency as a reserve. For centuries they were kept locked up out of the sight of the public. It was only during the reign of the last Shah of Iran that the crown jewels were put on display at the vaults of the Central Bank of Iran. It was also the last Shah of Iran, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who decreed that the jewels would be the property of the Iranian state and not the Imperial family. Here are some examples … have a look!


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