Golestan Palace

The Golestan Palace is one of the oldest historic monuments in Tehran. The palace was the royal complex of the Persian Empire. Like the Forbidden City in Beijing and the Louvre in Paris, it is now an important national museum of world heritage status. In Persian, its name means the “Rose Garden”, indicating the utmost beauty of the palace.

There are seven structures in the palace. The most famous one is the Mirror Hall where the royal family spent most of their time in. Walking into the Mirror Hall, you will be dazzled with glass decoration fully on the wall. With only little candlelight, the room is already lit. The Marble Throne was where coronations were held. The palace exhibits a variety of art pieces collected in Europe, traditional Persian handicrafts and gifts from foreign royal families. It is a place allowing the world to appreciate the most delicate artwork. At the Edifice of the Sun, the tallest structure in the whole palace, you would be stunned by the magnificent scene overlooking Tehran under the feet- just like what the king used to do.

Mausoleum of Ruhollah Khomeini

Ruhollah Khomeini is one of the most important figures in modern Iran. He was an ayatollah, a high-ranking cleric of Shia Islam. He was better known for leading the Iranian Revolution to overthrow the Persian monarchy and establish the present theocratic republic. He can be seen as the founding father of Iran. Since he had advocated conservative religious policies and criticised the negligence of religion by the royal family, he was expelled from Iran.

Although he was physically not in Iran, he spiritually was as he led the people to start a revolution against the king. After getting back to Iran, he was warmly welcomed by Iranians and he became the Supreme Leader of Iran. Although he was only the nominal leader of the state and the administration is under the control of the President, Khomeini had much actual power influencing the political situation.

After Khomeini’s death, Iranians built an enormous mosque as his mausoleum which has become a new sacred site in Iran. The mausoleum is surrounded by two extensive plazas, one in the east and one in the west, to commemorate the martyrs of the revolution and Khomeini. There is also the largest graveyard nearby, burying martyred soldiers in the Iran-Iraq War and many prominent Iranian figures. 

Outside the mosque, there are many tents where many Iranian Muslims from other cities stay, inexpensive hostels and food courts for visitors to take a rest. The 72 gates of the mosque symbolise 72 martyrs who sacrificed their lives in the Iranian Revolution. The 124 stone pillars, 22m away from each other, represent the victory of the Iranian Revolution on the 22nd day of the 11th month of the Iranian calendar. The height of each pillar is 12m which refers to the 12 Shia imams. Many worshippers surround and worship in the middle of the huge mausoleum. When you visit there, you will understand how high this Supreme Leader of Iran’s status is in the state.

Sa'dabad Complex

Located in the suburbs, the Sa'dabad Complex was the residence of the last Persian king of the Pahlavi Dynasty and witness of Iran’s modern days. This palace was where Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi indulged himself in the royal extravagance when revolutionists were protesting against his authoritarian rule and overindulgence. After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi went into exile in the United States and has never stepped on his motherland ever again. The palace is now the official residence of the President of Iran and museums. Part of it is used as the office of the President while another part is museums which educates visitors about the history of Iran.

In the museum, you can read the history of the Pahlavi dynasty and the Iranian Revolution. The luxurious Mirror Hall is the best witness of history. Objects, clothing, vehicles and carpets that the last king had used are shown to everyone, reflecting the sybaritic lifestyle that Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had. Exhibiting extravagant daily necessities is not to show how prosperous the empire was but criticise the king for craving for success while neglecting the livelihood of his people and religious traditions. The lavish museum is the best teaching material for a history class on Iran’s revolutions. 

Azadi Tower

Not far from Mehrabad International Airport, there stands a huge arched monument witnessing the drastic change of Iran in 1979. In 1971, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi built this landmark to celebrate the 2,500th year of the foundation of the Persian Empire. It was named the Shahyad Tower, meaning Shah’s Memorial Tower. As the grand “entrance” of the country, the monument was aimed at attracting foreign visitors to celebrate. However, the celebration, in which foreigners are the main targets, led to serious over-spending. Most locals were unable to celebrate the joy, further fuelling public's anger. People’s hatred towards the monument, which represents the power of the king, had reached its peak. Fortunately, the monument was not demolished after the Iranian revolution but was renamed to the Azadi Tower to commemorate the coming of freedom and establishment of the theocratic republic. It has even become the venue for parades on the National Army Day, just like the Arc de Triomphe in France.

Azadi Square, where the tower is situated, is the Iranian version of the Tiananmen Square and Red Square. Besides a museum and theatre, there are also a large fountain and grassland. In the middle of the site, there is the Azadi Tower. The reinforced concrete monument was clad with 2,500 piles of marble, symbolising the 2,500th year of founding the Persian Empire. You can pose wide-legged, just like the monument, for photos. The design of the edifice is like the representation of the change of eras – from the Persian Empire to Iran.

In the underground museum inside, you can understand the magnificence of Persian culture by appreciating the history-related artworks and religious objects. From the observation deck on the top of the tower, you will be able to watch the scenery of the city of Tehran around the site. You can also see planes taking off and landing at the airport – the modern version of caravans on the Silk Road.

Tehran Grand Bazaar

Bazaars are of cultural significance in the Islamic world. They, together with mosques, are the central feature of daily life in Islamic Middle-Eastern and Central Asian countries along the Silk Road. Bazaars in the Middle East are like night markets in Taiwan, creating a distinct cultural vibrancy. Persia, as the commercial centre of the Silk Road, surely had busy bazaars in her important cities. Tehran Grand Bazaar has been the best among all.

As early as in the sixth century B.C, the Grand Bazaar has already emerged. From an open-air market, it has developed to be a covered one since four centuries ago. In the 20th century, there were a lot of modern structures built in the area. The bazaar is arguably the witness of the Persian architectural development. In the maze-like alleys in the Grand Bazaar, you can find different treasures of Persian culture. You can find the most famous carpets and saffron in Persia; or the local favourites – dates and kebabs. In the Grand Bazaar, you can even find a mosque for purifying the mind of urbanites from the disturbing world.