Two landmarks of Tehran and witnesses of the turbulent Iranian history: the Azadi Tower and the Milad Tower.
Preparing for Iran: world atlas, passport cover from US, camera, travel tags, Islamic motif Fartima’s hand shape earrings from Beirut, golden head jewelry from Muscat

Tehran is a wonderful city nesting under the heights of Elborz Mountains which are visible from many parts of the city that is one of the biggest in the whole region. When the weather is good and the skies are clear, between the buildings of Tehran, on top of wide boulevards rise huge cliffs clothed in thick layers of snow.

Two landmarks of Tehran and Iran that can bring you closer to the cliffs of the mountains are the Azadi Tower and the Milad Tower.

Two landmarks of Tehran and witnesses of the turbulent Iranian history: the Azadi Tower and the Milad Tower.

 

The Milad Tower

The construction of the Milad Tower (Borj-e Milad in Farsi) started in 1997, but was completed ten years later and it is a new symbol of the Iranian civilization, culture and art. The tower is the 6th tallest communication tower worldwide, after the Tokyo SkyTree in Japan, the Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China, CN Tower in Canada, Ostankino Tower in Russia and the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai, China and was inaugurated in 2009.

Although the construction was recent, the project dated since the 70s and was part of a portfolio of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, which was meant to modernize and develop the city.

The purpose of the tower is to improve and facilitate wireless communication, optimize the coverage of radio and TV signals and provide infrastructure for weather forecasting and traffic controlling.

The lobby of the tower has 6 floors where I lost myself as in a maze, through cafes, shops, restaurants elevators having a capacity of 9000 people per hour and staircases.

The impressive lobby of the Milad Tower. The water stream goes from one side of the other above the visitors heads in a wonderful show that captivates all.
The impressive lobby of the Milad Tower. The water stream goes from one side of the other above the visitors heads in a wonderful show that captivates all.

What is most impressive is the 12 floor Head Structure which is one of the biggest in the world and has a closed observation deck, a hall with wax figures of Iran’s history (the one approved according to the regime, obviously), artists, writers and scientists, a revolving restaurant and an open-air observation deck where the wind did not let me comply with the local permitted outfits.

Miniature of the Milad Tower
Miniature of the Milad Tower

I spent my time in the exhibition hall where I saw wonderful exhibits of old globes, maps and astrolabes, but by far the most interesting part is the Sky Dome, the upper most level, under the antenna of the tower, the cupola shaped glass made lid of the tower head. It had an octagonal shape and a permanent exhibition depicted through mythological figures, symbols and icons tells 9000 years of Persian history.

Inspired by the natural elements, earth, water, fire and air and fundamental concepts such as life, death, love, justice, fight and peace enchanted the ones who could see through the real message of the exhibition of modern art in deep blue and gold. As a tribute to the biggest names in geometry, mathematics and astrology that mainly came from the area, elements of these sciences were mixed with the religious elements of Islam in an exhibition that for any lover of art, symbolism, numerology, mysticism, it is not easily forgotten.

 

In the end, art does not have to be beautiful; it has to send a feeling. If it managed to do that, it succeeded its purpose.

So, I am not upset I lost all the pictures I took from the open air observation deck of Tehran from above. I am not upset – I will repeat until I will not be upset. I’ll use it as a pretext to go back. Soon!

 

The Azadi Tower

The Azadi Tower (Borj-e Azadi in Farsi) has a quite long history and it is linked to the former Shah of Iran. As a matter of fact, the tower built in 1971 on the occasion of the vast celebrations that took place in commemoration of the 2500 years since the foundation of the Imperial State of Iran and was initially called Shahyad Tower, meaning Shahs’ Memorial Tower. That was until the 1979 Islamic Revolution when the tower was renamed Azadi Tower or Freedom Tower. I did not see much freedom myself around the tower.

The Azadi Tower, whose architecture is inspired by the classical Persian eras. The Tower inspired many other "freedom" towers in the Arab world.
The Azadi Tower, whose architecture is inspired by the classical Persian eras. The Tower inspired many other “freedom” towers in the Arab world.

On the design of the tower the same architects that designed the Sydney Opera House were hired in a time when money was not an issue in a year, 1971, that some called the beginning of the end of the monarchy in Iran. This was mainly due to the extensive, lavish, extremely expensive celebrations that the Shah held in 1971 hoping to resurrect the patriotic feeling in the population by celebrating 2500 years since the time of Cyrus the Great, but which only manage to enrage the population at the limitless spending on the occasion. Obviously, on top of the rumors on the extreme spending of the Shah & co. Rumor had it that Shah’s lunch arrived daily on a flight from Paris.

The inauguration of the tower took place right after those celebrations and the Shah flew from Persepolis to Tehran for the occasion.

Getting back to the tower, it is worth mentioning the name of Hossein Amanat, the lead architect of the Azadi Tower whose belongings were confiscated and name was put on the death list in 1979. His links to the Baha’i faith seems to be the main cause of the measures as the religion is linked to Israel, a country that for sure is not on the friend’s list of Iran.

Also, the fact that Azadi Tower was the silent witness, the concrete observer of many historical events such as the 1979 Islamic Revolution or the brutal 2009 Iranian Green Movement aka the Persian Spring.

Nowadays, on February 10th of each year rallies take place to commemorate the 1979 Revolution.

I notice a resemblance with the Marthyrs’ Memorial that I saw in Algiers, which was built some 10 years later, but which actually was strongly influence by the Azadi Tower.

The Milad Tower is visible from one side of the Azadi Tower. The Azadi Square and the boulevards that link it to the rest of the city are filled with thousands of Iranian flags.

The Arch of the Azadi Tower, inspired by the Sassanid era
The Arch of the Azadi Tower, inspired by the Sassanid era

 

The complex has a library and a museum, too
The complex has a library and a museum, too

 

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