My misconceptions about Tehran became abundantly clear from the moment I arrived. Given the paucity of non-political coverage in the western press — only recently are destination travel articles beginning to appear — most of my expectations were based on friends’ recollections from their time pre-revolution, books which were perhaps dated as well, and the rare current movie such as A Separation and Taxi ( both are outstanding – click on links for reviews).
Modern day Tehran has significant pollution (largely due to the decrepit auto fleet of aging exhaust-spewing Paykans) and traffic issues. The impact of decades of deferred maintenance and the sanction-imposed constraints is evident. But on a clear day, the Alborz range is visible to the north.
Traffic jams are prevalent and as many will attest, the lane markings and other signs are merely suggestions.
But the government is trying and I loved the campaign on busses and billboards aimed at getting Tehranis to drive by the rules (see above).
All this not-withstanding, cranes and construction sites are plentiful, the sidewalks, bazaars and stores are busy, most of the streets are tree-lined, there are lovely parks and the municipal government under the leadership of Tehran’s mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf has prioritized greening the city and enhancing pedestrian access.
Iranian architect Leila Araghian designed Tehran’s award-winning Pol-e-Tabiat (nature bridge) when she was only 26.
Tehran has an ineffable mix of cosmopolitan modernity and old world charm. There are parts of the city where it feels like a step back in time, even as its citizens rush to join the 21st century.
I can honestly say that this was my first trip to Tehran, but not my last. Stay tuned for Top Five Reasons to Visit Tehran in my next post.