Friday, 4 December 2009

Iran: Out and about in Tehran

After breakfast of bread, fetta cheese, tomatoes and cucumber we headed up into the hills of Tehran to see Niyavaran Palace where the last Shah and his family lived. Snow had fallen during the night and the footpaths were crunchy with ice. There are 4 separate museums on the site and we started by going into the Ahmad Shahi Pavilion which was the home of the Shah's son until the time they left Iran in early 1979. The upstairs area of the house has been closed to visitors for some time apparently. We were able to look round the downstairs area including the living area which is full of his personal possessions and books. There are some weird things on display including an enormous polar bear skin floor rug complete with head that had been a gift from Canada and a piece of rock from the moon which was gift from Richard Nixon.We then scrunched through the snow to Sahebqaranieh which is a Qajar era palace from the late 1700s. The palace served as the Shah's office during his reign and contains many priceless paintings. There is a room directly off the main audience room of the palace which is fully set up as a dental surgery. I guess the Shah must have expected serious dental problems. In the bathrooms there are gold plated taps and towel rings - did I ever tell you about my optician in London who rented his surgery rooms from an Arab family? There were solid gold taps in the 'special client' bathroom. Anyway, back to the Shah's office palace, in the Waiting Room there are photos of some of the notables who've visited including Eisenhower, Nixon, Ataturk, the Queen and Hitler.

Next stop was into the old part of Tehran to visit the Golestan Palace buildings. There are several buildings set around a lovely garden. I was really happy because there was a folkdancing troupe from Mashad performing in the centre of the garden, accompanied by 3 musicians on nai, daf and tar. In one of the buildings is an audience hall where the first Pahlavi shah crowned himself Bonaparte-style. The hall is magnificent, the walls are covered in mirrors and the effect is stunning.

Final stop for the day was the National Museum of Iran where we saw many pieces recovered from the Sailk Hills site in Kashan that we'd visited a few days ago.

In the evening we had dinner at the restaurant in the hotel, listened to live music and enjoyed a performance by a male singer. Female singers do not perform in public here, nor can you buy CDs by female singers as they're banned (Iranians buy them in Dubai and bring them back.......)

Tomorrow we fly back to Dubai and I'll do a summary.

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