Tehran, a youthful and noisy capital city, is the modern heart of this country. It's a smoggy, mile-high metropolis. With a teeming population of 14 million in the metropolitan area, its apartment blocks stretch far into the surrounding mountains.
I stepped out onto the 15th-floor balcony of my fancy hotel room to hear the hum of the city. I enjoyed the view of a vast, twinkling city at twilight. Fresh snow capped the mountains above the ritzy high-rise condos of North Tehran.
As I looked straight down, I noticed the hotel's entryway buzzing with activity, as it was hosting a conference on Islamic unity. The circular driveway was lined by the flags of 30 nations. Huge collections of flags seemed to be common in Iran — perhaps because it provided a handy opportunity to exclude the Stars and Stripes. (The only American flags I saw during the trip were the ones featured in hateful political murals.)
A van with an X-ray security checkpoint was permanently parked outside the entrance, carefully examining the bags of each visitor. It was interesting to see that Iran, a country we feel we need to protect ourselves from, had its own security headaches.
Back in my room, I nursed a tall glass of pomegranate juice. My lips were puckered from munching lemony pistachios from an elegantly woven tray — the best I've ever tasted (and I am a pistachio connoisseur). I cruised the channels on my TV: CNN, BBC, and — rather than shopping channels — lots of programming designed to set the mood for prayer. One channel showed a mesmerizing river with water washing lovingly over shiny rocks. Another featured the sun setting on Mecca, with live coverage of the pilgrim action at the Kaaba. I was a long way from home...and ready to explore.
About This Entry
You are reading "Tehran: Iran's Mile High Metropolis", an entry posted on 26 February 2010 by Rick Steves.