Day 9 – Tehran

15 May

Toast and jam for breakfast set up a great day of exploration of Tehran, the capital of Iran since 1795.

We started at the Golestan Palace where we saw lots of small mirrors and plaster make a stunning throne room that must have impressed any visiting ambassadors immediately. The real peacock throne was of course in the jewel safe visited yesterday.  A poor imitation was in its place. However we discovered that the wife of the Shah (King) sat on the throne while the Shah sat or reclined on the peacock bed.


Outside was the marble throne, again set against a wall of mirrors.  This was shrouded from the sun, presumably to help preserve it.  It would have been a stunning sight in full sunlight.

The only down side was the way they had added electricity to the place – having random holes so that the electricity could be in the same place on each pillar. The ventilation ducts in the roof were far more blended and had to be pointed out to us.

There was also a marble bed, but this seemed to be a more private affair and is now sited next to the marble mausoleum of its owner, the first Shah in the Qajar dynasty. All throughout err tried to shield ourselves from the guards to take some photos that were apparently banned inside.

Outside were some wind towers, used for cooling the place, but looking like minarets.  George tried to take photos of the harem, but found that it was suitably hidden.

Stopping only for tea in the palace gardens (can you tell I’m travelling with English people yet?), we moved on to the central Bazaar.

Lots of people, lots of small shops, lots of barrows pushing goods about and trying to avoid crunching ankles. We wandered about together to sample the huge array of goods available, all organised together.  Photos of those that died in the Iraq-Iran war are hung for everyone to remember. Some as young as 13 – they were asked to find the minefields.

I then had time to view some of the more interesting shops. Wandering into the carpet section, I was easily persuaded to pay some dollars for a small carpet that was 60 years old. I asked the tour guide to confirm that the price I paid was about right – he was reassuringly within a few dollars. Others bought a carrot sharpener.  An essential kitchen utensil, or grandchild present.

We also witnessed money changers in full view on the street with huge wads of notes.  Also an oil auction seemed to be taking place with a large number of men shouting numbers at each other.

We met for lunch, and Max presented me with an Iranian flag, completely missing the point that I wanted to buy it myself.  However it was most appreciated.

Lunch consisted of take away pizza on a park bench in the shade.  I sat next to a man selling chi (tea) and he proceeded to take a slice of pizza from me uninvited.  So how did we respond? By giving him the coleslaw, ketchup and a few more slices of pizza.  It certainly helped to shut up his constant shouts of “CHI” every 5 seconds.

The fashion statement of the day had to be the women wearing black tennis sun shades on top of their normal head wear. Weird looking but perfectly practical.

Outside the bazaar we saw road trains plying back and forward looking totally out if place.

Headed back to the hotel for a quick  escape from the heat of the day and a chance to write some postcards (incredibly hard to come by).

Back on the road to another set of shops that specialised in souvenirs. Of more interest was the fact that they were across the road from the former US Embassy, complete with the slogans on the external walls of “We will conquer America” etc… It’s now used for students and exhibitions.

We made it to the north of Tehran, fighting the rush hour traffic and arrived at another bazaar in Tajrish square. The smells of the herbs and vegetables sold here were fantastic. It was a much smaller bazaar and we indulged in fresh dates and as many free samples as we could manage. Saw sesame oil being pressed, and discovered that rhubarb was originally from this area of the world. Also that English people don’t eat it raw.

Tried to post postcards but found that the boxes on the street were actually for donations to the poor.

Heading further up the mountain we were now at about 1900m. Restaurants advertising Canadian ice cream came into view.  Thankfully ours was a bit more up market than that and I managed a very decent whole chicken with a pomegranate sauce – Akbar Jooje.

On the way back to the hotel we caught sight of the Midar tower lit up at night. The highest building in Tehran at 450+m.

Overall Tehran has proved to be a very safe, if busy, city. Friendly people.  I can see why our guide described it as a city you don’t live in. You just exist. It suffers from all the normal big city problems. A few beggars were apparent. But it is a modern city and well worth a visit!


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