It’s almost 3 years that I’m back home and I’ve been eager to discover my hometown ever since. And to tell you the truth, Tehran has been throwing surprises one after another.
It was only a few weeks ago when I was wondering in Oudlajan and despite having visited the neighbourhood a few times before, things looked surprisingly new. Almost as if I’ve stepped in a different city and in a different time.
Oudlajan is one of Tehran’s oldest neighbourhoods. Once home to the wealthy, it was later left abandoned for decades and transformed into a rather poor and unsafe area, mostly because of the number of drug addicts taking shelter in the numerous dilapidated buildings.
Things have changed tremendously now. The city council and national heritage ministry starting implemeting projects in Oudlajan that involved restoring many of the old houses and sights. This time around I could see pavements under construction and so many of the old houses restored and open to visitors. Although the quartier itself still has the old vibe and doesn’t feel like central Tehran at all, you can tell things will be changing pretty soon. You might as well get there before it does.
So today on the blog I thought I’d give you a plan for a little walking tour in Oudlajan. I know most of you will have never visited the area even if you’ve lived in Tehran for a certain period of time. But you should. Because to understand Tehran you cannot neglect its history and specially one of its oldest neighbourhoods.
How to get here?
The easiest way to get to this area is by taking the metro to Panzdah Khordad station and taking a walk from there. There is always the option of taxi but since you’re supposed to be on a walking tour, I don’t really see the point in it.
Here’s the route you will be taking:
And here everything you will see:
Emam Zadeh Yahya Shrine
Traveling around Iran you’ll find yourself visiting numerous mosques and Shrines. Their difference is simple: Mosques are houses of worship just like churches and synagogues and shrines are built upon a tomb belonging to an important figure. This figure could be a poet, a scientist or a social figure and many times descendants of the prophet.
If you see people using it as a mosque, then you can tell it’s dedicated to a descendant of the prophet. Women are normally required to wear a chador upon entrance which is usually available to borrow.
But what’s so special about this one? Well it happens to have the oldest plane tree of Tehran in its front yard! A little stroll alongs Tehran’s longest street aka Valiasr and you’ll quickly notice that plane trees are everywhere in the city. In fact Tehran was once known to be called as Chenarestan, which translated to a place full of plane trees.
This mansion is the biggest place you’ll visit on this route and the architecture includes almost every element used in a traditional Iranian home. There’s a even a badgir to my surprise!
The house is a century old and belonged to Haj Seyed Kazem who worked for the Qajar government. It’s currently used as an office by the tourism ministry but it’s still open to public to visit.
This bathhouse is neither big or super fancy. I could tell that most of the ornamentation had been destroyed and it looks rather simple as of now. I personally hate the fact that they’ve decided to turn it into some distasteful souvenir shop but I’ll give a little credit to its roof top. You don’t always get to visit Hamam rooftops in Iran, apart from the one in Kashan which is my favourite. But if you don’t make it to Kashan, this would be a great opportunity to witness the exterior of a Hamam and to realise how the lighting is through small stained glasses on the numerous domes on the roof.
This tastefully designed Qajar mansion belonged to Mirza Mohammad Hossein Farahani also known as Dabir-ol-molk who used to work for the Qajar royals. The house is said to be more than 140 years old. While the interior is rather small, the front yard totally makes up for it. It could make a perfect spot for an open air cafe but was still tempting enough to keep us chilling there for a decent amount of time.
Nayer-ol-Moluk Mansion (Nan o Namak restaurant)
Once owned by a Qajar minister working under the rule of Naser-o-Din Shah named Mirza Mahmood vazir, it is a tiny traditional restaurant serving national dishes and offering live music. It’s a teeny tiny place which was later bought by another women and restored to its current form.
There’s little plaster and mirror work in the main room. It’s nothing extravagant but I kind of really liked its coziness.
We didn’t try the food but I haven’t heard good stuff about it. I would’nt mind going for a cup of tea though. No one could go wrong with that.
Where to go for lunch?!
By the time you’re done it will have been a few hours and your supposably hungry. There’s not a lot of good eateries around but to top off your history lesson, how about Dizi in Tehran’s oldest bank?? I’ve written a complete post about this place as it’s one of my favourite places for Dizi in a slightly different atmosphere. You can read all about it here.
Oudlajan doesn’t end here. This neighbourhood is home to a big Jewish population and was once known as the jewish quartier of Tehran. There are numbers of synagogues to be found which needs a whole separate tour for itself. Unfortunately access to synagogues are not that easy but if you were just wondering, I did a tour of them a long time ago and dedicated a post to it here.