Teheran is Iran’s capital and is home to 14 million inhabitants just in its metropolitan area This makes it the largest city in the country, and one of the largest in the Middle East. It sprawls at the foot of the towering Alborz Mountain range, which is under snow from November to May.
The city is big, noisy, chaotic, and polluted, but is also on the cutting edge in terms of restaurants, museums, and art galleries. It has the best restaurants of the entire country, great museums and parks and is home to very friendly people.
Teheran is a city full of contrasts and can be roughly divided into the northern and southern part. The northern part is more prosperous, cosmopolitan, modern and more expensive, while the southern part is less cosmopolitan and cheaper.
It is home to several religious minorities and is thus dotted with numerous mosques, churches, synagogues and Zoroastrian fire temples.
Teheran experiences all 4 seasons but its climate is heavily influenced by the Alborz Mountains and the city’s high altitude. The biggest amount of rain falls between late autumn and early spring. The city has significant differences in elevations so expect cooler weather in the northern part of the city.
Summers are hot and dry with little rain, low humidity and cool nights. The warmest month is July and the coldest is January.
January average temperature -4 deg Celsius 36 mm rainfall February average temperature -2 deg Celsius, 36 mm rainfall March average temperature 4 deg Celsius, 74 mm rainfall April average temperature 11 deg Celsius, 89 mm rainfall May average temperature 17 deg Celsius, 99 mm rainfall June average temperature 22 deg Celsius, 86 mm rainfall July average temperature 24 deg Celsius, 94 mm rainfall August average temperature 23 deg Celsius, 86 mm rainfall September average temperature 19 deg Celsius, 89 mm rainfall October average temperature 12 deg Celsius, 71 mm rainfall November average temperature 5 deg Celsius, 69 mm rainfall December average temperature -1 deg Celsius, 66 mm rainfall
Imam Khomeini International Airport is located some 30km to the south of Tehran on the Tehran-Qom highway. It handles all international air traffic. Web: www.ikia.airport.ir
Mehrabad Airport (THR) is Tehran's second international airport, located closer to the city center, but is much older and mainly used for regional and cargo flights.
From Imam Khomeini Airport: There are numerous taxis available and the ride is cheap. Note that in dense traffic it can take you up to an hour and a half to reach the airport. Recently a bus link between Mehrabad Terminal 5 and Imam Khomeini has been added. From Mehrabad Airport: the best way to reach the city is by taxi; they are cheap and available everywhere.
The new metro has 4 lines with an additional two under construction. The Metro is a fast and stress-free way of reaching destinations within the city. The metro tends to fill up during rush hours.
The bus network is extensive but a bit confusing, Persian line numbers require some getting used to. BRT or Bus Rapid Transfer are special lines that travel quickly from Azadi square (west of Tehran) directly to the East (Terminal-e-Shargh) and Imam Khomeini square (South of Tehran) directly to the North (Tajrish square).
Taxis can be booked on the phone or hailed in the street. Shared taxis are also readily available. These have fixed routes and their destinations are shouted out.
In Teheran’s dense traffic these motorcycle taxis are the fastest way of weaving through traffic jams.
The people of Teheran just love soccer. There are numerous stadiums, the biggest being Azadi Stadium. It is a part of the immense Azadi Sports Complex and hosted the 1974 Asian games. The stadium can take as many as 90,000 people.
The resort is located just a short distance from the city and can be accessed via a cable car. The complex features 4 ski slopes and is equipped with T-bars, chairlifts, and also features a hotel.
DIZIN SKI AND SNOWBOARD RESORT
Iran’s best known recreation resort, Dizin lies 71 km from Teheran at an altitude of 2650m to 3600m above sea level. Usually it is open from mid November through to mid April. Its highest ski lift reaches 3,600 m, placing it on the list of the 40 highest ski resorts in the world. There are 23 runs, three cable cars, two ski lifts, 12 chair lifts, seven drag lifts and one hammer teleski. The resort also features 2 hotels, 19 cottages and two restaurants.
