Crowded, chaotic, noisy and polluted, Iran’s capital can also be very green. It might be Iranians’ love for nature or the municipality’s firm resolution to put an end to the soaring pollution levels that are becoming increasingly worrisome, but it seems that all kinds of gardens and parks are taking over and conspiring in creating a green Tehran.
Apart from the huge meadows around Tehran, the parks inside the city are more intended for relaxing and chilling out rather than playing or sunbathing. Usually bearing a specific theme, they all are well equipped with benches and cafes.
Anyone visiting Iran for the first time will notice how much outdoorsy Iranians are, never missing the occasion to just get out in the fresh air, and as it happens when you are abroad, it’s hard to resist the temptation to join the locals.
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Green Tehran, a result of Iranians’ love for nature
It’s worth mentioning here that not only Iranians’ love for nature, but the important role nature has always played in Persian culture, starting from the celebrations of Persian New Year to the decorations embellishing mosques, carpets, and enriching architectural elements, is part of daily life in Iran.
The reproduction and respect for nature in all its forms bear deep roots in Iranian culture and society since time immemorial, and this is probably one of the reasons why Tehran’s Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, who previously was university professor, chief of police and pilot (!) nonetheless, has been striving to create a pleasant city to live in and visit, especially during spring thanks to the lovely Tehran weather and in the wake of Iran travel industry’s booming, with hotels fully booked months in advance and tourists figures keeping soaring by the day.
Surprisingly enough, even though it’s the country’s capital, Tehran is not much in the tourist radar, or at least not as much as Isfahan, Shiraz, and Yazd. Quite unfairly, I feel to add, especially after I had the chance to explore more of it during my latest trip. Apart from the palaces of the former royal family belonging to the Pahlavi dynasty, I purposely visited as many parks and gardens as I could.
Incredibly fascinating is the combination of Nature Bridge (Pol-e Tabiat) and the nearby Water and Fire (Ab-o-Atash) Park, named after two of the most important natural elements very much cherished in Persian culture. Nature Bridge, designed by architect Leila Araghian when she was 26, is nothing less than stunning from wherever you look at it, be it from afar or right from the top, either by day or by night thanks to the colorful lighting that enhances its unusual features.
Walking along Nature Bridge from one side to the other I stumbled on any type of sight, from photographers going wild with the atypical shapes and lines, to couples enjoying the view on the city and its mountain range, to groups of friends chilling out at the many cafes that populate the bridge.
In the end, I arrived at the Water and Fire Park, where extravagant metal sculptures representing the fire element were combined with a base from where water comes out in the form of fountains creating a spectacular scenic effect. I wasn’t very lucky when I went because the fountains weren’t operative, but fortunately enough, a terrific photographer I met in Tehran, Ehsan Rafati, showed me a picture he’s recently taken and posted on his Instagram where children are having great fun with the dancing water:
For as stunning as this bridge/park combo is, it’s not the only garden worth mentioning as part of the oases contributing in creating a green Tehran.
Greatly inspiring, in fact, is the Artists’ Garden, a urban park that, apart from tree-lined alleys, water pools, benches, a delicious vegetarian restaurant and even a small billiard table, hosts Iran’s Artists’ Forum, a building where you can find exhibitions, movie events, and concerts any time of the year.
Not to be missed is Iranian Garden, as proudly recommended to me by Dr. Shahram Gilabadi, Advisor of Tehran’s Mayor (and unexpectedly a greatly inspiring traveler!). A fairly recent park, Iranian Garden was built with the aim to chase, and adapt to, the different times and climates of the year: when I went was tulip season so the garden was a huge expanse of blossoming tulips of all shades and forms. Populating and enlivening the Iranian “Tulip” Garden were children playing, women chattering their evening away and families relaxing. Here there’s no cafe, but I’m ready to bet it won’t take long for the municipality to create a tea-sipping space.
For a quiet and sunny afternoon, the best premises to keep on my quest for the green Tehran, I headed to Ferdows Garden (Bagh-e Ferdows) located in Tajrish area and hosting historical Mohammadieh Palace, a Qajar-era royal mansion, while on the day of my arrival I chilled out at the wonderful Mellat Park with my parents and friend Madi, a feast of dancing fountains, sculptures, benches, cafes, alleys and flowers near Valiasr Street embellished by the stunning background of the snow-covered Alborz Mountains framing northern Tehran.
Before leaving Tehran (and Iran), I had the chance to visit also Chitgar Lake, an artificial lake located in northwestern Tehran near Chitgar Park. With an area of about 160 hectares and a capacity of 10 million cubic meters of water, Chitgar Lake was built with the very purpose of reducing the city’s air pollution in combination with its nearby park. Today a highly popular recreational area, the lake is home to paddleboats, fountains and migrating birds.
I haven’t seen all parks and gardens in Tehran, but as usual, when it comes to a region of the world I want to visit again, I like to think that the ones I’m missing are the perfect reason for me to go back.
In the wait for my next trip and my next post, I leave you with two images of Chitgar Lake in the hope, according to the tradition of this blog, to inspire you to travel yourself.