Tehran, Iran’s capital, is the biggest city in Iran with a huge population. Isfahan on the other hand is a smaller city with a population of just 500,000. Tehran and Isfahan are poles apart in matters of culture and architecture. Tehran is growing rapidly turning into a industrialized society with all the joys and pains that technological advancements brings to our lives. Isfahan is smaller and technologically backward but with a beauty and charm of its own. Tradition has held its own in Isfahan, but Tehran is becoming more and more culturally diverse.
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Tehran’s architectural structure has totally changed because of massive population pressure. Nowadays there are no villas to be seen but large multistory complexes. In addition, a number of shopping malls have sprung up and are becoming increasingly popular with the people. Another important factor to note in Tehran’s changing environment is that massive immigrant inflow which has made for a mix of people from various cultural backgrounds. Unfortunately this has also meant that people are leaving behind their traditional roots. A personal example of this is that when I was younger on special occasions such as the New Year people used to go to each others houses to meet but now just people call each other or just send a SMS saying “Happy New Year”.
The infrastructure of the city is growing. Because of serious traffic jams most people prefer to use the metro. However the metro is still limited in its reach. There are two airports one is ‘Mehrabad Airport’ located within the city and dealing with inbound flights and the other is ‘Imam Khomeini Airport’ which is outside the city and handles overseas flights. Metros do not cover the 100 km distance from the city to the ‘Imam Khomeini Airport ’. Another double-edged sword involving growth has been the boom in the number of factories in Tehran. They provide employment to many of Tehran’s populace but are responsible for environmental degradation. Tehran is a rapidly growing multi-cultural city with the infrastructure still catching up.
Isfahan on the other hand still has many traditional structures. It is not unusual to find a villa surrounded by five beautiful gardens filled with trees. It is an ancient city with a number of interesting historical landmarks. One of the most interesting ancient places in Isfahan is the “33 Pol” , its construction includes 33 bridges built together. Another fantastic place is “Menar Jonban” which is a high minaret with stairs that end on its roof ; visitors can actually climb up the stairs and shake the building by pushing the walls, it is unbelievable how this tower shakes without falling down after all these years. So far the reason behind this is secret and nobody has been able to replicate the minaret. Furthermore the traditional culture is still alive in this city and most of the people here are very religious. The ceremony of marriage is also very traditional with the bride and groom performing a number of beautiful traditional rituals during the wedding. For instance the family of bride arrange for a ceremony in which the family of the groom is also invited and Henna is put on the bride and groom’s hands, after this Henna is distributed so that everyone can use it to decorate their hands. This is followed by music from local musicians with people joining in to dance. The most famous souvenir of this city is a special sweet made from wheat, sugar and nuts which cannot be found in any other city. Again unlike Tehran the foundation of this city is more focused on agriculture. There are a number of big farms and huge storehouses for keeping products. There is a small dam to produce power and to irrigate for the farms. In short Isfahan is a small city with an interesting culture and with passionate, kind-hearted people.
My father was born in Isfahan but I was born in Tehran so both cities have a special significance for me. I love Isfahan for its beauty, heritage and its attachment to tradition, but I also love Tehran for its continuous growth and the variety of cultures I find here. Both these cities have a life of their own. I believe that both form a part of my identity. Tehran’s bustling life which never seems to stop with its wide variety of various cultural has its hold on me but Isfahan with its beautiful historical landmarks has a power of its own.