Address: Ferdosi St Phone: +98 21 6446 3785 Access: Metro: Saadi
This museum, housed underneath a bank, harbors some of the most expensive jewels in the world and is the city’s major tourist draw. Most of the stunning collection dates from the Safavid times. Among the splendid gems to be found here is the Sea of Light, a pink diamond said to be the world’s largest uncut diamond; also the world's largest uncut ruby; and the amazing 34kg Globe of Jewels, made of 51,366 precious stones.
The bazaar encompasses a vast area in the southern part of the city; its numerous corridors measure 10 km in length. It has a long, rich history, reaching centuries back. The bazaar was always the heart of the city and besides trade, was home to the mosques, banks, and guest houses.
The National Museum of Iran (Museum of Ancient Iran)
The museum opened in 1937 and features Iran’s most prominent archaeological and cultural treasures. The museum comprises of two buildings; one features pre-Islamic artifacts, whereas the second focuses on treasures from the early years of the Islamic era to the present. Among its exhibits are Persian antiquities, pottery, metal objects, books, and coins. The oldest items date back to Lower Paleolithic period. The museum also features 9000 year old human and animal figurines from Teppe Sarab in Kermanshah Province. The post-Islamic section also features Iranian art, pottery, glassware, miniature painting, carpets, metal engravings and calligraphy.
Address: Khordad Square
The Golestan Palace or the Palace of Flowers is a walled citadel and once was the Qajars' royal residence, comprising of a complex of buildings. It stands on the location of the historic Ang Citadel and is a peaceful oasis in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the modern city and is the oldest of Teheran's historic monuments. The building interiors display an amazing wealth, comparable to that of European royal abodes, as well as fine example of Iranian mosaic, stained glass, and paintings.
Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini
Access: Metro line 1: Haram-e-Motahar
The huge mausoleum is located on the southern edge of the city, and houses the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic. It features four towers, 91 meters in height in deference to the fact that he was 91 when he died. Its construction begun in 1989 after the leader’s death but is still not finished. It will be a huge cultural and tourist center covering 20 km2, featuring a university for Islamic studies, a seminary, and a shopping mall. The complex already offers restaurants, shops and other facilities. The mausoleum is visited by hundreds of thousands of mourners on the anniversary of Khomeini's death on June 4, 1989. The nearby cemetery of Behesht-e Zahra is the resting place of 200,000 victims of the Iran-Iraq War (1990-98).
The National Independence monument was constructed in 1971 to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire. It is located in the western part of the city, near Tehran Airport and Western bus terminal. It is 45 meters tall, made of 25,000 granite blocks. Its top can be accessed via elevators or staircases, where great views of the city are to be found.
The museum is dedicated to carpet-weaving, one of the most distinguished forms of Iranian culture and art with roots reaching back to the Bronze Age. It is set in a beautiful house that has an exterior reminiscent of a carpet. There are some 100 carpets on display, mostly dating from the 19th and the 20th centuries, but the collection also features some older examples of this craft, from the third to fifth centuries AD.
Tehran has a limited number of restaurants, and most serve regional cuisine. The best area in the city to look for restaurants is around the Grand Bazaar. For other cuisines, the Monsoon Restaurant in the Gandhi Shopping center offers great Thai curry and sushi. The Boulevard, located east of Valiasr Avenue, caters to those looking for French and Italian food. There are numerous other Western-style restaurants in the city.
Iranian food, (also known as Persian) is diverse, largely based on rice, bread, fruits, vegetables, meat (especially chicken and lamb) and fish.
The best known national rice dishes are chelo and polo. Lamb and chicken meat is mostly eaten as kebab (pieces of meat on a skewer). Soups are very popular as well; one of the most common is abgoosht (a hearty mutton and chickpea stew). The staple of Iranian cuisine is nan, round flatbread baked over a stone. Food is usually eaten with a traditional drink called doogh that is a combination of yogurt, water (or soda) and dried mint. Sweets include halva (sesame paste), baklava (layered pastry with honey and nuts) and various fruits.
