Iran under the Shah

Mar 29th, 2018, 10:00 AM
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Iran under the Shah

Iran under the Shah

I've been going through and trying to refresh some old images (all scanned from slides) and thought I'd post a mostly-photographic mini-TR covering a period of a couple of months in 1976 when I worked in Iran.

At the time I was teaching city and regional planning at a Scottish university. Through our working relationships with the British Council and UK Overseas Development Agency (roughly the UK equivalent of USAID) we undertook consulting engagements with foreign government or sister universities. We would take a group of grad students (my department was postgrad only) to the host country and work on some project or projects where our expertise (?) would benefit the locals. Or so we said.

In 1976 we worked for a couple of months trying to pull together a regional economic expansion plan for Gilan Province in Iran. Gilan Province is located on the Caspian Sea, on the other side of the Alborz mountains from Tehran. The area is mainly below sea level, and has a subtropical climate - rice paddies, etc. - in stark contrast to the arid region south of the mountains. The main city in the region is Rasht, which sadly suffers from none of the architectural glories of other Iranian cities like Isfahan or Shiraz.

Our client was the provincial governor, who was, not surprisingly, a relative of the Shah. This took place around two years before the revolution that replaced the Shah with the ayatollahs took place, but in retrospect the signs of unrest were everywhere. The extremes of wealth and poverty were obvious, as were constant reminders that we were working in a police state; we were shadowed by Savak secret police from time to time (they made no pretense of hiding) and I was actually arrested at gunpoint for taking a picture (below) of a picturesque old building in Rasht that just happened to be occupied by Savak.

Yet and still, the beauty of the country, the warmth and wit of the people, and the awesome reminders of a glorious history were everywhere, and I've wanted to return ever since.

So here are the pix. We started with some time in Tehran to meet with government people etc., then moved up to Rasht, and then finally took a few days to be tourists, stopping in Qum (basically the Shia capital of the world) and stunning Isfahan before returning to Scotland.

Shah's throne room, Tehran. The "peacock throne" is at the end of the room.

Mirrored foyer, Shah's palace

Building site, Tehran. The excavation was being performed by hand, with workmen carrying the excess dirt out of the hole using two-man "litters" with a bucket of dirt in the middle (men in white shirts lower right.)

Woman in traditional garb, working-class Tehran district. Tehran is built on a mountainside, with the city sloping downhill to low-lying flats. The wealthy and middle class people live on the (cooler) slopes, the poor on the flats.

Kids, squatter settlement. At the lowest point of the city was a squatter/shanty settlement that we were told (and had no reason not to believe) contained nearly a million people. Here are some of the slum kids.

Open sewer and rubbish dump. This was one of several open sewers in the area; we also witnessed people using this water for washing clothes, and saw kids playing in it (as kids will do.) This was during Ramadan, and we also saw a couple of goats being slaughtered (part of the rituals) and the blood and waste flowing into these ditches. Not surprisingly we were required to have cholera inoculations (which aren't all that effective) before visiting.

Gardyloo is online now  
Mar 29th, 2018, 10:03 AM
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Iran part 2

From Tehran we crossed the Alborz mountains to the Caspian basin. The mountains appear as a huge wall, with the clouds from the humid basin beyond hanging over the mountain tops similar to the way the fog hangs over the mountains on the San Francisco peninsula.

Tea is grown on the northern slopes of the mountains; it's a very beautiful environment.

Beyond the mountains, the land is low-lying, with rice paddies and buffalo replacing the pomegranate and palm trees to the south.

Gilan and its neighboring provinces are ethnically closer to Azerbaijan than to southern Iranian folks; there are a surprising number of redheads in evidence.

On the Caspian shore are (were?) many holiday homes owned by wealthy Tehranis. This one displayed a, shall we say...eclectic?...architectural style.

Finally, here's the building that led to my arrest at gunpoint. I was taken to the local police department where the presiding officer interrogated me as to why I took the picture (I had a day off and thought the building was cute.) I suggested he phone the provincial governor's office before attaching the electric leads to my privates. "Oh, I see... Oh. Oh, okay..." (loosely translated) following by me being offered tea, and then saluted (really) as I left.

Gardyloo is online now  
Mar 29th, 2018, 10:04 AM
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Iran part 3

We concluded our Iranian visit in Isfahan. Much has been printed, sung... regarding Isfahan's beauty. All true, every word.

Just the pictures...

(Dyed wool for rugs)

Gardyloo is online now  
Mar 29th, 2018, 11:03 AM
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Pretty fascinating. Iran has always intrigued me.
tom42 is online now  
Mar 29th, 2018, 11:24 AM
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Gardyloo, very interesting photos and an unusual experience for you.

I regret not traveling to Iran when we could have. When I was reading down the World Heritage list the other day, I saw how many sites Iran has and realized what architectural treasures there are.
Coquelicot is online now  
Mar 29th, 2018, 11:31 AM
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Amazing and interesting, Gardyloo. Thanks for posting this.

You reminded me of the horrible D.C. traffic around the embassy on the Shah's birthday in the 1970s.
TDudette is offline  
Mar 29th, 2018, 05:49 PM
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Thanks for posting this, Gardyloo. Wonderful photos and fascinating account.
Kathie is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2018, 11:43 PM
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Wow what a heritage these Iranians have. Can't believe that it is in 40 years before. Though the western feel themselves insecure visiting this beautiful city now but still they have a the same beauty and rich in culture. What a great country from gulf of Persia to Caspian sea. Amazing to see these unique and heart touching photos. Thanks for sharing
kazimpinoy is offline  
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