The Grand Bazaar
Tehran, the capital of Iran, is home to roughly 13 million people. It is one of the largest cities in the country. So large in fact, that there exists what some would call another city within Tehran itself: The Grand Bazaar.
The Tehran Grand Bazaar is one of the oldest bazaars in Iran, located in downtown Tehran. It is split into several corridors and is about 10 km in length. Each corridor specializes in different goods and has over 200,000 vendors with roughly 2 million visits per day.
The Bazaar is constantly bustling as a centre of commerce. All the goods that come into Tehran first go through the bazaar. Dried and fresh fruits from around the country, freshly harvested vegetables, sweets, sours, assorted nuts by the kilos, carpets, clothes, jewelry, toys, anything and everything you can think of, even birds, can be found in the bazaar. It is a constant sea of people with lines around every corner to its famous restaurants. Within the Bazaar, smaller sections are often called "Bazaarcheh", particular sections which often specialize in things such as gold, beauty products, and souvenirs.
Its history goes back thousands of years when its location was used as a marketplace, with the current structures being from the 17th to 18th century. The Bazaar has a long, complicated history, with no exact date of when it was established. It was built, destroyed, rebuilt, expanded, and moved many times throughout the years but has been firmly established in Iranian culture since the late 1800s.
The Tehran Grand Bazaar is a city of its own with hidden mosques, mausoleums, shrines, teahouses and restaurants. If unguided, one is likely to get lost within its corridors, as it is an endless maze of twisting alleyways that keeps surprising you. However, beauty is always around every corner, as the Bazaar is home to some of the most incredible architecture in Iran. It has a unique and complicated architecture, with variations from each section to the next, which can be seen from the floors to the walls, and even the ceiling, designed specifically to capture heat and cool down the Bazaar.
Iran is home to some of the world’s most complex, beautiful architecture, from the designs of mosques, temples, shrines, tombs, Iran has no shortage of sights to see. Some of the most notable are:
THE SHAH MOSQUE, ISFAHAN
The Shah Mosque, Isfahan. Considered to be one of the most beautiful mosques in the world and regarded as one of the masterpieces of Persian architecture, the Shah Mosque is an elegantly designed mosque decorated with its iconic blue tiles. It is located in Isfahan, near central Iran.
It was built in the early 16th century as a monument to the vision of Shah Abbas I of Persia and his accomplishments during the Safavid dynasty.
NAZIR-OL-MOLK MOSQUE, SHIRAZ
The Nasir al-Mulk Mosque is a masterwork of stained glass and light manipulation. The mosque’s popularity has garnered it many different names around the world, such as the “Pink Mosque”. It is also called the “Mosque of colours,” the “Rainbow Mosque” or the “Kaleidoscope Mosque”. It was built during the Qajar dynasty, near the late 19th century, and is still in use today, both as a place of worship and a tourist location.
The mosque is a celebration of Islamic art, architecture, tile making, geometry, patterns and other arts that flourished in the Golden Age of Islam.
The mosque comes to life with the sunrise as the rays of light shine through its walls and colour dances throughout its space. The reflections on the walls change as the sun moves, and you are often left with a completely different spectacle of light come sundown.
AZADI TOWER, TEHRAN
The Azadi Tower is a monument located in Azadi Square in Tehran, the capital of Iran. It is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Iran and connects to the Azadi complex, which combines the tower and the underground museum.
The tower is roughly 45 meters tall and is completely covered in cut marble. It was commissioned by the last king of Iran and completed in 1971. It was designed by a 24-year-old architectural student, Hossein Amanat, as a monument to both past and present Iran. It combined elements of classical and post-classical Iranian architecture and stands as a testament to the Iranian people.
The museum’s exposition consists of around 50 historical artifacts, representing different periods of the history of Iran. It holds pottery, paintings, gold, and marble pieces. Azadi Tower often becomes a place of social and cultural events, as light installations, concerts, and festivals.
Food of iran
While Iran is host to countless delicious dishes and different types of cuisine which vary from one end to the next, few dishes spark as much joy in the hearts of Iranians than some of our most popular foods.
Kabob koobideh is a signature grilled meat dish made with ground lamb, beef, or a combination, onions, and spices. This food can be found anywhere from the streets to the finest restaurants in Iran. It is one of the most popular kabobs you can find in Iran, usually grilled over hot coals, and served with rice, bread, and a grilled tomato.
Joojeh kabob is a classic chicken kabob recipe from Iran. Chicken pieces are marinated in a saffron chicken marinade, which consists of yogurt, lemon, onions, saffron, and a few other ingredients. The pieces are then skewered and cooked over burning hot charcoal.
Along with grilled meats, different kinds of khoresht (a.k.a. stews) are the backbone of Iranian cuisine. Ghormeh sabzi is a delicious stew loaded with lots of herbs, kidney beans and lamb. This dish is typically served with rice and is another very popular dish in Iran. It’s typically served with radishes, raw onion, and more fresh herbs on the side, as well as saffron-decorated rice. Known for having particularly long cooking times, these stews often take 3 to 4 hours for their flavours to fully develop, but the results are always worth the effort.
Saffron Ice Cream
One of the most popular desserts in Iran, Saffron ice cream is unlike any other ice cream in the world. Made with saffron, rose water, and pistachios, this ice cream’s flavour is incomparable. It has a unique, golden yellow colour from the saffron, and is either served with wafers or on its own. Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, making this one of the most expensive ice creams you could find. While the term “spice” can be misleading, saffron is known for being particularly sweet when prepared correctly, and this ice cream is a testament to just that.
The Persian New Year, Nowruz
Nowruz is a celebration centred on community, family, and traditions that have been celebrated for over three thousand years. Not only is it celebrated in Iran, but it is also celebrated in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and other countries in Central Asia. It is believed that well over 200 million people celebrate Nowruz each year.
Nowruz, which translates to New Day, marks the first day of spring, and the beginning of the new year. It happens at the exact moment of the spring equinox, when the days and nights are of equal length, and marks the coming of longer, brighter days.
Nowruz is one of, if not the biggest celebrations of the year, as it is an opportunity to wish friends and family well for the year to come. However, Nowruz is not just a single-day celebration. In fact, festivities surrounding Nowruz start weeks before the day itself.
Some of these festivities include:
Sofre Haftsin – Similar to the Christmas tree during Christmas time, the Sofre Haftsin is an arrangement of seven symbolic items on a table, each holding its own significance in Iranian culture.
These items are:
Sabzeh – Wheatgrass or lentil sprouts, which symbolize rebirth.
Samanu – A sweet wheat pudding, which represents power.
Senjed – The dried fruit of the lotus tree, which represents love.
Serkeh – Vinegar, a reminder of patience.
Seeb – An apple, which represents health and beauty.
Seer – Garlic, which represents health and medicine.
Somaq – Sumac, which symbolizes sunrise.
Chaharshanbe Suri – An ancient ritual which means the Wednesday festival. It has been celebrated for well over three thousand years and is celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday before Nowruz. On the day, communities would gather wood, make bonfires, and jump over the bonfire in an act of purifying yourself for the new year to come. The celebration often involved fireworks, food, and festivities late into the night.
Sizdah Be-Dar – The festival of nature, it marks the 13th day of Farvardin, the 1st month of the Persian calendar. Sizdah Bedar is an opportunity to leave the house and spend time reconnecting with nature after winter. Families have picnics, children play in the park, it’s a chance to enjoy the outdoors with friends and family. Sizdah Bedar marks the end of Nowruz celebrations and the return to regular life.