The Story of Tehran: Then and Now
Tehran Iran in photos showing how it evolved from the Median city of Rey to the current bustling capital city of Iran. The Tehran tourist attractions come to life after knowing the special story of Tehran.
The Median city of Rhaga (Rey) has flourished on the Central Plateau since around 8,000-12,000 BCE. It was recorded in ancient texts from Avesta, Torah, Greek and other Latin books. It was richer than many other ancient cities, and home to pillars of science like Rhazes. And the lands around Rey were known to be very fertile below the Damavand volcanic region.
While Rey has now been absorbed into greater Tehran with connecting metro lines, there are layers of archeological remains still being found.
Rey was eventually demolished by the Moguls in the early 13th century. Yet throughout the vississitudes of history the city became prosperous again under the Safavi rule (16th - 18th CE).
Prior to the 17th century Iran's capital was strategically moved based on it's defensive positions towards the largest neighboring threats. The capital moved from Isfahan to Shiraz, and by the time of Qajar Rule it was finally moved to Tehran in 1776. This was when the great game between Britain and Russia was just getting started around Persian borders (18th - 20th CE).
The original development plan of Tehran in 1855 emphasized the traditional spatial structure. Before 1870 Tehran consisted only of a few neighborhoods, a roofed bazaar, and a 16th century walled citadel (now Golestan Palace) as shown below. The architecture formed an eclectic expression to reflect the new lifestyle in the shah's land.
Darvazeh Tehran Gate: One of the original entrances into the city around 1900.
After the First World War the shah suspended the Baladie Law of 1907, and the autonomous decentralized councils' were replaced by centralist approaches of governance and planning. The below image from 1911 is taken from Toopkhaneh Square (currently Imam Khomeini Square).
From the 1920s to 1930s the city was essentially rebuilt under the rule of Reza Shah Pahlavi to allow for more traffic capacity.
Reza Shah believed that the ancient buildings such as large parts of the Golestan Palace should not be part of a modern city. The city walls and parts of the Golestan Palace had been systematically demolished and replaced with more modern buildings such as the National Bank, the Police Headquarters, and the Telegraph Office. The Grand Bazaar of Tehran was divided in half and many historic buildings were demolished in order to build wide straight roads into the capital.
During the Second World War, Soviet and British troops entered the city. The city was the site of the Tehran Conference in 1943, attended by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
In 1948 the establishment of the Planning Organization resulted in the first socio-economic development plan. Mosssadegh's democratic movement failed to decentralise the autocratic government. Over the following decade Tehran not only failed to slow the unbalanced growth, but Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi created what was dubbed the 'White Revolution,' the chaotic growth of Tehran's was then further exacerbated with the 1962 land reforms.
To bring order back to the city and resolve social exclusion problems, in 1968 the first comprehensive plan of Tehran was approved. An international consortium was formed to tackle the problems blighting the city, especially air and water pollution, inefficient infrastructure, unemployment, and uncontrolled urbanisation.
Tehran's most famous landmark, the Azadi Tower (meaning freedom, liberty), was built in 1971 by the order of the shah by incorporating Sassanid and Achaemenid features. It was built to commemorate of the 2,500 year anniversary of the Persian Empire.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Tehran was rapidly developing under the control of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The face of Tehran became altered by modern buildings and other ambitious projects. Tehran's rate of urbanization reached its peak in the late 1970's. The below photo is taken of the Milad Tower in Tehran, one of the largest towers in the world.
Eventually the whole city plan changed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the following Iran-Iraq War. Iran found itself at odds with the West supporting Saddam Hussein, becomming the longest conventional war of the 20th century. Tehran was the target of repeated Iraqi scud missile attacks and air strikes between 1980–88.
The town planning has since improved after the Islamic Revolution, with new projects starting and existing ones finally finished. However the congested streets and environmental problems were worsened by the sanctioned transport industry.
The city population of Tehran is now over 8 million comprised of many ethnic groups from across the region. The 435-meter-high Milad Tower was finally completed in 2007, and the 270-meter Tabiat Pedestrian Bridge overpass was completed in 2014.
The hilltops around Tehran's north have now been transformed into large public parks and the squares are full of sculptures and other artwork. Yet opportunities for better city regulation and investment can be left to your imagination.
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