1. Tehran

Tehran is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province.

With a population of around 8.4 million in the city and 15 million in the larger metropolitan area of Greater Tehran,

Tehran is the most populous city in Iran and Western Asia, and has the 2nd largest metropolitan area in the Middle East. It is ranked 29th in the world by the population of its metropolitan area.

In the Classical era, part of the territory of present-day Tehran was occupied by Rhages, a prominent Median city. It was subject to destruction through the medieval Arab, Turkic, and Mongol invasions. Its modern-day inheritor remains as an urban area absorbed into the metropolitan area of Greater Tehran.

Tehran was first chosen as the capital of Iran by Āghā Mohammad Khān (1742-1797) of the Qajar dynasty in 1796, in order to remain within close reach of Iran's territories in the Caucasus, before being separated from Iran as a result of the Russo-Iranian Wars, and to avoid the vying factions of the previously ruling Iranian dynasties.

The capital has been moved several times throughout the history, and Tehran is the 32nd national capital of Iran.

Large scale demolition and rebuilding began in the 1920s, and Tehran has been a destination for mass migrations from all over Iran since the 20th century.

Milad Tower

Tehran is home to many historical collections, including the royal complexes of Golestān, Sadabad, and Niāvarān, where the 2 last dynasties of the former Imperial State of Iran were seated.

Tehran's most famous landmarks include:

  1. the Āzādi Tower, a memorial built under the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1971 to mark the 2 500th year of the foundation of the Imperial State of Iran,
  2. and the Milād Tower, the world's sixth-tallest self-supporting tower which was completed in 2007.
  3. The Tabiat Bridge, a newly-built landmark, was completed in 2014.

Azadi Tower

The majority of the population of Tehran are Persian-speaking people, and roughly 99% of the population understand and speak Persian, but there are large populations of other ethno-linguistic groups who live in Tehran and speak Persian as a second language.

Tehran has an international airport (Imam Khomeini Airport), a domestic airport (Mehrabad Airport), a central railway station, the rapid transit system of Tehran Metro, a bus rapid transit system, trolleybuses, and a large network of highways.

2. History

The origin of the name Tehran is uncertain.
The settlement of Tehran dates back over 7,000 years.

3. Classical era

Sa'dabad Palace Complex

Tehran is situated within the historical region of Media   in north-western Iran.

By the time of the Median Empire, a part of the territory of present-day Tehran was a suburb of the prominent Median city of Rhages (now Rey).

In the Avesta's Vendidad (i, 15), Rhages is mentioned as the 12th sacred place created by Ahura Mazda (God-Creator in Zoroastrianism).

In Old Persian inscriptions, Rhages appears as a province (Behistun inscriptions 2, 10–18).

From Rhages, Darius I (c. 550–486 BCE) sent reinforcements to his father Hystaspes (fl. 550 BC), who was putting down the rebellion in Parthia (Behistun 3, 1–10).

In some Middle Persian texts, Rhages is given as the birthplace of Zoroaster (Zaratuštra, c. 1500 BC – 1000 BC), although modern historians generally place the birth of Zoroaster in Khorasan.

Rhages modern-day inheritor, Ray, is a city located towards the southern end of Tehran, which has been absorbed into the metropolitan area of Greater Tehran.

Mount Damāvand, the highest peak of Iran, which is located near Tehran, is an important location in Firdausi's (c. 940–1020) Šāhnāme, the Iranian epic poem that is based on the ancient legends of Iran.

It appears in the epics as the homeland of the protoplast Keyumars (the first shah of the world), the birthplace of king Manūchehr, the place where king Feraydūn binds the dragon fiend Aži Dahāka (Bēvar Asp), and the place where Āraš shot his arrow from.

4. Medieval period

Golestan Palace

During the reign of the Sasanian Empire, in 641, Yazdgerd III (624-651) issued his last appeal to the nation from Rhages, before fleeing to Khorasan.

Rhages was dominated by the Parthian Mehrān family, and Siyavakhsh - the son of Mehrān the son of Bahrām Chōbīn (died 591) - who resisted the 7th century Muslim invasion of Iran.

