The royal shack
Photo essay: Niavaran Palace
January 8, 2007
These photos here were taken in the Niavaran Palace Complex. There are three main structures of note in this complex. Upon entering the complex from Saltanatabad ave. (otherwise known as Pasdaran) one comes upon a large structure which served as the main residence of the Shah until his ouster. At the entrance there is a statue of Amir Kabir) which must have certainly served as a daily reminder to the Shah of the possibilities. After all Amir Kabir was one of the most effective prime ministers in Iranian history that did not have royal blood (unlike Hoveyda and Mosaddegh who were both Ghajars) that came from meager means and went on to negotiate peace with the Ottomans after a century of war and established the Dar-ol Fonoon.
To the right of the main entrance is the office of the Empress and her meeting room. The rest of the residence has living areas, and bedrooms which at the time of my visit were being refurbished (or so they say) and were not open to visit. On the balcony of the second floor of the building facing south there is a sculpture of the Pahlavi crown. Across from the main building there is the Kushak of Ahmad Shah. This building was used by Ahmad Shah (when he actually made time to be in Iran) during the summer months. It was used as a residence for Prince Reza and Farahnaz Pahlavi.
For some reason photography was strictly forbidden in this building and the people in charge of monitoring the place did not have a sense of humor about it at all. In fact they made me put my camera in the bag and if I didn't comply they threatened to confiscate it. There were may interesting things in this building which I wish I was able to photograph. Among the items that come to mind are posters of soccer players (possibly favorites of Prince Reza Pahlavi) of the Iranian clubs at the time, pictures drawn by the princes, and a lunar rock given to Prince Reza Pahlavi by Richard Nixon.
Truthfully everything I saw in all the palaces I visited in Iran were relatively modest compared to what I've seen in other places. For example compared to Topkapi Serai palace in Istanbul the best of Iranian palaces would be thought of as a mere shack!
Moving to the south of the complex there is the Sahebgharanieh Palace. This palace was built by Naser-e din Shah. On the 31st anniversary of his reign he called himself "Saheb GhorAn", and called this palace sahebgharanieh. In the front yard the mandate for a constitutional monarchy was signed by Mozaffar-e din Shah. The building has two levels in addition to the basement area. The top level was called "Shah Neshin" which was a residential area. This was converted to accommodate Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's work space during his reign. Here there is a meeting area where cabinet meetings were held. This room was sound proof, so all meetings could be held in secrecy.
Next to that room is the diplomatic reception room and waiting area. It is said that the Shah met Ambassador Parson's (UK) and Sullivan (US) almost on a daily basis here during the turmoil of 1978-79. Of note in this room are autographed pictures of foreign leaders. Photos that are readily recognizable are those of Marshal Tito, The Pope, Kurt Waldheim, Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, and Johnson, Chairman Mao, Adolf Hitler, Ata Turk, and Emperor Hirohito and his wife.
I'm not sure whether these photos were actually there at the time when those meetings took place. It's doubtful the Shah would have been that offensive to his diplomatic guests by having an autographed picture of Adolf Hitler that was dedicated to his father displayed in such an important room. This photo is that of the Shah's working area where he spent his working hours. On this desk there are stamps that carried the official royal seal as well as a sculpture of Prince Alireza Pahlavi.
The rest of the floor consists of living quarters, a private dental office (for the Shah), and a bath. Downstairs on the main level used to be called the Korsi Khaneh. It has a marble fountain in the middle of it surrounded by cushions and couches. The windows are invariably made of stained glass. In the corner of the room there is carriage that used to be used by Nasser-e din Shah. In the basement there is a parlor room with a bar. In this room there is an original oil painting by Farshchian of the Empress which is beautiful. I hope you enjoy:
Click on photo to see 45