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Tehran - Off the beaten track


Young schoolgirls in required uniform smile - Tehran

Darakeh & Darband

If you want to flee the traffic fumes, head for the foothills of the Alborz Mountains and the walking trails of Darakeh and Darband. Though you'll have to walk a bit to get out of the developed areas and the paths and streams tend to be strewn with litter, the walks are worth taking. Along each trail are cafes, kababis (kebab shops) and vendors selling tasty treats.

Holy Shrine of Emam Khomeini

Once completed, this shrine will be one of the greatest Islamic buildings of modern times. As the ayatollah wanted his shrine to be a public place where people could enjoy themselves, you'll find families having picnics, children playing and homeless men sleeping in the empty spaces. Don't visit on an official mourning day, when the shrine is a mass of humanity. Nearby is the Behesht-é Zahra, the main resting place for those killed in the Iran-Iraq War.

Varamin

Many of Varamin's historical buildings have been destroyed by earthquakes, but much of what remains was built by the Mongols in the 13th century. The dome, tiling, inscriptions and symmetrical iwans of the Jameh Mosque are justifiably famous. The nearby Borq-e Aladdin is also worth a look. On the road to Tehran is Rey, a historically important place, that was, unfortunately, mostly destroyed by the Mongols; the lovely mausoleum here, Emamzadeh Shah-e Abdal-Azim, is the main reason to visit.



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