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Tehran (tʰehˈɾɒn; Persian: تهران, UniPers: Tehrân) is the capital and largest city of Iran, and the administrative center of Tehran Province. Tehran is a sprawling city at the foot of the Alborz mountain range with an immense network of highways unparalleled in Western Asia. Tehran is famous for its numerous ski resorts on the Alborz slopes, large museums, art centers, and palace complexes. Tehran is the largest city in the Middle East and is the most populated city in South Western Asia with a population of 7,404,515 and approximately 15 million in Greater Tehran.
Most Iranian industries are headquartered in Tehran. The industries include the manufacturing of automobiles, electrical equipment, military weaponry, textiles, sugar, cement, and chemical products. It is also a leading center for the sale of carpets and furniture. There is also an oil refinery located in south of the city.
In the 20th century, Tehran faced a large migration of people from all around Iran. Today, the city contains various religious minorities, and has many historic mosques, churches, synagogues and Zoroastrian fire temples.
The origin of the name Tehran is unknown. Excavations place the existence of settlements in Tehran as far back as 6000 BCE. Tehran was well known as a village in the 9th century, but was less well-known than the city of Rhages (Ray) which was flourishing nearby in the early era. In the 13th century, following the destruction of Ray by Mongols, many of its inhabitants escaped to Tehran. In some sources of the early era, the city is mentioned as "Rhages's Tehran" . The city is later mentioned in Hamdollah Mostowfi's Nuz'hat al-Qulub (written in 1340) as a famous village.
Don Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo, a Castilian ambassador, was probably the first European to visit Tehran, stopping in July 1404, while on a journey to Samarkand (now in Uzbekistan) and the Mongol capital at the time. At this time, the city of Tehran was unwalled.
Tehran became a residence of the Safavid rulers in the 17th century. Tahmasp I built a bazaar and a wall around the city, but it somewhat fell out of favor after Abbas I turned sick when he was passing the city to go to a war with the Uzbeks.
In the early of 18th century, Karim Khan Zand ordered a palace, a harem, and a government office to be built in Tehran, possibly to declare the city his capital, but later moved his government to Shiraz. Tehran finally became the capital of Iran in 1795, when the Qajar king Agha Mohammad Khan was crowned in the city. It remains the capital to this day.
During World War II, British and Soviet troops entered the city. Tehran was the site of the Tehran Conference in 1943, attended by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin.
Following the war, the city's older landmarks suffered under the rule of Mohammad Reza Shah. The Shah believed that ancient buildings such as large parts of the Golestan Palace, Takieh-ye Dowlat, the Toopkhaneh Square (pictured to the right), the magnificent city fortifications and the old citadel among others should not be part of a modern city. They were systematically destroyed and modern 1950s and 1960s buildings were built in their place. Tehran bazar was divided in half and many historic buildings were destroyed in order to build wide straight avenues in the capital. Many excellent examples of Persian Gardens also became targets to new construction projects. The decision to carry these out is presently largely seen as a foolish mistake that hurt the visual fabric and the cultural identity of the city beyond repair. Apartment blocks are introduced in this period.
During the 1980–88 Iran–Iraq War, Tehran was the scene of repeated Scud missile attacks and air strikes against random residential and industrial targets within the city, resulting in thousands of civilian casualties. Material damage was repaired soon after each strike. Tehran attracted war refugees by the millions.
After the war, cheap Soviet-style apartments multiplied throughout the city without any plan. At present, little is left of Tehran's old quarters. Instead, modern high-rise buildings dominate the city's skyline and new modern apartments have and are replacing the few remaining old houses at a rapid pace. Tehran-style home architecture has almost vanished completely. This is often referred to as "Tehran Identity Disaster".
Tehran is also home to many grand mansions in the north of the city(Farmanieh, Zaferanieh, Niavaran, etc) and the Shahrak-e Gharb District.
Tehran's climate is largely defined by its geographic location, with the towering Alborz Mountains to its North and the central desert to the South. It can be generally described as mild in the spring, hot and dry in the summer, cool and rainy in autumn and cold in the winter. As a large city with a significant differences in elevation among various districts, the weather is often cooler in the hilly north as compared to the flat southern part of Tehran. Summer is usually hot and dry with very little rain. The majority of precipitation occurs from mid-autumn to mid-spring. The hottest month is July (mean minimum temperature 23°C, mean maximum temperature 36°C) and the coldest is January (mean minimum temperature -1°C, mean maximum temperature 8°C)
Although compared to other parts of the country, Tehran enjoys a moderate climate, weather conditions can sometimes be unpredictably harsh. The record high temperature is 48°C and the record low is -20°C. On January 5 & 6, 2008, after years of relatively little snow, a wave of heavy snow and low temperatures shocked the city covering it in a thick layer of snow and ice, forcing the Council of Ministers to officially declare an state of emergency and calling the following two days (January 6th and 7th) off for the capital.
