Way Back These Amazing Old Pictures of Iran Will Blow Your Mind Published 7 months ago on Aug 2, 2018 By Michael Berdy With the second-largest population in the Middle East and a large presence on the world stage, Iran continues to be a dominant force in geopolitics as we know it today. But before the 1979 Revolution that shaped the country’s modern destiny, it was an unbelievably different place. These rare photographs are quite literally snapshots taken straight out of a lost world. Get ready for a journey to a land of fantastically vibrant cultures and faces, of wild hairdos and even wilder fashion statements. Forget everything you thought you knew about Iran: it’s time to view its people through a different lens. 1. The Higher The Hair Though the stripy vests and billowing sleeves definitely place them as being in a Middle Eastern setting, everything else about this fantastic snapshot practically screams 1970s, Iran or not. For starters, check out that Farrah Fawcett flip on the lady in the teal gown. News Dog Media And get a load of those frenetically fluffy ‘fros on the gentlemen. Maintaining that coiffure must have required some liberal and generous use of a hairpick. Whoever’s party this music group is attending, it certainly looks like a bright and funky affair. 2. Middle Eastern Vogue Once upon a time, Iran was considered an alluring destination for Western fashion photographers. The snapshot below attests to an incredible blending of cultures and eras, all bound together in brilliant hues of blue. Believe it or not, this is part of a 1969 Vogue photoshoot. Vogue Strutting in front of the 17th-century dome of the Shah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran, is model-actress Marisa Berenson, who would later appear in Cabaret. She had just been in an Indian ashram with The Beatles — and popped over to Iran on her way home! It was a different world. 3. A Visit From Liz Those unmistakable violet eyes would steal the scene wherever in the world they glanced. In 1976, Hollywood empress Elizabeth Taylor made a one-time trip to Iran. She was accompanied by a photographer, who happened to be the cousin of the Iranian ambassador to the US. Firooz Zahedi It must have been fun to feel like royalty again. The former Cleopatra star took to the sumptuous colors, patterns, and flavors of Iran like a duck takes to water. You can practically feel the textures of the shimmering fabrics she’s adorned herself in here. 4. Fit For A Queen Until the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the country was ruled by a king, known in Persian as the Shah. Here, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi crowns his third wife, Queen Farah, as Empress of the Iranians in a bombastic and lavish ceremony. Pinterest The Shah had already ruled for decades when in 1967 he declared himself to be ‘Shahanshah’, the King of Kings. He said he had waited until he truly deserved the title! One thing is for certain: rarely do we see ceremonies this glitzy anywhere in the world today. 5. Stylish Study Break Bellbottoms, stockings, and bare legs: these scholarly ladies taking a study break are free flaunting it all. While Iranians have always been very proud of their fashion sense, there is another key detail of this photo that really makes it stick out. independent.co.uk For these young women, having their hair free to blow in the breeze was a sign of the times. Whereas in today’s Iran women must cover their hair in public, under the Shah, head-coverings were frowned upon. His father had even made them illegal. 6. Name This Country There’s something absolutely remarkable about this photograph from the 1970s. At first glance, where would you think the picture was taken? There are literally no visual clues to tell you that it was, in fact, a street scene in Tabriz, Iran. Medium While these heavy overcoats might seem out of place in the Middle East, Iran is crisscrossed by huge mountain chains. It snows in many parts of the country, including Tehran. Some areas are at such high altitudes that it can even snow in summer! 7. Film Glamour Before the Revolution clamped down on forms of expression it viewed as lewd, Iran had a booming film industry. Splashed with music, melodrama, heroes, and villains, Persian cinema allowed its actors and actresses to become superstars, known everywhere on a first name basis. Daily Mail This beautiful bombshell was called Forouzan, and she was known for her killer dance performances on screen. However, the deposition of the Shah during the Revolution essentially destroyed her career. Forouzan was never allowed to act again and rarely made public appearances thereafter. 8. Rolling Out The Carpets The world-renowned Persian rugs have been and continue to be one of Iran’s most famous exports ever. Artisans painstakingly weave them with exquisite detail. But rolling out the red carpet isn’t just for the Oscars. So why have they been strewn across Tehran’s streets in this picture? National Geographic/Getty Images The motorcade rolling through the streets of the Iranian capital belongs to none other than US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was being received as an honored guest. In 1977, Jimmy Carter would be the last U.S. President to visit Iran. 9. Twist and Shout Iranians love to dance, no matter the occasion. Even if the gentleman in the center of the photo is too formal to take off his double-breasted jacket to boogie, this scene would not be out of place across the Western world in the Swinging Sixties. Daily Mail The big hairstyles on the ladies in this picture reflect similar fashion trends from their favorite actors on European and North American screens. Half a century later and women are forbidden from dancing in public in Iran, and certainly not with members of the opposite sex. 10. A Royal Affair As the imperial ruler of Iran, the Shah wanted to associate himself with other monarchs across the world. As a part of his vision for his country, the Shah thought it was important to get closer to the big Western powers. Getty Images Sporting his military uniform and decorations, here the Shah is welcomed by Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, on a state visit to the UK in 1955. At his side is his second wife, Soraya. The Shah hosted the royal couple in Iran six years later. 