The capital of the Islamic Republic of Iran, one of the largest metropolises in the world. Over 12 million people live in the area known as 'Greater Tehran' (Tehran-e-Bozorg in Persian) and just over 6 million in the city itself.

Brief history

Tehran started out as a small village on the outskirts of Rey, the former capital of the Safavid empire and grew into prominence after Rey was sacked by the Mongols in 1220. After the Mongol invasion, shah Tahmasp (one of the Safavid kings) chose Tehran as his new centre of administration, resulting in construction of many famous historical castles and office buildings.

However, Tehran was not made the capital of the realm until it was seized in 1785 by Agha Mohammed Khan, the founder of Qajar dynasty. Recently it has more than doubled the amount of its inhabitants during the Pahlavi dynasty and the post-revolutionary Islamic government, leading to rapid modernisation.

Climate and surroundings

Tehran is located at a mountaineous area and has an altitude of 1200 meters above sea level. Accordingly the climate is dry, freezing cold during the winters and hot during the summers, with brief autumns and springs stuck in between. Due to increase in motor traffic, Tehran is also one of the cities worst affected by air pollution.

One of Tehran's famous landmarks is the nearby Mount Damavand, the highest mountain in Iran. It is here that the epic hero Feridun wrestled and defeated the evil giant Zahhak, chaining him to a cave on the mountain peak. Villagers living near the base of the volcano still say that Zahhak is straining to be free when the volcano occasionally emits smoke.

And finally...

Tehran is said by many to be the ugliest capital in the world. Don't expect any Oriental exotique, just miles after miles of gray brick houses and motorways. The centre has been compared to the famous maze built by Daedalus in ancient Crete, although what exactly is Tehran's equivalent of the minotaur is not quite clear.

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