Tehran is probably not on the top of too many tourist’s to-do list. Which is a shame really because it has quite a lot to keep tourists happy. It is bursting at the seams with museums. In fact, one of the reasons the Ferdowsi was recommended to me was because it was in southern Tehran – the old part of the city where many of the museums are located.
Also within a short walk, just past the manic Imam Khomeini Square, was the Golestan Palace complex. Golestan Palace was home to the profligate Qajar dynasty for over 200 years but some of the buildings in the complex (there are about 20 palaces and buildings) are over 400 years old. Like all palaces around the world, the Golestan Palace is a monument to the greed and excess of its royal inhabitants.
But back to the museums. The list of museums seems endless. It includes the National Museum of Iran, the Museum of the Islamic Era, the Malik National Museum and Library and the National Jewelry Museum. Then there is the Carpet Museum of Iran, the Glass and Ceramics Museum, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art and even a Post Office Museum. And there are many more museums scattered throughout the rest of Tehran.
As well as these traditional museums there are museums that show the darker side of Tehran’s history. The Iran Ebrat Museum is a truly gruesome reminder of the role that SAVAK, the last Shah’s hated secret police, played in modern Iranian politics by torturing political prisoners. And of course there is the infamous “US Den of Espionage” – the basement of the former US embassy where the CIA planned and executed the 1953 coup that overthrew Mossadegh. But it is usually only open by special request.
After spending the best part of my first day doing the rounds of some of the museums I headed back to the Ferdowsi. With daytime temperatures refusing to drop below 37-38C I was happy to return to my little piece of air-conditioned Iran.
That evening, during dinner, I studied my fellow guests. I was the only western tourist amongst the hundred or so diners. The food at the Ferdowsi was always delicious and generous and everyone at the Ferdowsi was very courteous and friendly.
But I felt there was something missing.