When we got to Tehran Antony wasn’t feeling too flash so I set off to explore a couple of palaces on my own and left him at the hotel to recover. First up was Golestan Palace, in walking distance from where we stayed. I wasn’t alone for long as there was a large queue outside and some friendly locals started chatting with me in line. Later inside we were taking selfies together (of course!) before going our separate ways.
There are 17 structures that form Golestan – palaces, halls, museums etc. all built during the 200 year Qajar era. You had to pay for each museum or attraction separately and it was reasonably pricey so I just chose a few. It seemed on all the buildings there were fabulous mosaics and tile work.
My visit started at the beautiful Marble Throne Verandah, with its impressive mirrors, paintings, marble carvings, stucco and lattice windows. The throne itself was supported by human figures and made of sixty-five pieces of yellow alabaster from Yazd. It was made in the early 1800s for Shah Fath Ali (who acccording to the Lonely Planet guide had 200 wives! If you think that’s a lot according to Wikipedia it was more like 1000!!). The throne was used for formal court ceremonies and coronations, the last coronation being for Reza Shah in 1925.
Nearby was the smaller elevated terrace called the Karim Khan Nook, the only remains of a building built here in 1759. Nasser al-Din Shah, King from 1848-1896, was particularly fond of hanging out here and his rather beautiful marble tombstone has been placed here so he can keep on enjoying the place.
Inside the Main Hall was a large room with gifts on show from foreign rulers and visitors. It wasn’t allowed to take photos here and in some of the other parts of the palace. I quite liked the wax models of the shahs in one of the rooms- they were a good reminder of the fact that people had once lived, ruled, entertained and conducted business here. There were some super glitzy rooms full of dazzling mirror and tile work and fancy chandeliers. One was appropriately called Brilliant Hall.
Opposite the main hall, through the garden was the Emarat-e Badgir, the Wind Catcher Palace. I didn’t go inside but the outside of it was lovely! I did have a look inside the building on the eastern side of the complex, Shams ol Emarah, the Edifice of the Sun. Here were more beautifully detailed rooms with mirrored tiles, mirrors, stucco, etc. Its exterior was also impressive, with so many balconies and amazing tile work, ornate windows, arches and two towers.
Even after nearly 2 months in Iran seeing lots of mosaics everywhere, I was still impressed and captivated by the tile work and mosaics here at Golestan Palace. All kinds of things featured, from musicians, myths, battles, animals, to town and country scenes. Of course there were lots of floral and geometric patterns on tiles too, so colourful and all so different. Along with the beautiful architecture and gardens, these made it a very picturesque place to hang out.
Golestan was lovely- next was a kind of palace also built for the shahs, but in a totally different style and era. The Niavaran Complex was built between 1958 -1968 and is real 1960s style. The Niavaran House was built on grounds that had been the summer residence for Fath Ali Shah (the one with all the wives and hundreds of offspring). The mansion was built for the Pahlavi dynasty who were the last royal family as the 1979 Islamic Revolution put an end to the monarchy in Iran. It was the residence of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his family from 1968 -1979.
Inside this royal residence there were a number of impressive woven carpets on the floors and also tapestries on the walls. The best was a magnificent Kerman carpet showing all Iranian kings all the way back to the first Persian Empire, i.e. the Achaemenids.
Seeing the Empress Farah Diba’s retro gowns, the couple’s bedroom and their children’s rooms, the sitting and dining rooms and other living areas were all interesting and the retractable roof was pretty cool. The roof was open for most of the visit and then I got to see it close.
Outside in the grounds were a lot of rocks with engravings, pictures and writing from various places and points in history. Many of them were thousands of years old according to the signs but I wonder now whether they were indeed copies of the originals as they were just in the open air and prone to weathering. If they were so ancient I would have thought they’d be preserved more carefully. I can’t find anything online about the garden or more about this display unfortunately, but I loved wandering around here and seeing all this. It was just as interesting as the mansion itself.
The other main palace to visit in Tehran is near the hills, at Sa’adabad. I’ve written about that in a separate post here.