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Sunday, 09 June 2013 13:20

Lalezar Street: Iran’s 1st Modern Avenue

Lalezar Street in the Iranian capital city, Tehran, has been of special significance to Iranian and foreign residents of Tehran since olden times.

The street features all the dimensions of a capital city: commercial Lalezar, political Lalezar, tourist Lalezar and hot polloi Lalezar.

As the narrator of Tehran’s nostalgia and development, people remember Lalezar as an echo from the past that resounds up to the present time, IranReview reported.

Even for many people who have only seen the contemporary version of this street, Lalezar has a special value for representing the true identity of Tehran.

Construction of Lalezar

Nassereddin Shah of Qajar Dynasty was encouraged by his prime minister, Mirza Hussein Khan Sepahsalar, to take a trip to Europe in 1873.

The king was given a warm and enthusiastic welcome in Europe, especially in the French capital city, Paris, and his arrival was celebrated by holding a special ceremony in Champs-Elysees Avenue where a group of elephants accompanied the Iranian king’s entourage.

The ceremony had such a profound impact on the Iranian king that once back from Paris, he decided to create a street similar to Champs-Elysees in the Iranian capital city. As a result, he ordered the construction of Lalezar Street.

In fact, according to that plan, two new streets, namely Lalezar and Sa’di, were supposed to be constructed on two sides of Lalezar Garden.

Toward the end of Nassereddin Shah’s rule, that is, around 1892, the garden was sold for 900,000 rials because Tehran badly needed the money.

The then government had revoked the famous Tobacco monopoly contract, as a result of which the Iranian government had to pay compensation to the London-based Imperial Tobacco Corporation of Persia while the treasury was empty.

The first modern Iranian hotel called “Grand Hotel” was later built on a premium plot of land that belonged to the grandchildren of Fat’hali Shah.

As time went by, Lalezar Street became a hub of Iranian cultural activities, featuring a range of unique architectural styles of buildings to cafes, theaters and modern stores.

Later, the introduction of the first horse-drawn carriage, the supply of electricity to buildings situated along the street and the construction of the first tram line along Lalezar brought further prosperity to this street. Even the first telegraph line was made operational in this street.


Ebrahim Khan’s Garden

One of the most beautiful relics of Lalezar is the garden attributed to Mirza Ebrahim Khan Amin-os-Soltan who was in charge of Nassereddin Shah’s coffeehouse.

Only 9,000 square meters of the garden remain now, which has been fortunately registered on the National Heritage List to help maintain and preserve the property.

This magnificent building, which stands at the end of Ettehadiyeh Deadend, has a green gate and was once the location of the famous Iranian TV series “Dear Uncle Napoleon,” which was made by Iranian director Nasser Taqvai based on a story by Iraj Pezeshkzad.

Even today, one can see on a few deserted buildings vivid tilework, unique brick facades and plasterworks by masters of that time, which are traces of the past history of Tehran’s most famous street.


Center of Political Events

After Iran was occupied by the Allied Forces and Reza Shah was overthrown, Lalezar became a place where at every sundown, hundreds of cars roamed along the street flaunting the wealth of their owners.

By and by, Lalezar came to resemble Champs-Elysees in Paris and Bond Street in London. The throngs of people on that street clearly showed that the Iranian modern class was burgeoning.

Although Istanbul, Mokhber-od-dowleh and Shahabad streets were conventional venues for demonstrations and other political gatherings, Lalezar also got gradually involved in politics, though it was a hub of artistic activities.

It was during the same period that religious groups saw the domination of secular leftist and rightist political groups on Lalezar Street and took control of Hedayat Mosque (dedicated to public use by the family of Mokhber-od-dowleh).

The mosque stood between the old and new parts of Lalezar Street. As a result, the first modernist political cleric, Ayatollah Mahmoud Taleqani, chose the mosque as the main venue to deliver his famous sermons.

It is true, therefore, that Lalezar served as a criterion and urban measure of social developments in Tehran, which has likewise undergone a lot of change since its construction up to the present time.

Lalezar can be considered a symbol of modernity in Tehran. Although Nasseriyeh (the present-day Nasser Khosrow) Street was the first street to be built in Tehran according to urban standards, Lalezar was the first street to be built according to the European and modern style.

Those interested in getting a glimpse of the old Lalezar Street should pay a visit to Ghazali Cinema Township where the late Iranian film director, Ali Hatami, recreated the then Lalezar Street or shooting a film there.

Source: Iran Daily

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