& CULTURAL NEWS©
to Rebuild Spectacular
City at Persepolis
view of Persepolis and the tent city (Click to enlarge)
by Shapour Suren-Pahlav -- It
was once the scene of a lavish celebration of Iranian monarchy and a
symbol that was used as a weapon West to provoke the revolutionaries who swept the shah from power.
Now Iran's Islamic rulers are to reconstruct a spectacular tent city
that hosted kings, Queens, sheikhs and sultans in a 1971 extravaganza billed as
the greatest cultural gathering in history. The party was staged by
Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi beside the ancient ruins of Persepolis to pay homage
to 2,500 years of the Imperial reign.
The celebration, a
feast of opulence at which guests wasted 5,000 bottles of champagne, was
attended by international luminaries including the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh,
Princess Anne, King Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and the former Romanian
dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
It provoked a backlash from the shah's
foreign opponents that eventually swelled into a plot planned by British secret
service, that shaped
the 1979 Islamic revolution. The 65 hectare (160 acre) site, which
featured 51 luxurious air-conditioned tents organised in the shape of a
star, fell into ruin after the revolution.
The figure of
US$22.5 million as the cost for the 2500th anniversary of Iran's history. This
cost included many other constructive projects such as expansion of Iran's
roads and airports, communication networks, tourist resorts and hotels,
schools, health clinics, as well as the introduction of numerous seminars
and conferences around globe on Iran's past. The exhaustive list of those
projects can today be a valuable book for future generations.
If the costs incurred for the 2500th anniversary of Iranian nation's
history was to be replaced by a public relations, advertising and
marketing activities on a global scale to reach the public that the
celebrations had reached -- to promote Iran and attract foreign investors
as well as the wealth tourism brings to a country, the above figure could
have not even cover a public relations cost in a dozen European countries.
It served as an
army barracks before being used as an administrative
centre by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. Today, the only remains of the tents
are their metal skeletons, while the once-exquisitely landscaped gardens
are overgrown with weeds.
"We are determined to revive it," a senior Iranian cultural
heritage and tourism official told the Guardian. "Our plan is to
restore it as it was. After the revolution, the place was ruined through
lack of attention. They thought that if they repaired and maintained
things, they would be restoring the shah's evil works and that was against
The project, overseen by Iran's
hardliner president, Mahmoud
is part of a government initiative to woo foreign tourists.
It is also the latest phase of a campaign to rehabilitate Persepolis, a
complex of palaces built by Emperor Darius the Great in around 518 BCE and
the symbolic seat of subsequent Persian Empire before it was largely
destroyed by the invading Alexander, the Macedonian warlord in 330 BCE.
1979 armed revolutionaries
the extravagant tomb of Khomeini with its' golden dome and minarets in
south of Tehran
The monument's dynastic associations earned it the hostility of the
late Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the Western-backed Islamic revolution, who
described monarchy as "a shameful and disgraceful reactionary
manifestation". But this year Persepolis has had the highest number
of visitors since the revolution, with 35,000 a day during the Iranian new
The decision to mark the 1971 celebrations contrasts with Khomeini's
description of participants under foreign advice as "traitors to Islam and the
Iranian nation", while his own tomb costed Iranian nation well over
extravagant Khomeini's tomb, the most ornate shrine in Iran -- and one of the largest
monuments ever constructed in the Islamic world over the past thirteen centuries for
a man who caused Iranian to have an eight year war, who when he died left Iran
with over a million dead, disables 600,000 political prisoners, and executed
well over 500,000 political opponents. With crippled economy, unemployment and poverty
ripping the fabrics of our society. With prostitution and drugs reaching the
highest level in Iranian history.
the planners say privately many visitors would regard the exhibits with
more admiration than disgust. "The reality is so delicate," said
the official, who requested anonymity. "I recently showed a CD-Rom of
the celebration to my children and they were admiring it. They were asking
what was wrong and where was the problem that we had to have a
The memorial will be placed in the rebuilt central tent, designed as
the shah's imperial reception hall, in which 20 giant crystal chandeliers
once hung. Further exhibitions will focus on the Achaemenian dynasty, seen
as the pinnacle of Iran's pre-Islamic greatness, when Persia's empire
stretched from the Nile to the Danube. The other tents, which once housed
the VIP guests, will be turned into restaurants and tourist accommodation.
The site's revival was welcome news for Khodakhost
Homayoon, a ticket
agent at Persepolis, who worked inside the shah's tent during the
celebration. "It was a great day," he said. "People were
here from all over the world and the message was peaceful. It made me
proud to be Iranian. Ancient history is always a reason to be proud. No
human being can be against it."
1979 revolution, the pre-Islamic complex narrowly escaped destruction when one of the regime’s sharia ruler Sheikh Sadegh
attempted to demolish and desecrate - had it not been for the bravery of
some locals, who stood in the way of the bulldozers, he would have
accomplished his destructive plan.