On a free day in Tehran, when I was let off the leash, I went on an adventure. A journey around Iran, to see sights I’d never seen before and marvel at ancient and modern civilizations. In miniature.
The Miniature Garden Park of Tehran is a relatively new (I think) site where 1:25 scale maquettes of Iranian World Heritage and sites of interest are on display.
It’s in a suburb of the city, away from the bustliest bustle of the centre (although, TBH, it’s still pretty bustly in the burbs). I’d seen a photo of it on Facebook, as I’d followed a couple of Iranian groups before my holiday. Having seen it once, I was absolutely determined to get there if at all possible.
After doing my usual trick of wandering about in the wrong direction for a while, seeing a few interesting things and then realizing, and wandering in the right direction, I finally found myself at the entrance to the park. I was pretty excited, I can tell you.
It was awesome :D
Obviously there’s more than a touch of kitsch about this, and I did find myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion. I mean, we’ve all seen those hilariously twee model English villages and this is a kind of version of that…but Iranian. Nevertheless, it was actually really good. The models are really good and you get to see the entirety of large sites in overview. This can actually make it easier to get an idea of the relationships between different structures, features or zones of a site.
The actual site is pretty extensive, and even the model is big, but from the viewing platform the whole archaeological site is laid out on view.
With the tomb of Ataxerxes on the mountain side.
As well as getting to see models of sites that I’d actually visited during the tour, there were also maquettes of sites that I didn’t get to visit.
This is one site in particular that I would really have liked to have visited. Susa, ancient Shushtar.
When the Emperor Valerian (253–260 AD) was defeated at the Battle of Edessa (260), and captured by the Sassanid ruler Shapur I, he, and many thousands of his troops were transferred to Shushtar and held captive.
Here is the image of Valerian (standing on the left) held captive by Shapur, from the royal tomb site at Naqsh-e Rostam.
It is said that Shapur used Valerian as a footstool (this may not be true) and his troops were used as forced labour, building large-scale hydraulic installations for their captor (this is true).
I would really love to visit this city and its remains, but on this occasion, I had to content myself with the mini-version. On the day of my visit it was being invaded by giant birds.
There is also a model of the Arg-e Bam, the walled citadel of the ancient and medieval city of Bam.
Partially destroyed in the terrible earthquake which struck the south-east region of Iran in 2003, this is one of Iran’s 19 World Heritage Sites. Its origins can be traced back to the Achaemenid period (6th to 4th centuries BCE) but this kind of vernacular architecture is constantly renewed so it is both old and new.
I just love the little tiny tourists visiting the site.
Little people? Giant leaf? Single foot!
As a little bonus, one of the attendants pointed me in the direction of an exhibition of beautiful photographs of the real sites.
This was actually a very good bonus, as the images were stunning and it was lovely to see the living sites in all their glory.
The garden seems to be a bit of a work in progress, with more maquettes planned. This just made me want to make another visit to Iran. Hopefully the relevant authorities will read this blog post and sort it out so that we can all visit more freely in the near future (I very much doubt it, but I can live in hope, can’t I?).
Here’s a little selection of some of the maquettes.
Maydan-e Imam, Esfahan.
Tabriz Historical Bazaar
If you fancy a visit, the nearest metro is Golbarg on Line 2, then it’s about a 5-10 minute walk. http://www.tishineh.com/touritem/885/Miniature-garden