Teheran is a Muslim city, so do not expect many raucous parties. Bars and clubs were outlawed during the Islamic Revolution of 1979 so your best bet would be either snacking at delicacies available at street stands, such as fruit, non alcoholic beverages and sweets, or dining at a restaurant or venture south of the Jomhuriyeh Eslami Avenue area where numerous coffee houses are located.
For a quick bite head to the Grand Bazaar, on 15 Khordad Avenue, where you can find stalls selling the best falafels in Tehran.
Darband is another area worth checking out. It was once a separate village but is now a district within Teheran. It features numerous traditional Iranian restaurants and stalls selling delicious snacks.
Seeing a movie at the cinema is also a very popular pastime especially among the young. Azadi Cinema is the largest cinema in Teheran. Opened in 2008, it features 10 halls. Theatre Shahr is the largest theatre in Tehran and the Middle East, and opened in 1962.
Human settlement in the area dates back to around 6,000 BC. A small village was first mentioned in the 9th century but it was of far less importance than the neighboring city of Rages. After the Mongols ravaged Rages in the 13th century, many inhabitants fled to Teheran. The city’s first European visitor was Castilian ambassador Don Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo, who came there in 1404. In the 17th century Teheran became the seat of the Safavid rulers who built the city walls and the bazaar. Teheran became Iran’s capital in 1795, when Agha Mohammad Khan was crowned in the city, and remained the capital to this day.
MODERN (20TH CENTURY)
From the 1920s, the city experienced rapid growth and expansion. The middle class educated population was in favor of Western influence. The city’s affluence soon attracted large numbers of the poor from the countryside.
During WW II the city was occupied by British and Russian troops. In 1943 it was the site of the Teheran Conference, attended by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. After the war the city was subject to massive construction projects. Often older landmarks were destroyed to make way for wide, straight avenues.
In September 1978 demonstrations were held against the Shah, riots broke out as the army opened fire on the demonstrators. In the wake of the ensuing revolution, Martial law was in place from 1978-80. The period from 1980 to 1988 was marked by the Iran – Iraq war. During this time Teheran repeatedly found itself the target of missile attacks and air raids, resulting in high numbers of civilian casualties. After the war the city expanded fast and without a plan, Soviet-style apartment buildings mushroomed all over the city.
Rural population increasingly poured into Teheran, overflowing the city. In a short time the population ballooned from 300,000 in the 1930s to 12 million in 2001.
A proper respect of Islamic culture is essential when visiting any Middle Eastern country. Iran is the only official Shiite state and its people are in the majority. It is worth knowing that they are Persian and not Arab.
As in any other Middle Eastern country, men and women work and socialize separately. People greet by saying ‘Salam’, and reply with ‘Salam’.
Accept and give things with the right hand.
Women, even Western travelers, should wear loose clothes that cover everything but their hands, face and feet. If you are invited to someone’s home, bring a gift such as flowers or sweets.
In conversation, inquire about people’s family but don’t be too nosy. Family is considered the cornerstone of the society. Note, however, that female relatives are to be protected from outside influences, so questions about the host’s wife or other female relatives are inappropriate.
Iranians have a public identity "zaher" and private identity "batin", which means when in public, they must conform to accepted manners of behavior, while they can be themselves only in the closest family circle.
Football is a good theme for conversation. Do not, however, discuss politics or criticize Islam and the Iranian government.
When visiting a mosque or a shrine women should cover their heads before entering. Sometimes there are stalls renting out chadors in front of these establishments.
Iran is a safe country and its people are very friendly and prepared to help. Theft is rare and crime rates low. Nevertheless, take sensible precautions against pickpockets in crowded bazaars and buses. Don’t argue with people about politics.
Traffic can be really chaotic, rules are rarely followed so be cautious when crossing a street.
Water and food are safe. It cannot be stressed enough that men should NOT talk to women on the street.
It is best to follow diplomatic recommendations when traveling in Muslim countries as anti-American sentiment can sometimes be felt.