SHEMIRÂN AND THE NORTH OF TEHRAN
The northern suburbs of Tehran, set on the mountain slopes some 800 metres (2,625 feet) above the centre of town-which at times is hardly visible under its brown haze-have always been a much coveted residential area, the symbol of a social as well as a physical climb. Throughout its history, Tehran's urban development has been centred around the gradual progression of the town from south to north, from the plain to the higher slopes. Once a village completely separate from Tehran, Shemirân is now a suburb, linked to the downtown area by the avenues built under Rezâ Shâh and by two new highways. It has a calm and rather select feel to it, far removed from the bustle of the town centre. It is here that one finds the gardens of some of the foreign embassies, private parks, the International Trade Fair compound, the Pârk-e Mellat (Park of the Nation), which has become a popular meeting place for young people, and the large international hotels built in the 1970s, such as the Esteqlâl Hotel (ex-Hilton) and the Azâdi Grand Hotel (ex-Hyatt).
At the north end of Shemirân is the old Pahlavi royal residence, Sa'ad Abâd, (majmue-ye Farhangi-ye Sa'ad Abâd, entrance
|Sadabad White Palace|
to the north of Tajrish Square, on Alborz Kuh Street) now turned into museums. Open to the public every day from 8 am to 4 pm, closed on national mourning days such as Ashura. The 18 palaces and residences of Sa'ad Abâd, all dating from the 1930s, are scattered in a vast park of some 120 hectares (297 acres), landscaped in a Western style.
The White Palace or Palace of the Nation, is the •Shâh's old Summer Palace where he lived for three months of the year. Built by Rezâ Shâh in a style which was to become characteristic of his reign, it resembles more an administrative building than a palace. Fortunately, the tall columns of the front porch restore a certain regal air to it. However, the treasure-filled interior, belies the austerity of the exterior. The Persian carpets are of rare quality and surprising size: woven spcially for the palaces and to the exact measurements of each room, some have a surface area of over 100 square metres (1,076 square feet). The palace is tastefully decorated, without deliberate ostentation, so that the furniture and carpets can be fully appreciated. The last Shâh developed a taste for French culture and entrusted the interior decoration of the palace to a French designer. The curtains and much of the furniture are therefore French (including some very fine examples of 16th century furniture); the china comes from France and Germany, while the glass and crystal-ware are from Bohemia. Outside the palace, at the foot of the steps, stands an enormous pair of bronze boots, the only remains of a statue of Rezâ Shâh destroyed during the revolution.
|Niavaran Palace Complex|
The second palace open to the public is that of the Shâh's mother, known today as the Palace of Admonition and Reversion. The furnishings are similar to those in the Shâh's Palace, but the interior design of the building is entirely different: all three floors give directly onto a central well which forms the main hall. Here again, carpets, furniture, and china have been carefully selected.
A third palace has been turned into a Military Museum. Outside the building, in the park, stand various large modern war machines, including fighter planes. Inside, on the ground floor, is an exhibition of life-size model soldiers wearing uniforms from each dynasty since Achaemenian times, as well as several rooms of armour and weaponry from different periods, including some fine Safavid armour. The 20th century is well represented by a variety of guns and pistols, ranging from the Winchester to the Uzi.
Other buildings in the park open to the public are the Rajeat and !brat Palace, the Museum of Fine Arts (water colours, furniture), the Natural History Museum and the Ethnological Research Museum.
The park and museums of Sa'ad Abâd are open from 8 am to 5 pm every day,Cameras, handbags and shopping bags are not allowed inside the park and have to be left at the entrance.
|The Roof of Tehran|
The area known as Niâvarân, where the old summer residence of Fath Ali Shâh was located, is to the east of Sa'ad Abâd on the edge of the city. Open to the public from 8 am to 4 pm, closed Thursdays and Fridays.
For those who wish to get away from the noise and heat of town, a short trip into the mountains around Tehran is recommended. From the northern suburbs it is very easy to get into the Alborz. The simplest way is to take the cable car to Mount Toshâl (telekâbin-e Toshâl,leaves from Velenjak, north of Evin). The trip to the top takes about half an hour, with several stops on the way. Several paths lead from the top station, including one to the summit of Toshal (3,933 metres, 12,900 feet). Remember that whatever the temperature down in Tehran, it is always much chillier at 3,000 metres, even in mid-summer. Other walks are also possible from Darband, behind Sa'ad Abâd, where numerous little tea houses line the streams that flow down the mountainside.