Golestan Palace

Tehran, Iran | C.1865

Photo Credit: Chris Schalkx

At the heart of Tehran is a royal complex containing 17 structures built over a period of 130 years during the Qajar dynasty. Offering an array of gardens, royal buildings, and collections of Iranian crafts and European gifts, the Palace represents such a comprehensive spectrum of Iranian’s best cultural offerings that it’s been stamped with a UNESCO World Heritage designation.

There are two architectural marvels in the complex that secured its historic status: the Marble Throne terrace (Takht e Marmar) and the Building of Windcatchers (Emarat e Badgir). Both were built under the reign of Fath Ali Shah, an eccentric ruler known for his waist-length beard, his 100+ progeny from his ample harem, and two failed wars against Imperial Russia.

His Marble Throne terrace, adorned by 65 marble carvings, mirrors, and lattice windows, is where the coronation of Qajar kings and formal court ceremonies take place to this day. The Windcatchers took on a more practical, yet perhaps vainer purpose: to create a natural means of allowing cooling wind to move through the buildings and to air the Shah’s excessive beard – which he saw as a symbol of his virility, and of which he was so proud he had numerous portraits commissioned to showcase his well-ventilated facial hair.

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