The city of Tehran had a population of about 8 million people at the time of the last official census in 2006.
With its cosmopolitan air, Tehran houses diverse ethnic and linguistics groups from all over the country and represents the ethnic/linguistic composition of Iran (though with a different percentage). More than 60 percent of Tehranis were born outside Tehran.
Today the majority of Tehran residents are known as Persians who speak many different dialects of Persian corresponding to their hometown, including Esfahani, Shirazi, Yazdi, Khuzestani, Dari, Judeo-Persian, etc. However, the main dialect of Iranians is pure Persian. The second largest linguistic group is that of the Azeri-speakers.
Other minority groups include Kurds, Baluch, Qashqa'i, Turkmen, Armenian, Bakhtiari, Assyrian, Talysh, etc. There are also a number of a few long established linguistic minorities such as Punjabi-speaking traders from Punjab (India) & Domari-speaking Romas as well as a small amount ethnic Georgians who have resided in Northern Iran for centuries. A number of Arabic speakers of Iraqi and Lebanese origin also live in Tehran.
Tehran saw a drastic change in its ethno-social composition in early 1980s. Following the political, social and economic consequences of the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979 and onwards, many Iranian citizens, mostly Tehranis left Iran due to mounting political, social and most importantly religious pressure. Many Iranians fled to countries such as Canada, U.S, many European countries, Japan and even as far as Australia and Sweden. The highest Iranian emigration is to the United States and Canada.
With the start of the Iran–Iraq War (1980-1988) following an Iraqi invasion, a second wave of inhabitants fled the city especially under Iraqi air offensive on the capital. With most major powers backing Iraq at that time, economic isolation caused even more reasons for the inhabitants to leave the city (and the country). Having left all they had and having struggled to adapt to a new country and build a life, most of them never came back when the war was over. During the war, Tehran also received a great number of migrants from the west and the southwest of the country bordering Iraq.
The unstable situation and the war in neighboring Afghanistan and Iraq prompted a rush of refugees into the country who came in millions, with Tehran being a magnet for modest workers who helped the city to recover from war wounds, charging far less than local construction workers. Many of these refugees are being repatriated with the assistance of UNHCR but there are still sizeable Afghan and Iraqi refugees in Tehran who are reluctant to leave, being pessimistic about the situation in their country. Afghan refugees are mostly Persian-speaking Hazara or Tajiks, speaking a dialect of Persian, and Iraqi refugees, who are mainly Shiite Mesopotamian Arabic-speakers of Iranian origin.
The majority of Tehranis are the followers of Twelver Shia Islam which is also the state religion. Religious minorities include followers of various sects of Sunni Islam, Zoroastrianism, Bahá'í Faith, Judaism, and Christianity (including the adherents of the Assyrian Church of the East, Armenian Apostolic Church, Roman Catholic Church, Chaldean Catholic Church, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Iranian Protestant churches, Kelisa-ye Khanegi-ye Iraniyan, Armenian Evangelical Church, Jama'at-e Rabbani (Assemblies of God), Armenian Brotherhood Church, Russian Orthodox Church, and the Presbyterian Church). There are also small groups of Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Mandeans, Spiritualists, Atheists, Azalis, Yazidis, Yarsan, Ismaili, Secular Muslims and the followers of Mystic Islam.
Despite being the seat of a theological government and the fact that most important religious unions and academies of the country are based in Tehran, the city remains the most secular and liberal in the nation, a fact that attracts many youngsters from elsewhere to study in the capital.
Architecture and landmarks
Tehran is a relatively old city; as such, it has an architectural tradition unique to itself. Archaeological investigations and excavations in Tehran demonstrate that this area was home to civilizations as far back as 6,000 years BC. Tehran served only as a village to a relatively small population for most of its history, but began to take a more considerable role in Iran after it was made the capital in the late 18th century. Despite the occurrence of earthquakes during the Qajar period and before, some buildings still remain from Tehran's era of antiquity. Today Tehran is Iran's primate city, and has the most modernized infastructure in the country; however, the gentrification of old neighborhoods and the demolition of buildings of cultural significance has caused concerns.
