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Published: February 9th 2019
Stars & Stripes Mural
They really don't like the US here. Notice how the stars are replaced by skulls.
My time in Iran wasn't quite over yet.
Indeed I was on my way home but after worrying ever so slightly about getting to Shiraz International Airport on time, navigating the poorly-signed said airport, catching two a hour flight and arriving at Tehran's Mehrabad Airport, I still had about ten hours to kill in the capital before catching my (two) flight(s) back to Berlin.
I had missed out on seeing the Treasury of National Jewels when I was in Tehran
last and knowing the very short opening hours it had, I headed straight there from the city's domestic airport. Travelling super-light made this a feasible proposition!
Locked in a steel vault of metre-thick walls inside the Central Bank Of Iran, are the Iranian crown jewels, a breathtaking collection of precious gems and jewel-encrusted objects that were built up by the Persian monarchs from the 16th century. For a visit to see what is literally a priceless collection, the museum's security were dead serious about no photos - literally everything I had had to be checked in, including food!
With everything literally gleaming, to say that this collection was opulent would be an understatement. From a gem-encrusted metre-high globe without New
Streets Of Tehran #1
I could tell you that this was in New York City (or any other city for that matter) and you'd probably believe me.
Zealand on it (naturally), to the famous Peacock Throne that was nabbed from India, and from curtain decorations made of thousands of tiny pearls to purportedly the world's biggest diamond, all the pieces literally have thousands of gems on them. Most of the items such as crowns and tiaras were ceremonial and only used once. This really was showing-off of the highest order - Persian royalty really had quite the stash. As I tagged onto a tour group, it was interesting to find out where many of the jewels came from; pink diamonds from India (like the Koh-i-Noor), rubies from Myanmar and emeralds from Colombia. The experience evoked memories of my visit to the Diamond Fund inside the Kremlin
I had not walked around the city centre too much on my initial visit to Tehran, as I had spent most of my time in the south and north of the city. The cityscape was pretty standard and you really could've been in any city in the world, but New York City
on a winter’s day was what came to mind.
Ensconced in the city centre is the former US Embassy, which is key site in Iran's modern history. This was where the
US Den Of Espionage
The former US embassy is now a museum run by students.
plot to overthrow Iran’s democratically elected leader in 1953 was coordinated and was where the hostage crisis of 1979-1981 took place.
After the US-supported Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979, he went to the US for cancer treatment while Iran wanted him to stand trial for crimes against the Iranian people via his secret police.With the US refusing to extradite the Shah, the US embassy was then stormed by students loyal to Ayatollah Khomeini (who would become the country's supreme leader by the end of the year) and 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days, the longest hostage crisis in known history. The crisis was eventually ended in 1981 at the onset of the Iran-Iraq war.
It seems that students have maintained control of the site ever since and it is now home to a students society protecting the revolution and hosts a museum known as the US Den Of Espionage. The walls outside the former US embassy are plastered with anti-US murals.
The film Argo was about the hostage crisis; funnily enough, the site was closed for filming when I visited!
The anti-US sentiment is continued down the road with the iconic Stars & Stripes Mural.
Exhibits At The Iranian Artists House
There were a lot of impressive pieces here.
Right next to mural is the Sarkis Cathedral, which is in the old Armenian quarter of the city. Just as I was in Esfahan
, I was surprised that there were any Christians in Iran at all, but the Armenians were invited to come to Iran back in the day and their religion was tolerated as a result, the local populace and successive monarchs and governments leaving them in peace.
Darkness had fallen by now but I still had a few hours to kill yet, two of which I spent at the Iranian Artists House. This complex in the middle of a park is hub for local artists (similar to one I visited in Shenzhen, China
) and exhibits lots of cool contemporary pieces. There was one piece on the second floor which was an interactive audiovisual installation where with a press of a button, camera footage is shown of a person taking a random path through Tehran, the path being mapped out as the person is walking, which is superimposed onto the footage. Music written based on the path being walked is played over the soundtrack of the video. A young local girl approached me, explaining the piece to me perfectly
Saffron & Pistachio Milkshake
Best. Milkshake. Ever. At Mes Mes Restaurant.
and in perfect English. It is not often a piece of art makes perfect sense to me so this particular episode has stayed with me and was super-interesting.
I had time and cash left for one last meal in Iran, so where better to go than my favourite restaurant in Tehran, near the hostel that I was staying on my initial visit to the city; Mes Mes. It was where I had my first dinner in Iran, so it was fitting that it should also be where I have my last. As often happens in Iran however, they only seem to bring your drink to your table when your food is ready, which isn't great when you are super-thirsty!
The Tehran Heritage Hostel was the first place I went to in Iran. so fittingly (and kindly from the hostel's perspective) I went back there one last time to hang out for a short while and get a cab to the airport.
At this point, I'd like to share with you some observations I have saved up during my time in Iran;
- I have encountered loads of Italian tourists here, more than any other. Who knew they loved
Dedicated to the old poet, this is one of Tehran's main city centre intersections.
Iran so much?
- Iranians seem fun
- Plastic surgery is popular here - Iranians can have rather large noses so perhaps it isn't surprising but it was still a shock to see so many ordinary folk with their noses bandaged up
I've already summed up my time in Iran in my last entry from Shiraz
, so I won't leave you with any more thoughts; just that it is an amazing country to visit, that definitely lives up to its touristic hype and that I would definitely recommend visiting!
I don't have any more trips planned at the moment; at this stage the next time you hear from me is likely to be in April or May.
زود میبینمت (zood mibinamet),
Derek Epilogue: At the airport, Iranian immigration was the slowest ever - I arrived an hour earlier than I normally would and I needed that entire hour to get through it. Stopping over in Baku, Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani security didn’t fare much better as it took the best part of forty minutes to get through about thirty people. Heydar Aliyev International Airport is flash-as though! Quite possibly the most modern airport I’ve ever visited. Despite being shattered, I wanted
Heydar Aliyev International Airport
Baku's main airport is surprisingly flash.
to explore the airport a little and was rewarded by discovering the “Cocoon Area” where free sleeping pods (with chargers!) were set up. The pods presented themselves to me at the perfect time, although the patriotic-sounding, military-style airport announcements tended to shake you back awake at regular intervals. The airport was pretty busy despite it being four in the morning. Anyway, it was a long night where I seemed to permanently be in slow-moving queues and in planes with screaming, kicking toddlers so I *might* pay more for a better or direct flight next time! Who knows, I may come back to Baku.
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