11. Street Scenes During the reign of the Shah, the number of Iranians receiving a higher education skyrocketed. Newly-opened universities, libraries, colleges, and academies sprang up across the country. Here is a group of students having a chat outside the University of Tehran. Daily Mail The Shah wanted to base his universities after American schools. Students wishing to go to college could get plenty of financial aid. Iranian students had many opportunities to study abroad, sharing their culture and views with the world, and bringing the knowledge from their experiences back home. 12. Wrestlemania Iran was once considered a safe place for glamorous Hollywood actors and actresses to pop by and visit. If they came, they were almost guaranteed to receive a warm welcome from the country’s rulers, happy to showcase their culture to outsiders. AP Photo At the back behind all these bare bellies is the legendary Italian screen siren, Gina Lollobrigida. She’s seen here visiting wrestlers and weight-lifters at a stadium, alongside her husband. They had been brought as royal guests of Princess Ashraf, the Shah’s twin sister. 13. Warm Ties The face on the left is Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, and with or without sunglasses, the face on the right is one of the most recognizable mugs of the 20th century. US President John F. Kennedy welcomed the Shah of Iran to America on an official visit. allthatsinteresting.com From the tense and bitter state of relations today between the two nations, it’s easy to forget how incredibly different the conversation used to be. Fresh after the nuclear crisis with the Soviets, Kennedy was eager to strengthen friendships wherever possible. Unsurprisingly, the Shah was glad to oblige. 14. Cute Cars It’s a picture so surreal, it almost looks like a fanciful painting. But this ’60s snapshot is completely real. Here, appearing to be a bunch of miniature toys, a flock of Volkswagen Beetles speed along Pahlavi Avenue in the Iranian capital. Daily Mail These cute and colorful cars are driving on Tehran’s biggest boulevard, flanked on both sides by tall trees. Known as the longest street in the entire Middle East, the thoroughfare lost its imperial name after the Revolution, and is now called Valiasr Street. 15. Girl Group In this glam shot of a girl group from 1970s Iran, there are just so many different details that represent everything that’s wacky and wonderful about the Seventies. Gone are the dated stereotypes of belly dancers, and in are the crop tops that can proudly display their midriffs. Pars Times The lady on the left is a walking diva of the disco era, complete with her fringe vest and beaded headband. It’s hard to believe that once upon a time, there was an Iran where characters like this could walk around in public! Think that’s incredible? We’re just getting warmed up: there are more unbelievable surprises about Iran ahead! 16. Fashion Police Ever flipped through old photos of your parents or yourselves and wondered what on Earth possessed you to make that fashion choice? This smiling group of young Iranian university students certainly wasn’t worried about what future generations might think of their get-ups. Daily Mail They pose in their very modern outfits against the geometric tiled backdrop of the centuries-old building behind them. But what most stands out is the mullet and mustache on the gentleman in the center! Whether in Iran, America, or elsewhere, we can be glad that look has been retired. 17. Fruit Of The Loom Over the course of the 20th century, Iran has experienced one of the sharpest spikes in urban growth in any country in the world. While rural scenes like this may still be found in Iran today, they were far more common in the 1970s. asiasociety.org Here, a village girl is seen spinning wool by hand. The dazzling flowers and vivid colors on her blouse are representative of the traditional Iranian countryside. The standards in what is considered an acceptable head covering for a lady, however, have since shifted. 18. Farah’s Folk A queen has to stay in touch with her subjects, or else she risks losing their love. Though she couldn’t change the course of history, Queen Farah is seen here paying a visit to village women in the Lorestan Province of western Iran. Pinterest In an attempt to respect local customs and tastes, the Empress has traded in her usual designer gowns for the traditional dyed skirts and headscarves of the Zagros Mountains. But there’s one detail she’s overlooked: her swooping neckline gives her away, she’s not a local! 19. Go Big Or Go Home Iran was and continues to be a force to be reckoned with at the Olympics, excelling in sports like judo, weightlifting, and wrestling. It has everything to do with the ancient custom of competing in the zoorkhaneh, a traditional Iranian gymnasium. asiasociety.org Here, a strongman lies on the ground of the “House of Strength”, lifting massive tablets to impressive the foreign tourists seated in the back as spectators. The crowd is mostly made up of women. That’s not the case today. Women attending these matches is almost unheard of, considered improper. 