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Middle Eastern majesty

Enjoying the opulent riches - natural and man-made - of the Saadabad Cultural and Historical Complex

The Green Palace is wonderfully adorned, particularly its Mirror Hall. Peerawat Jariyasombat

Escape from the congested roads of Tehran, the capital city of Iran, and spend an easy day out among a lush gigantic garden and inside a luxurious palace museum.

If you're frustrated by the traffic in Bangkok, try hitting the roads in Tehran and you'll realise Bangkok is not the worst. Traffic in Tehran is chaotic. Roads are narrow and parking space is extremely rare. A 10km journey through downtown can take you an hour.

Try escaping from the chaotic roads and head uphill to Saadabad Cultural and Historical Complex. You'll be surprised to see the serene side of Tehran.

Located at the foot of Tochal Hill and Darband Hill, the outskirts of Tehran, the museum complex occupies a huge area, 110 hectares. The complex once was a summer palace for the royal family of the Qajar dynasty (1794-1925). After a coup by Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1921, it was expanded. Additional palaces and new gardens were added to serve as summer residences for kings of the Pahlavi dynasty (1925-1979). Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran (1925-1941), lived there in the 1920s, and his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, moved there in the 1970s. After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, this summer palace was turned into a museum complex, with seven of the 18 palaces used as museums.

Anyway, do not expect to see gigantic buildings or huge museums, as 70% of it is garden, with small mansions and palaces scattered all over the area. Visitors have to walk a long way to visit different places inside.

On days of good weather, Iranians find it pleasant to spend an afternoon out strolling among gardens, admiring the luxurious palaces.

The highlight of the complex is the Green Palace Museum, adapted from the Shahvand Palace, one of the most beautiful palaces in Iran. It is located on higher ground, in the northwest of Saadabad. Between 1923 and 1929, Reza Shah, having purchased the palace from its previous owner, renovated and redecorated it. He ordered that its exterior be covered with rare green stones from Zanjan province, hence the name.

It is not a very large palace, with hundreds of rooms to make guests' jaws drop. But its handful of rooms are wonderfully adorned, with luxurious furniture and sculpture.

The two-storey palace has a total area of 1,203m². The highlight is its mirror hall, the walls and ceilings decorated with glittering mirrors while on the floor is a 70m² hand-woven carpet.

Don't miss the extravagant 54-room White Palace. Built in the 1930s, the White Palace is the largest mansion in the complex. In addition to ceremonial and official affairs, the mansion served as a summer residence for Reza Shah and Queen Farah. The luxury palace has a total area of 5,000m², including 10 large ceremonial halls.

There are also the Royal Tableware Museum, Fine Arts Museum, Royal Cars Museum and Water Museum (featuring ancient techniques for water-supplement and -distribution, such as traditional ice houses and ancient dams).

The Omidvar Brothers Museum features the story of the first two brothers, who had only US$90, but decided to travel the world. Their journey took place in the 1950s. On display are photos, tools, vehicles and items collected on their 10-year journey.

The Saadabad Cultural and Historical Complex is located north of Tehran. It's open from Tuesday to Sunday, 9am-5pm. Admission fee is US$4 (140 baht).

For more information, visit en.sadmu.ir.

Over 70% of the 110 hectares consists of gardens filled with local and foreign tree species. Peerawat Jariyasombat

Collections of luxurious tableware on display in the Royal Tableware Museum. Peerawat Jariyasombat

Vehicles, photos and various souvenirs from the around-the-world journey by the Omidvar Brothers. Peerawat Jariyasombat

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