The Azadi Tower has been the longstanding symbol of Tehran. It was constructured to commemorate the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian empire, and was originally named "Shahyad Tower"; after the Iranian revolution, its name changed to "Azadi Tower," meaning "Freedom Tower." The recently constructed Milad Tower may eventually replace the Azadi Tower as Tehran's new symbol. The Milad complex contains the world's fourth tallest tower, several restaurants, a five star hotel, a convention center, a world trade center, and an IT park. Traditionally a low-lying city due to seismic activity in the region, modern high rise developments in Tehran have been undertaken in order to service its growing population.
The tallest residential building in Iran is a 54-story building located North of Youssef Abad district, the Tehran International Tower. It is architecturally designed similar to Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip in the Paradise community of Clark County, Nevada, United States. Appealing to the principle of vertical rather than horizontal expansion of the city, the Tehran International Tower is bound to the North by Youssef Abad, to the South By Hakim Highway, to the East by Kordesstan Highway and to the West by Sheikh Bahai Highway, all of which facilitate access to various parts of the city.
Location and subdivisions
Tehran county borders Shemiranat county to the north, Damavand county to the east, Eslamshahr, Pakdasht, and Ray counties to the south, and Karaj and Shahriar counties to the west.
Neighborhoods and districts of Tehran
The city of Tehran is divided into 22 municipal districts, each with its own administrative centers.
Within these 22 districts, Tehran contains the following major neighborhoods:
Abbas Abad, Afsariyeh, Amir Abad, Bagh Feiz, Baharestan, Darakeh, Darband, Dardasht, Dar Abad, Darrous, Dehkadeh Olampik, Ekhtiyariyeh, Elahiyeh, Evin, Farmanieh,Gheitariye, Gholhak, Gisha, Gomrok, Hasan Abad, Jamaran, Jannat Abad, Javadiyeh, Jomhuri, Jordan, Lavizan, Narmak, Navab, Nazi Abad, Niavaran, Park-e Shahr, Pasdaran, Punak, Ray, Sa'adat Abad, Sadeghiyeh, Seyed Khandan, Sohrevardi, Shahrara, Shahr-e ziba, Shahrak-e Gharb, Shemiran, Tajrish, Tehranpars, Tehransar, Vanak, Velenjak, Yaft Abad, Yusef Abad, Zafaraniyeh, etc.
For a map of the relative locations of the neighborhoods and the full list, see List of the localities around Tehran.
Tehran's old city fabric changed dramatically during the Pahlavi era. Some of the older remaining districts of Tehran are: Oud-lajan, Sangelaj, Bazaar, Chaleh Meydan, Doulat. Chaleh Meydan is the oldest neighborhood of the aforementioned.
The metropolis of Tehran enjoys a huge network of highways (280 km) and of interchanges, ramps, and loops (180km). In 2007 there were 130 kilometers of highways and 120 kilometers of ramps and loops under construction. Tehran has one of the cleanest and most convenient metro systems, in terms of accessibility to different parts of the city, in the region. The feasibility study and conceptual planning of the construction were started in 1970s. In 2001, the first two of its seven envisaged lines of metro were opened to public usage.
Development of the Tehran metro system had been interrupted by the Islamic Revolution and the Iran–Iraq War. Problems arising from the late completion of the metro led to buses taking on the role of the metro lines, serving mainly long distance routes. Taxis filled the void for local journeys. The taxis only drive on main avenues, and only within the local area, so it may be necessary to take several taxis to get to one's final destination. This has all led to extreme congestion and air pollution within the city. Since the completion of the first 3 phases of the Metro, some of these above problems have been mitigated. Tehran is served by Mehrabad Airport, an old airport which doubles as a military base, located in the Western part of the city, and Imam Khomeini International Airport, located 50 kilometers (31 mi) south, which handles international flights.
Tehran also has a central train station with connecting services round the clock to various cities in the country. There are four bus terminals that also provide connections at low fares. These are the South, East, West, and Bei-haghi Park-Drive Terminals.
While the center of the city houses the government ministries and headquarters, the commercial centers are more located toward Valiasr Street (formally known as Pahlavi street), Taleghani Ave, and Beheshti Ave further north. Although administratively separate, Rey, Shemiran, and Karaj are often considered part of the larger Tehran metropolitan area.
Education and research
Tehran is the biggest and most important educational center of Iran. Today there are nearly 50 major colleges and universities total in Greater Tehran.
