In a country where education and literacy were limited to a very few and took place in the backstage of mosques and cleric’s houses with mainly the subject of religious thoughts and morality, only a true reformer could save a country in chaos.

Mirza Taghi Khan Farahani, born in 1852, also known as Amir Kabir was once the saviour of a nation that thanked him by his demise. For 3 years he had become the chief minister of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar (Shah of Persia at the time). The young Shah’s confidence had led him to the responsibility of Iran’s whole army and granted him his appointment as prime minister of Persia (what is now called Iran). One that was taken away rather soon.

Darolfonoon, Iran's first education center and the hero behind it.
Portrait of Amir kabir, known today as one of the most innovative and capable figures of Qajar era and Iran’s first reformist whose political and social changes came about later on. – Source

His diplomatic trips to Russia and the Ottoman empire had him realize that only education was going to save the country from the mess it was in. So he advised the Shah into building the first university of Persia and so Darolfonoon was built. Designed by Abbas Mirza who had studied the architecture of forts and military constructions back in Britain, the Darolfonoon was ready for inauguration by 1851. Only that Abbas Mirza’s influence of British architecture had led him into designing a courtyard that resembled the Union Jack from above!! To this day Darolfonoon has been going under reconstructions and renovations, but the Union Jack ironically stays right in the heart of Tehran! Perhaps because no one really sees it, until they’re told.

Darolfonoon, Iran's first education center and the hero behind it.
It’s hard to tell from the picture, but if you were to look at the courtyard from above, a Union Jack would appear.

Initially purposed to train officers and civil servants, the school quickly expanded into teaching subjects such as medicine, surgery, pharmacology, natural history, mathematics, geology, and natural science. Professors were brought from Vienna to teach and Darolfonoon soon became the Shah’s flag to show off modern Persia.

Darolfonoon, Iran's first education center and the hero behind it.
Group photo of some of the school’s teachers from the second decade of its establishment. – – Source

Right when all the hard work was about pay off, Amir Kabir was dismissed from all his appointments. The Queen mother and other influential figures whose pensions and salaries were cut down by Amir Kabir’s financial reforms and were backed by foreigners whose influence has been greatly diminished saw him as a threat and formed a coalition to have him removed. The coalition turned out to be a success and Amir Kabir was sent to Kashan where he was executed shortly after while taking a bath in the famous Fin Bathhouse.

Darolfonoon, Iran's first education center and the hero behind it.
At the Fin garden in which the Fin bathhouse is also located.

Darolfonoon continued working for years until it became part of the newly established University of Tehran. Today the sight is under renovations to become the treasury and documentation centre of the ministry of Education, yet visits are allowed through the secondary entrance.

Darolfonoon, Iran's first education center and the hero behind it.

Darolfonoon stays unvisited and quiet to most tourists and even Iranians. While most of the current building is not how it was at the time of Amir Kabir – apart from the courtyard and the iwan – it’s mosaic-coated entrance, bricked walls and small, yet sublime garden is a mistake to miss.

Darolfonoon, Iran's first education center and the hero behind it.
The entrance of Darolfonun

Darolfonoon, Iran's first education center and the hero behind it.

Darolfonoon, Iran's first education center and the hero behind it.
The Iwan of Naser al-Din Shah, where he would be sitting on his visit to the school.

Inspirational verses from Persian poets are displayed on Persian blue mosaics that adorn the walls of the courtyard. The long living history of Darolfonun and the magnificence of the hero behind it echoes in every room and corridor and gives the impression that time has stopped right in the heart of Tehran, just before the brutal honking of Taxi drivers in one of the most traffic-jammed streets of Tehran brings you back to life!

Darolfonoon, Iran's first education center and the hero behind it. Darolfonoon, Iran's first education center and the hero behind it.Darolfonoon, Iran's first education center and the hero behind it.

Darolfonoon, Iran's first education center and the hero behind it.
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4 thoughts on “Darolfonoon, Iran’s first education center and the hero behind it.

  1. Ali says:

    Beautiful. Thanks for the detailed stories. A certain “were” in the article should be changed to “where”. 😀
    BTW, I like having our own version of Union Jack in the heart of Tehran. 😀

    • Travestyle says:

      Thank you Ali for the spelling correction. I read the text so many times that I almost know it from heart, and although I check for spelling mistakes before I publish, my eyes almost always skip a few. 😉 It’s corrected now.
      As for the Union Jack, I’m just glad it’s still standing!

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