Understanding the Persian New Year: Nowruz Staycation in Tehran
Nowruz, the Persian New Year, starts on March 20 each year with an extra day before for Oil Nationalisation unofficially kicking off the two-week long holiday.
Officially Nowruz finishes after one week, however, unofficially the city and country are mostly on shutdown until early April. Some businesses, banks and government offices reopen during the period after the first week, but you’ll be lucky to get anything done.
So, with the Iranian capital on an unofficial shutdown, what can you do in the city through the two-week slowdown?
Many of the public sites and parks remain open during the Nowruz period. And Tehran’s many restaurants keep their doors open after the first few days of the break.
Yes, that’s right. Tehran does have many sites which you can visit, and if you’re already in the city why not have a staycation while the hordes head to the countryside.
Milad Tower Complex
Milad Tower and several buildings which surround are an excellent place visit when you’re in Tehran during the holidays. The tower is the sixth-tallest in the world and the 24th tallest freestanding structure in the world, according to the latest statistics. Tickets are cheap by international standards, and the ride up in the lift is rather exciting as you can see the ground floor with the glass panels surrounding you.
On the upper observation deck, due to the clean air of nobody in the city, you can often see for miles around, making it a perfect spot for some photography.
If you’re feeling flush, there is also the fancy restaurant on the top floor, where you can dine with your family and try some of the best kebabs in Tehran!
Milad Tower is also home to Iran’s Madame Tussauds-like centre of waxworks. With the latest edition of the collection former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Other famous Iranians are also around the top floor of the tower, making it an exciting day out.
During the holiday period, Milad Tower has several festivals around the ground floor entrance with tribal people setting up camp and showing you their way of life.
Also, if you’ve got kids with you, there are plenty of fun things for families to do and eat around the ground floor of the tower including several food vans.
Milad Tower is open during the holiday period from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm daily.
National Museum of Iran (Iran Bastan)
The National Museum of Iran, the country’s oldest museum built in the 1930s will also be open through the holidays. This year, there is an extraordinary exhibition in conjunction the Louvre Museum.
For the first time, Tehran will host pieces from France’s Louvre Museum in an exhibition called the “Louvre in Tehran” from March 5 to June 8 at the National Museum of Iran (Iran Bastan) in the centre of the city, according to a report from Financial Tribune.
The brick building of the Museum of Ancient Iran was designed by French architects André Godard and Maxime Siroux in the early 20th century and was influenced by Sassanian vaults, particularly the Taq Kasra at Ctesiphon. Its construction, with an area of about 11,000 square metres, began in 1935 and was completed within two years by Abbas Ali Memar and Morad Tabrizi. It was then officially inaugurated in 1937.
Taken from different parts of Louvre, the 56 items will be featured in four categories, including “The birth of a collection”, “The glory of world civilisations”, “Globalization dream” and “A living museum.”
According to Jebreil Nokandeh, the head of National Museum of Iran, the collection will include objects belonging to civilisations in West Asia, Europe and North Africa, including Sumerian, Assyrian, Hittites, ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Also, paintings and lithography work by Eugene Delacroix, French romantic artist (1798-1863) and Camille Corot, French portrait painter (1796-1875).
Niavaran & Sa’dabad Palaces
The palace complex, the last home of Iran’s royals is also open to the public through Nowruz. Several of the old palaces are now museums, and you can even visit the home of the last Shah of Iran Reza Pahlavi, with the building in the same state when they left the country in the late 1970s.
Niavaran Complex is more massive, with palaces dating back to the last Kings of the Qajar Dynasty including the Ahmad Shahi Pavilion. During the Nowruz period, you can see many of the most beautiful exhibits from the period up until the 1970s including the Royal Car collection.
Around the lush green complexes, there are several eateries and cafes where you can sit and enjoy nature while contemplating how much work you have to do when you go back to job in April.
Tajrish Bazaar is an accessible place to shop and has less of the stress of the Grand Bazaar downtown.
Through the holiday period, the old shopping centre is an easy place to wander around when the majority of the city has left, many of the independent retailers are open through the holidays as is the old fruit market next to the Imam Zadeh to the west side.
Qasr Prison Park
If you’re into architecture and history, the Qasr Prison Park is a good option for the holiday period. The former prison was overhauled several years ago and turned into a park with the museum.
Qasr was initially built in 1790 as a palace with extensive gardens of which nothing but the names remain, in the reign of Fath-Ali Shah of the Qajar Dynasty.
Inside there are several exhibits including rooms in which many famous politicians were imprisoned by the Pahlavi regime. You can even see their mugshots!
Outside of the park, there are several significant artistic events going on around the park, including a workshop for kids. So why not see some history while the city is quiet.
If you’re into sculptures, this is a great place where several international artists over recent years have left a treasure trove of works.
To check out what else is going on through Nowruz, check out our Telegram channel for special Persian New Year events.