Because of this resistance, when the Arabs captured Rhages, they ordered the town to be destroyed and rebuilt anew by traitor aristocrat Farrūkhzād (reigned 651-665).

In the 9th century, Tehran was a well-known village, but less known than the city of Rhages, which was flourishing nearby.

Rhages was described in detail by 10th century Muslim geographers.

Despite the interest that Arabian Baghdad displayed in Rhages, the number of Arabs in the city remained insignificant and the population mainly consisted of Iranians of all classes.

The Oghuz Turks invaded Rhages discretely in 1035 and 1042, but the city was recovered under the reigns of the Seljuks and the Khwārazmians.

Medieval writer Najm al-Dīn al-Rāzī (1177-1256) declared the population of Rhages about 500 000 before the Mongol invasion.

In the 13th century, the Mongols invaded Rhages, laid the city in ruins, and massacred many of its inhabitants. Following the invasion, many of the city's inhabitants escaped to Tehran.

In July 1404, Castilian ambassador Ruy González de Clavijo (died 1412) visited Tehran while on a journey to Samarkand, the capital of Turk-Mongol conqueror Timur (1336-1405), who ruled Iran at the time. In his diary, Tehran was described as an unwalled region.

5. Early modern era

Niavaran palace

Italian traveller Pietro della Valle (1586-1652) passed through Tehran overnight in 1618, and in his memoirs, he mentioned the city as Teheran.

English traveller Sir Thomas Herbert (1606–1682) entered Tehran in 1627, and mentioned it as Tyroan. Herbert stated that the city had about 3 000 houses.

In the early 18th century, Karīm Khān (c. 1705-1779) of the Zand dynasty ordered a palace and a government office to be built in Tehran, possibly to declare the city his capital; but he later moved his government to Shiraz.

Eventually, Qajar king Āghā Mohammad Khān (1742-1797) chose Tehran as the capital of Iran in 1776.

Āghā Mohammad Khān's choice of his capital was based on a similar concern for the control of both northern and southern Iran:

He was aware of the loyalties of the inhabitants of former capitals Isfahan and Shiraz to the Safavid and Zand dynasties respectively, and was wary of the power of the local notables in these cities.

Thus, he probably viewed Tehran's lack of a substantial urban structure as a blessing, because it minimized the chances of resistance to his rule by the notables and by the general public.

Moreover, he had to remain within close reach of Azerbaijan and Iran's integral northern and southern Caucasian territories –

at that time not yet irrevocably lost per the treaties of Golestān and Turkmenchay to the neighbouring Russian Empire - which would follow in the course of the 19th century.

After 50 years of Qajar rule, the city still barely had more than 80 000 inhabitants.

Tehran north

Up until the 1870s, Tehran consisted of a walled citadel, a roofed bazaar, and the 3 main neighbourhoods of Udlajan, Chale-Meydan, and Sangelaj, where the majority resided.

The 1st development plan of Tehran in 1855 emphasized the traditional spatial structure. Architecture, however, found an eclectic expression to reflect the new lifestyle.

The 2nd major planning exercise in Tehran took place under the supervision of Dar ul-Funun:

The 1878 plan of Tehran included new city walls, in the form of a perfect octagon with an area of 19 km2, which mimicked the Renaissance cities of Europe.

6. Late modern era

Tehran Street view

The growing social awareness of civil rights resulted in the Constitutional Revolution and the first constitution of Iran in 1906.

On June 2, 1907, the parliament passed a law on local governance known as the Baladī (municipal law), providing a detailed outline on issues such as the role of councils within the city, the members' qualifications, the election process, and the requirements to be entitled to vote.

The then Qajar monarch Mohammad Ali Shah (1872-1925) abolished the constitution and bombarded the parliament with the help of the Russian-controlled Cossack Brigade on June 23, 1908.

That followed the capture of the city by the revolutionary forces of Ali-Qoli Khan Bakhtiari (Sardar Asad II, (1856–1917)) and Mohammad Vali Khan Tonekāboni (1846-1926) on July 13, 1909.

As a result, the monarch was exiled and replaced with his son Ahmad Shah Qajar (1898-1930), and the parliament was re-established.