20. A Cornucopia Of Colors The women in this photograph represent a natural beauty, frozen in time, transcending the situation of the country around them. For starters, look at the various ways in which their cover their hair, and how much or how little of it they choose to show. thepinsta.com But of course, the first thing that bursts out of this classic snapshot is the incredibly vibrant, almost psychedelic colors of the ladies’ handmade dresses. They speak to the human magic that has always shone through Iranian culture, and in many ways, has never left. Continue reading for more dazzling retro pictures from Iran! 21. Jump In The Line Anyone who’s not Persian, Afghan, Azeri, or Kurdish, will look at this picture and immediately think: “Watch out!” But any person of Iranian descent will see this sight and instantly know that it’s one of their most ancient traditions still alive today. asiasociety.org At night as the last Wednesday before Persian New Year begins, friends and family gather to observe a practice dating back to thousands of years before the arrival of Islam. They gather dry brush, light a bonfire, and jump over it to ward off evil. 22. Tea Service Tea culture is an essential part of what it means to be an Iranian. To serve a guest tea is the basic ABCs of Persian etiquette. Millennia before the British and Russians got a taste for it, tea arrived in Persia along the Silk Road from India and China. asiasociety.org At this traditional tea house in Tehran, tourists are served by staff in authentic garb. There’s plenty more brewing in the samovar behind the blonde woman’s head. Hopefully she knows not to stir her sugar, but to hold the sugar cube in her teeth and sip through it – as per Persian tradition. 23. East And West What about this picture seems, well, out of place? The buildings’ architecture is modern, the tidy streets are paved and painted with precise lanes, the automobiles are state-of-the-art. So what is a camel caravan doing plodding through the middle of this cityscape? asiasociety.org This is none other than Tehran, the cosmopolitan heart of Iran. The camels have just arrived in town, journeying from faraway villages in the mountains and the desert. They have brought crafts and other goods from the villagers, bridging worlds between urban and rural. 24. Blushing Bride A simple, tasteful wedding photograph of this excited bride and her guests in pre-Revolution Iran can tell a much wider story. There are all kinds of contradictions in these women’s outfit choices, but they existed in relative harmony in the 1970s. asiasociety.org The bride’s friends and family sport a diverse amount of clothing options. They range from the starkly traditional lady in the pink dress and the woman beside her in classic ’70s style plus a headscarf to the young woman in a simple orange blouse and flared pants. 25. Just Hanging Out Who gets dressed up so formally for a picnic? For this group of friends in 1960s Iran, dawdling out on the grass was an occasion. The lady in the center boasts a beehive up-do, and the one with the flowers has hair straight out of an Elizabeth Taylor film. Nevit Dilmen/Wikimedia Commons Even casual scenes like this would cease to exist following the Islamic Revolution. Groups of mixed company lying on each other like this would be seen as outright taboo, let alone women relaxing outside without tying on the mandatory headscarf. That’s wild, but get ready. These next pictures are nothing short of mindboggling. 26. An Unlikely Friendship What’s going on in this photograph? At first glance, we can see some businessmen, seated across a table from some men in uniform, with a French-language map of the Middle East in the background for reference. But what’s happening here is, by today’s standards, absolutely mindblowing. Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons Iran’s current regime has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel, with the two nations viewing one another as a terrible enemy ever since the Revolution. But it wasn’t always like that: these are top Iranian security officials, debriefing with their Israeli counterparts at Israeli military headquarters in 1975! 27. American Style Googoosh is one of the most celebrated Iranian performers ever, both as a film actress and a beloved pop singer up until the Revolution. What’s most striking in this magazine cover portrait is not just her dedication to her bushy hairdo, but her outfit itself. parstimes The American flag emblem in the center of her denim overalls symbolizes a period of Iranian history where wearing such a thing would not be frowned upon. Since the 1979 Revolution, Googoosh has not been able to perform in her homeland due to a ban on female singers. 28. Before The Revolution Nowhere could the gap between two very clashing streams in Iranian society be more apparent than in this topsy-turvy photograph. Due to strict rules on how different sexes may conduct themselves, an Islamic cleric kissing a lady’s hand in this manner is practically impossible to see today. Pinterest But that lady happens to be Queen Farah herself, Empress of the Iranians. Ever the fashion icon who embraced Western designers, she is in clothing here that would not be out of place in Milan or Paris. It’s a rare glimpse at the meeting of two different worlds. 29. Boatloads Of Fun Who are all these lovely ladies with their flowing locks, and what are these bizarre Star Wars-like spacecraft they’re riding? While it may not appear like it at first glance, this photo has a powerful significance. These women are among the last of their kind. Pinterest Pictured here are the women who participated in the 1978 Miss Iran contest. They are seen clowning about on some paddleboats on an artificial lake in Tehran and having a good time. Within a matter of months, their country would change beyond recognition. 30. Sharp Wits A huge piece of Iran that would forever change with the 1979 Revolution was how the country chose to present itself to the world. In 1974, Tehran hosted the Asian Games, and this team of feisty lady fencers swept the awards. Pinterest It was the first time fencing had been included as a category at the continent-wide multi-sport event, and Iran wanted to make sure the world knew who they were. Both the men’s and women’s teams managed to score medal after medal. Hearts across the nation swelled with pride. If you liked this article, don’t’ forget to SHARE it with friends! Sources: Pars Times, Daily Mail UP NEXT Gunsmoke: Top Facts Behind The Longest-Lived Show on Television... 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