Since the establishment of Darolfonoon in the mid 1800s, Tehran has amassed a large number of institutions of higher education. Some of these institutions have played crucial roles in the unfolding of Iranian political events. Samuel M. Jordan, whom Jordan Avenue in Tehran is named after, was also one of the founding pioneers of the American College of Tehran. Among major educational institutions located in Tehran, Sharif University of Technology, is the most prestigious technological university of Iran and University of Tehran is the largest and oldest state university in Iran and one of the oldest in Central Asia and Middle East.
Amirkabir University of Technology (Tehran Polytechnic), K.N.Toosi University of Technology, Iran University of Science and Technology, Shahid Beheshti University (Melli University), Iran University of Medical Science, and Tarbiat Modarres University are other highly ranked universities of Iran located in Tehran.
Tehran is also home to Iran's largest military academy, and several religious schools and seminaries.
Tehran was the first city in the Middle East to host the Asian Games. The 7th Asian Summer Games in 1974, was held with the participation of 2,363 athletes and officials from 25 countries.
Tehran is also the site of Iran's national football stadium on Azadi Sport Complex with 100,000 seating capacity. Many of the top matches of Iran's Premier League are held here. In 2005, FIFA ordered Iran to limit spectators allowed into Azadi stadium because of a fatal crush and inadequate safety procedures. Other stadiums in Tehran are Shahid Dastgerdi Stadium, Takhti Stadium, and Shahid Shirudi Stadium, among others.
Within 10 minutes driving distance from Tehran lies a ski resort. Tochal is the world's fifth highest ski resort, at over 3,730 metres (12,240 ft) at its highest 7th station. The resort was completed in 1976 shortly before the overthrow of the Shah.
Here, one must first ride the eight kilometre (five mile) long gondola lift which covers a huge vertical. The 7th station has three slopes. The resort's longest slope is the south side U shaped slope which goes from the 7th station to 5th station. The other two slopes are located on the north side of the 7th station. Here, there are two parallel chair ski lifts that go up to 3,900 metres (12,795 ft) near Tochal's peak (at 4,000 m/13,125 ft), rising higher than the gondola 7th station. This altitude is higher than any of the European resorts.
From the Tochal peak, one has a spectacular view of the Alborz range, including the 5,671 metre (18,606 ft) high Mount Damavand, a dormant volcano.
At the bottom of the lifts in a valley behind the Tochal peak is Tochal hotel, located at 3,500 metres (11,483 ft) altitude. From there a T lift takes skiers up the 3,800 metres (12,500 ft) of Shahneshin peak, where the third slope of Tochal is.
Tochal 7th station has skiing eight months of the year. But there are also some glaciers and year-round snow fields near Tehran where skiing began in 1938, thanks to the efforts of two German railway engineers. Today, 12 ski resorts operate in Iran, but the most famous are Tochal, Dizin, and Shemshak, all within one to three hours of Tehran.
Tourism and attractions
Tehran, as Iran's showcase and historical capital city, has a wealth of cultural attractions. The Peacock Throne of the Persian Kings (Shahs) can be found in Tehran's Golestan Palace. Some of the well-known museums are National Museum of Iran, Sa'dabad Palaces Complex, Glassware and Ceramics Museum of Iran, The Carpet Museum of Iran, Tehran's Underglass painting Museum, and Niavaran Palace Complex. The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art features the works of great artists such as Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. The collection of these paintings was selected by the former Empress Farrah Diba.
Tehran is also home to the Iranian Imperial Crown Jewels, also called the Imperial Crown Jewels of Persia, its is claimed to be the largest, most dazzling and valuable jewel collection in the world. The collection comprises a set of crowns and thrones, some 30 tiaras, numerous aigrettes, jewel-studded swords and shields, a vast amount of precious loose gems, including the largest collections of emeralds, rubies and diamonds in the world. It also includes other items collected by the Shahs of Iran during the 2,500 year existence of the Iranian Kingdom. The Imperial Crown Jewels are still on display in the Iranian Central Bank in Tehran.
The following table shows some places for outdoors activities in Tehran:
Tochal Ski resort, Darband hiking trail, Chitgar Park,Niavaran Park, Sa'ei Park, Daneshju Park, Goft-o-gū Park, Mellat Park, Laleh Park, Jamshidieh Park, Shatranj Park, Darabad hiking trail, Darakeh hiking trail, Jahan-e Kudak Park, Azadi sports complex, Enghelab Sports Complex and Golf course, Latyan Lake, Lavizan Forest Park, Vardavard Forest Park, Khajeer National Park, Kavir National Park, Tar Lake, Amir Kabir Lake, Lar Protected Natural Habitat, Varjeen Protected Natural Habitat, Pardisan, Tangeh Savashi, Farahzad