After World War I, the constituent assembly elected Reza Shah (1878-1944) of the Pahlavi dynasty as the new monarch,

who immediately suspended the Baladī law of 1907, replacing the decentralized and autonomous city councils with centralist approaches of governance and planning.

From the 1920s to the 1930s, under the rule of Reza Shah, the city was essentially rebuilt from scratch:

That followed a systematic demolition of several old buildings, including parts of the Golestān Palace, Tekyeh Dowlat ("State Theatre"), and Tūpkhāneh Square ("Artillery Barracks"),

which were replaced with modern buildings influenced by classical Iranian architecture, particularly the building of the National Bank, the Police Headquarters, the Telegraph Office, and the Military Academy.

The changes in urban fabric started with the street-widening act of 1933, which served as a framework for changes in all other cities:

The Grand Bāzār was divided in half and many historic buildings were demolished to be replaced with wide straight avenues.

As a result, the traditional texture of the city was replaced with intersecting cruciform streets that created large roundabouts, located on major public spaces such as the Bāzār.

As an attempt to create a network for easy transportation within the city, the old citadel and city walls were demolished in 1937, replaced by wide streets cutting through the urban fabric.

The new city map of Tehran in 1937 was heavily influenced by modernist planning patterns of zoning and gridiron networks.

During World War II, Soviet and British troops entered the city. In 1943, Tehran was the site of the Tehran Conference, attended by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

The establishment of the planning organization of Iran in 1948 resulted in the first socio-economic development plan to cover 1949-1955:

These plans not only failed to slow the unbalanced growth of Tehran, but with the 1962 land reforms that Reza Shah's son and successor Mohammad Reza Shah (1919-1980) named the White Revolution, Tehran's chaotic growth was further accentuated.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Tehran was rapidly developing under the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah:

Modern buildings altered the face of Tehran and ambitious projects were envisioned for the following decades. In order to resolve the problem of social exclusion, the first comprehensive plan of Tehran was approved in 1968:

The consortium of Iranian architect Abdol-Aziz Farmanfarmaian (1920-2013) and the American firm of Victor Gruen Associates identified the main problems blighting the city –

to be high density suburbs, air and water pollution, inefficient infrastructure, unemployment, and rural-urban migration.

Eventually, the whole plan was marginalized by the 1979 Revolution and the subsequent Iran–Iraq War.

Tehran's most famous landmark, the Āzādi Tower, was built by the order of the Shah in 1971:

It was designed by Hossein Amanat (born 1942), an architect who won a competition to design the monument, combining elements of classical Sasanian architecture with post-classical Iranian architecture.

Formerly known as the Šahyād Tower, it was built in commemoration of the 2 500th year of the foundation of the Imperial State of Iran.

During the 1980–1988 Iran–Iraq War, Tehran was the target of repeated Scud missile attacks and air strikes.

The 435 m high Milād Tower, which was part of the proposed development projects in pre-revolutionary Iran, was completed in 2007, and has thence become a famous landmark of Tehran.

The 270 m pedestrian overpass of Tabiat Bridge is a newly-built landmark, designed by award winning architect Leila Araghian, which was completed in 2014.

7. Location and subdivisions

The metropolis of Tehran is divided into 22 municipal districts, each with its own administrative centre:

20 of the 22 municipal districts are located in Tehran County's Central District, while the districts 1 and 20 are respectively located in the counties of Shemirānāt and Rey.

Although administratively separate, the cities of Rey and Shemirān are often considered part of Greater Tehran.

Northern Tehran is the wealthiest part of the city, consisting of various districts.

While the centre of the city houses government ministries and headquarters, commercial centres are more located towards further north.

8. Climate

Tehran features a cold semi-arid climate with continental climate characteristics and a Mediterranean climate precipitation pattern.

Tehran's climate is largely defined by its geographic location, with the towering Alborz Mountains to its north and the country's central desert to the south.

It can be generally described as mild in spring and autumn, hot and dry in summer, and cold and wet in winter.

Because the city is large with significant differences in elevation among various districts, the weather is often cooler in the hilly north than in the flat southern part of Tehran.

