Tehran is the capital and largest city, located in the north of Iran about 100 km from the Caspian Sea. The second most populous city in the Middle East after Cairo, Tehran is the commercial, administrative and cultural heart of the country. It underwent extensive modernization and industrialization in the twentieth century.
The old sector of Tehran, dating from the fourth century AD, was a suburb of the ancient Persian capital of Rey destroyed during the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century. After the fall of Rey, many of its inhabitants settled in Tehran. Having been the occasional residence of the Safavid rulers in the seventeenth century, the city rose to prominence in the late eighteenth century after it was captured by the founder of the Qajar dynasty. It was the capital from 1788. In 1943 it was the site of the Tehran Conference of World War II Allied leaders. There was fierce fighting in Tehran preceding the overthrow of the Shah in the 1979 revolution, and the subsequent US embassy hostage drama was played out in the capital.
Tehran’s development accelerated under the Pahlavi dynasty from 1925, since when much of the city has been rebuilt. It is the seat of government and the industrial hub of the country. Local manufactures include textiles, cement, bricks and processed foods. The National Iranian Oil Company administers the nationalized oil and gas resources from the capital, and there is an oil refinery at Rey. The international airport (Mehrabad) is the busiest in the country. The construction of the Imam Khomeini International Airport is nearing completion. Higher education institutions include Tehran University (the oldest, founded in 1934), Amirkabir University of Technology, the Academy of Medical Sciences and Iran University of Science and Technology.
Places of Interest
Tehran is noted for its museums, in particular the National Museum of Iran, the Islamic Arts Museum, Reza Abbasi Museum, Glassware and Ceramics Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Carpet Museum, National Jewels Museum, Sa’adabad Palace, Niavaran Palace and Golestan Palace. Other landmark buildings are the Sepahsalar and Imam Khomeini Mosques and the Baharstan Palace (the seat of the Majlis). The shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini to the south of the city is a pilgrimage centre.