Tehran, An Eclectic Blend of History, Culture and Religion
The cultural heritage of Tehran, the capital city of Iran, is perhaps the biggest Tehran tourist attraction. A bustling metropolis, Tehran is steeped in history, culture and religion. The people of the city are warm and friendly while the museums, restaurants and parks are sufficient to keep you busy throughout your trip. It has so much to offer discerning travelers that you will feel the need to keep returning and discovering another spellbinding aspect of the city.
Geographical Location and Weather of Tehran
Modern-day Tehran is divided into North and South Tehran, with the northern half of the city attracting people in its modern and prosperous lifestyle while the south side of the city is considerably cheaper, albeit less attractive.
However, this cosmopolitan city was a small town during the Zand Dynasty. Agha Mohammad Khan, the first king of the Qajar Dynasty was responsible for turning Tehran into the kingdom’s capital city in 1778.
Tehran has the distinction of being the third-largest city in the Middle East, with a population of about nine million in the city and another 16 million in the greater metropolitan area. This makes it the most populous city in the country.
The city is located on the southern slope of the Alburz Mountain range. The highest peak of the range is Mount Demavend, which stands an imposing 18,400 feet high. On a clear day, you can enjoy a spellbinding view of the mountain peak.
The northernmost part of the city is 1,700 meters above sea level while the southernmost part is 3,600 meters above sea level. This difference in height has an impact on the city’s topography and climate.
Even though Tehran is sandwiched between mountains and a desert, it has four distinct seasons. The Elburz Mountains make sure that the humidity from the Caspian Sea in the far north does not reach the city. As a result, Tehran has a hot, arid climate. The average temperature hovers around 17 deg Celsius while the average annual high is 23 deg Celsius and lows are around 12 deg Celsius. However, Tehran can experience extreme temperatures that soar up to 43 deg Celsius in summer and dip to -15 deg in winter.
History of Tehran
As stated earlier, it was the first Qajar king that made Tehran the capital of Iran. However, during the Classical era, Tehran was called Raga, a median city. Unfortunately, in the 13 century, this city was destroyed by the invading Mongol army. This city is now part of the Tehran province, towards the southern part of Tehran city.
There are many references to Tehran in ancient texts. In 1618, Pietro della Valle, a traveler from Italy, passed through Tehran and he called it Taheran in his diary. On the other hand, Thomas Herbert called the city Tyroan in 1627 and also mentioned that it accommodated 3,000 houses.
After the Qajar King Agha Mohammad Khan made Tehran the capital, the aim was to stay close to other territories of Iran located in the Caucasus. However, Tehran was never the first choice as a capital city. In fact, it is the 32nd capital city of the country.
The last two royal families, namely the Qajars and Pahlavis, ruled from Tehran. This would explain the several royal complexes, such as Golestan and Sa’d Abad. But in the 1920s, the country witnessed large scale demolitions and City became the destination for Iranians from other parts of the country.
Demographics, Language and Religion of Tehran
While most of the world identifies Tehran as the capital of a religiously inclined government, the city is a bustling cosmopolitan with diverse linguistic and ethnic communities. The principal language of city is Persian and a majority of the populace considers itself Persian.
The largest minority group comprises ethnic Azerbaijanis while other ethnic groups in the city include the Kurds, Armenians, Georgians, Balochi, Assyrians, Arabs, Jews and Circassians.
Capital city of Iran has a young population, with over half the population being under the age of 27. When the Iranian Revolution took place in 1979, several Tehranis left the country and settled in the US, France, Germany, Canada and Sweden. The same thing happened during the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988. During this war, the city became home to a number of migrants from southwest and west of Iran.
The official religion in Iran is Shia Islam. However, there are other religious communities, albeit in minority, that live in Tehran. These include people who practice Sunni Islam, Baha’i faith, different Christian denominations, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. As a result, you will find many religious centers, including synagogues, churches, mosques and the Zoroastrian Fire Temple.
The city also has a small number of Sikhs from India. This group is the third generation living in Iran and has its own place of worship known as a Gurudwara.
Besides its history and culture, the biggest Tehran tourist attraction has to be its cuisine. Due to the various influences by different kingdoms and rulers, it is a gastronomic delight. Of course, you can get international fare here, but why opt for them when you can indulge in authentic Tehrani preparations?
Be sure to sit down and enjoy some Doogh. It will win you over. It is made out of sheep milk yogurt and dried mint. In the summer heat, this refreshing drink will make your day. You can even club with one of Tehran’s famous kebabs.
The juicy and succulent kebabs made from lamb meat or lamb mince will set your taste buds alight. Usually, these delicious kebabs are served with rice, grilled tomatoes, raw onions and flat bread. The national dish of the country is Chelow Kebab and you will get your heart’s content in Tehran.
Stews also form an important part of Tehran cuisine. Do try the Khoresht-e-Ghormeh-sabzi, which is a stew made from hearty vegetables, beans and meat. It has a greenish appearance, but don’t let that put you off. Enjoy this dish with rice and you will be in heaven!
Dizi is a wholesome mutton broth that is replete with tomatoes, potatoes, onions, white beans, chickpeas. Enjoy this dish with flat bread and a side of pickled veggies.
Contemporary and Non-Contemporary Celebrities of Tehran
Often, Tehran is stereotyped as a capital with extreme laws and censorship. On the contrary, it is a modern, vibrant city and is renowned for its culture, talent and people. Right from Omar Khayyam, a celebrated astrologer, poet and mathematician, to Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, a famous theologian, Tehran has given the world several celebrities.
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was the last Shah of Iran. He had to leave the country after the Iran Revolution and he passed away in 1980. Then there is Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran; and Zoroaster, who is the founder of Zoroastrianism and the religion’s prophet. Perhaps the most popular modern-day celebrity is the former president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
This City has also given the world of literature some well-known figures, like Marjane Satrapi, a graphic novelist. Some celebrities from Tehran have made it to Hollywood and among them is Shohreh Aghdashloo. In fact, she was born in Tehran, unlike so many other Tehrani celebrities. She made her mark in Hollywood as an actress in X-Men: The Last Stand.
Recreation and Tourism Places in Tehran
There is no dearth of Tehran tourist attraction. The mountains of Elburz Mountain range are popular skiing destinations. However, it is the cultural attractions that keep bringing visitors to this gorgeous city.
If you love contemporary art, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art will not disappoint you with its rich and varied displays. It showcases works of masters like Picasso and Van Gogh. You can also see Andy Warhol’s creations.
If you are looking to learn more about Tehran Tourist attraction, a visit to Golestan Palace complex is a must. It is the oldest historic landmark in the city and comprises 17 palaces, halls and museums. The Golestan used to be the royal residence during the Qajar rule and its beautifully landscaped garden is a welcome respite from the humdrum of city life.
Another Tehran tourist attraction is the Grand Bazaar. Located in southern part of the city, this bazaar is renowned for its 10-km long corridors. You can indulge in some retail shopping therapy and practice your bargaining skills!
The city boasts more than 2,100 parks. And, Jamshidieh Park is one of the oldest in Tehran. Spread over an area of 12,600 hectares, the park covers nearly 20 per cent of the city.