Summer is long, hot, and dry with little rain, but relative humidity is generally low, making the heat tolerable. Average high temperatures are 32-41 °C, and it can drop to 14 °C in the mountainous north of the city at night.

Most of the light annual precipitation occurs from late autumn to mid-spring, but no one month is particularly wet.

The hottest month is July, with a mean minimum temperature of 33 °C and a mean maximum temperature of 38 °C, and the coldest is January, with a mean minimum temperature of −5 °C and a mean maximum temperature of 1 °C.

The weather of Tehran can sometimes be unpredictably harsh.
The record high temperature is 43 °C and the record low is −20 °C.

On January 5 and 6, 2008, a wave of heavy snow and low temperatures covered the city in a thick layer of snow and ice, forcing the Council of Ministers to officially declare a state of emergency and close down the capital on January 6 and 7.

Tehran has seen an increase in relative humidity and annual precipitation since the beginning of the 21st century. This is most likely because of the afforestation projects, which also include expanding parks and lakes.

9. Environmental issues

A plan to move the capital has been discussed many times in prior years, due mainly to the environmental issues of the region. Tehran is rated as one of the world's most polluted cities, and is also located near 2 major fault lines.

The city suffers from severe air pollution. 80% of the city's pollution is due to cars. The remaining 20% is due to industrial pollution. Other estimates suggest that motorcycles alone account for 30% of air and 50% of noise pollution in Tehran.

In 2010, the government announced that "for security and administrative reasons, the plan to move the capital from Tehran has been finalized." There are plans to relocate 163 state firms and several universities from Tehran to avoid damages from a potential earthquake.

The officials are engaged in a battle to reduce air pollution. It has, for instance, encouraged taxis and buses to convert from petrol engines to engines that run on compressed natural gas.

Furthermore, the government has set up a "Traffic Zone" covering the city centre during peak traffic hours. Entering and driving inside this zone is only allowed with a special permit.

10. Demographics of Tehran

The city of Tehran has a population of approximately 10 million in 2016. With its cosmopolitan atmosphere, Tehran is home to diverse ethnic and linguistic groups from all over the country.

The present-day dominant language of Tehran is the Tehrani variety of the Persian language, and the majority of people in Tehran identify themselves as Persians.

However, before, the native language of the Tehran–Ray region was not Persian, which is linguistically Southwest Iranian and originates in Fars, but a now extinct North-western Iranian language.

Iranian Azeris form the 2nd largest ethnic group of the city, comprising about 20% of the total population, while ethnic Mazanderanis are the 3rd largest, comprising about 17% of the total population.

Tehran's other ethnic communities include Kurds, Armenians, Georgians, Bakhtiaris, Talysh, Baloch, Assyrians, Arabs, Jews, and Circassians.

According to a 2010 census conducted by the Sociology Department of the University of Tehran, in many districts of Tehran across various socio-economic classes in proportion to population sizes of each district and socio-economic class,

63% of the people were born in Tehran, 98% knew Persian, 75% identified themselves as ethnic Persian, and 13% had some degree of proficiency in a European language.

Tehran saw a drastic change in its ethno-social composition in the early 1980s:

After the political, social, and economic consequences of the 1979 Revolution and the years that followed, a number of Iranian citizens, mostly Tehranis, left Iran. The majority of Iranian emigrations have left for the United States, Germany, Sweden, and Canada.

With the start of the Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988), a 2nd wave of inhabitants fled the city, especially during the Iraqi air offensives on the capital.

With most major powers backing Iraq at the time, economic isolation gave yet more reason for many 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 neighbouring Afghanistan and Iraq prompted a rush of refugees into the country who arrived in their millions,

with Tehran being a magnet for many seeking work, who subsequently helped the city to recover from war wounds, working for far less pay than local construction workers.

Many of these refugees are being repatriated with the assistance of the UNHCR, but there are still sizable groups of Afghan and Iraqi refugees in Tehran who are reluctant to leave, being pessimistic about the situation in their own countries.

Afghan refugees are mostly Dari-speaking, Tajik and Hazaras, speaking a variety of Persian, and Iraqi refugees are mainly Mesopotamian Arabic-speakers who are often of Iranian heritage.

