Story and Photo by Arnold Busztin
Tehran, the largest city in Iran, boasts a unique geographical setting. The Alborz mountain range hugs the north of the city, and Mount Damavand, the tallest mountain in the Middle East, remains snow-capped year-round. An ascent on the Tochal cable cars provides awe-inspiring views of the mountain range, and is a great way to spend an afternoon. Be sure to consider the time of year you’re visiting, though—winter in Tehran can be dangerously chilly, while summer months can be broiling. Spring and autumn are the best for this outing.
A quintessential part of Persian and Middle Eastern culture is the bazaar. Practically a city within a city, the Grand Bazaar of Tehran is a hectic network of passages stretching more than 10 kilometers in length. Carpets, one of the country’s most important exports, hang above everything from electronics to spices to clothing. Although smaller, the Tajrish Bazaar in the north also merits a visit, as it is one of the oldest bazaars in Iran. Other monuments worth a visit in Tehran include Naqsh-e Jahan Square, with its breathtaking dimensions, and the mosaic-covered Imam Mosque Isfahan.
The kebab is the star of Persian cuisine. Various cooking techniques and seasonings mean that no two kebabs are alike. The national dish, chelo kebab, features rice and your choice of meat. There are innumerable great kebab places in Tehran, but Alborz has been ranked as one of the top ten restaurants in the city. For an after-dinner treat, try Sanaee Coffee Shop’s mouth-watering chocolate milkshake.
Whatever you choose to do in Iran, make sure you understand its laws, which may be new to you. Iranian law requires women to wear headscarves and often a chador (cloak) when visiting landmarks. Men should stick to full-length pants. Make sure to carry all documentation with you wherever you’re going. Pay attention to where photography is restricted. Consuming alcohol is illegal in Iran, so don’t try to buy it locally or bring it with you from abroad. Though Iran is a conservative country, your stay will be fun and safe with a little logical thinking and familiarity.
This story appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Baedeker.