When Westerners think of Iran today, images of women wearing chadors, American flags burning, and militant crowds shouting nationalistic slogans often come to mind. But those who have memories of Tehran in the 1960s and 1970s paint a very different portrait of Iranian life.
Before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the country's capital was a cultural vanguard. The New York Times notes, "Until the revolution, Iran was among the most cultured, cosmopolitan countries in the region. It had a progressive movement in art and literature and a sophisticated film and television industry." Its education system welcomed both women and men, and jet-setting Tehrani urbanites headed to midcentury modern ski chalets in the Alborz Mountains. Kaveh Farrokh, now an author living in Canada, remembers summers as a young man spent in the city watching American movies at high-end cinemas and lounging at the cutting-edge airport.
Life was not an idyll for all Iranians, however. Social and economic inequalities under the Shah of Iran created incredible want for some and a world of plenty for others. These tensions contributed to the 1979 overthrow of the shah's government and the Islamic revolution that shapes the country to this day.
Above, an aerial view of Valiasr Square in 1971.