11. Religion

The majority of Tehranis are officially Twelver Shia Muslims, also known as Ithnā‘ashariyyah or Imamiyyah which has also been the state religion since the 16th century Safavid conversion.

Other religious communities in the city include followers of the Sunni Islam, various Christian denominations, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and the Baha’i Faith.

There are many religious centres scattered around the city, from old to newly-built centres, including mosques, churches, synagogues, and Zoroastrian fire temples.

The city also has a very small 3rd generation Indian Sikh community that has a local Gurdwara that was visited by the Indian Prime Minister in 2012.

12. Economy

Tehran is the economic centre of Iran:

About 30% of Iran's public-sector workforce and 45% of its large industrial firms are located in the city, and almost half of these workers are employed by the government. Most of the remainder of workers are factory workers, shopkeepers, labourers, and transport workers.

Few foreign companies operate in Tehran, due to the government's complex international relations. But prior to the 1979 Revolution, many foreign companies were active in Iran.

Tehran's present-day modern industries include the manufacturing of automobiles, electronics and electrical equipment, weaponry, textiles, sugar, cement, and chemical products.

It is also a leading centre for the sale of carpets and furniture. The oil refining companies of Pars Oil, Speedy, and Behran are based in Tehran.

Tehran relies heavily on private cars, buses, motorcycles, and taxis, and is one of the most car-dependent cities in the world.

The Tehran Stock Exchange, which is a full member of the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE) and a founding member of the Federation of Euro-Asian Stock Exchanges, has been one of the world's best performing stock exchanges in recent years.

13. Shopping

Tehran has a wide range of shopping centres, and is home to over 60 modern shopping malls.

The city has a number of commercial districts, including those located at Valiasr, Davoodiyeh, and Zafaraniyeh. The largest old bāzārs of Tehran are the Grand Bāzār and the Bāzār of Tajrish.

Most of the international branded stores and upper-class shops are located in the northern and western parts of the city. Tehran’s retail business is growing with several newly-built malls and shopping centres.

14. Tourism

Tehran, as one of the main tourist destinations in Iran, has many cultural attractions:

It is home to royal complexes of Golestān, Sa’dābād and Niāvarān, which were built under the reign of the country's last two monarchies.

There are several historic, artistic and scientific museums in Tehran, including:

the National Museum, the Malik National Museum and Library, the Cinema Museum at Firdaws Garden, the Abgineh Museum, Museum of the Qasr Prison, the Carpet Museum, the Reverse Glass Painting Museum (vitray art), and the Safir Office Machines Museum.

There is also the Museum of Contemporary Art, which hosts works of famous artists such as Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol.

The Iranian Imperial Crown Jewels, one of the largest jewel collections in the world, are also on display at Tehran's National Jewellery Museum.

A number of cultural and trade exhibitions take place in Tehran, which are mainly operated by the country's International Exhibitions Company.

Tehran's annual International Book Fair is known to the international publishing world as one of the most important publishing events in Asia.

15. Parks and green spaces

There are over 2 100 parks within the metropolis of Tehran, with one of the oldest being Jamshidieh Park, which was first established as a private garden for Qajar prince Jamshid Davallu, and was then dedicated to the last empress of Iran, Farah Pahlavi (born 1938).

The total green space within Tehran stretches over 12 600 hectares, covering over 20% of the city's area. The Parks and Green Spaces Organization of Tehran was established in 1960, and is responsible for the protection of the urban nature present in the city.

Tehran's Birds Garden is the largest bird park of Iran. There is also a zoo located on the Tehran–Karaj Expressway, housing over 290 species within an area of about 5 hectares

16. Education

Tehran is the largest and the most important educational centre of Iran. There are a total of nearly 50 major colleges and universities in Greater Tehran.

Since the establishment of Dar ul-Funun by the order of Amir Kabīr (1807-1852) in the mid-19th century, 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 (1871 – 1952), whom Jordan Avenue in Tehran was named after, was one of the founding pioneers of the American College of Tehran, which was one of the first modern high schools in the Middle East.

Among major educational institutions located in Tehran, Sharif University of Technology, University of Tehran, and Tehran University of Medical Sciences are the most prestigious.

Other major universities located in Tehran include:

Tehran University of Art, Allamah Tabataba'i University, Amirkabir University of Technology (Tehran Polytechnic), K. N. Toosi University of Technology,

Shahīd Beheshti University (Melli University), Kharazmi University, Iran University of Science and Technology, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Islamic Azad University,

International Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Seismology, Iran's Polymer and Petrochemical Institute, Shahīd University, and Tarbiat Modares University.

Tehran is also home to Iran's largest military academy, and several religious schools and seminaries.

17. Architecture

The oldest surviving architectural monuments of Tehran are from the Qajar and Pahlavi eras.

Although, considering the area of Greater Tehran, monuments dating back to the Seljuk era remain as well; notably the Tughrul Tower in Rey.

There are also remains of Rashkan Castle, dating back to the ancient Parthian Empire, of which some artefacts are housed at the National Museum; and the Bahrām fire temple, which remains since the Sasanian Empire.

Tehran only had a small population until the late 18th century, but began to take a more considerable role in Iranian society after it was chosen as the capital city.

Despite the regular occurrence of earthquakes during the Qajar period and after, some historic buildings have remained from that era.

Tehran is Iran's capital city, and is considered to have the most modernized infrastructure in the country. However, the gentrification of old neighbourhoods and the demolition of buildings of cultural significance has caused concerns.

Previously a low-rise city due to seismic activity in the region, modern high rise developments in Tehran have been built in recent decades in order to service its growing population. There have been no major quakes in Tehran since 1830.

Tehran's International Tower is the tallest residential building in Iran. It is a 54-story building located in the northern district of Yusef Abad.

The Āzādi Tower, a memorial built under the reign of the Pahlavi dynasty, has long been the most famous symbol of Tehran:

Originally constructed in commemoration of the 2 500th year of the foundation of the Imperial State of Iran, it combines elements of the architecture of the Achaemenid and Sassanid eras with post-classical Iranian architecture.

The Milād Tower, which is the 6th tallest tower and the 24th- tallest freestanding structure in the world, is the city's other famous landmark tower.

Leila Araghian’s Tabiat Bridge, the largest pedestrian overpass in Tehran, was completed in 2014 and is also considered a landmark.

18. Theatre

Under the reign of the Qajars, Tehran was home to the royal Theatre of Tekyeh Dowlat, located to the south-east of the Golestān Palace, in which traditional and religious performances were observed. It was eventually destroyed and replaced with a bank building in 1947, following the reforms under the reign of Reza Shah.

Before the 1979 Revolution, the Iranian national stage had become the most famous performing scene for known international artists and troupes in the Middle East, with the Roudaki Hall of Tehran constructed to function as the national stage for opera and ballet:

The hall was inaugurated in October 1967, named after prominent Persian poet Rūdhakī (858-941). Now it is called the Vahdat Hall ("Unity Hall"). It is home to the Tehran Symphony Orchestra, the Tehran Opera Orchestra, and the Iranian National Ballet Company.

The City Theatre of Tehran, one of Iran's biggest Theatre complexes which contains several performance halls, was opened in 1972. It was built at the initiative and presidency of empress Farah Pahlavi, and was designed by architect Ali Sardar Afkhami, constructed within 5 years.

The annual events of Fajr Theatre Festival and Tehran Puppet Theatre Festival take place in Tehran.

19. Cinema

The first movie Theatre of Tehran was established by Mirza Ebrahim Khan (1874–1915) in 1904. Until the early 1930s, there were 15 Theatres in Tehran Province and 11 in other provinces.

In present-day Tehran, most of the movie Theatres are located downtown:

The complexes of Kourosh Cinema, Mellat Gallery and Cineplex, Āzādi Cinema, and Cinema Farhang are among the most popular cinema complexes in Tehran.

Several film festivals are held in Tehran, including:

Fajr Film Festival, Children and Youth Film Festival, House of Cinema Festival, Mobile Film and Photo Festival, Nahal Festival, Roshd Film Festival, Tehran Animation Festival, Tehran Short Film Festival, and Urban Film Festival.