The 7 Most Beautiful Religious Sites in Tehran

View of Tehran
View of Tehran | © brainin/Pixabay
Shaahin Pishbin

Iran’s bustling capital isn’t the most ancient of the country’s cities, but it nevertheless contains many fascinating religious sites well worth a visit. Perhaps surprisingly to the foreign tourist, Tehran is a hub of religious diversity. On top of the many Islamic sites it has to offer, it hosts a range of churches, synagogues, and Zoroastrian places of worship. Here we explore some of the most noteworthy.

1. Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery


Behesht-e Zahra cemetery
© Adam Jones/Wikicommons
Behesht-e Zahra is a staggeringly vast cemetery located just south of Tehran. It is particularly significant for being the final resting place of thousands of soldiers from the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), whose personal effects and portraits are famously stored in glass boxes above their graves. The cemetery is a striking example of Shia practices of mourning and remembrance, with family members carrying out rituals such as cleaning the graves with rosewater, leaving flowers and reciting passages from the Quran.

Zoroastrian Ateshkadeh

Though Yazd and Kerman are the traditional centers of Zoroastrianism in Iran, the ancient religious community also maintains a temple between Jomhuri and Enghelab streets in downtown Tehran. Opposite the Armenian Church of St Mary, the ateshkade (fire temple) was built in the early 20th century, principally funded by donations from Bombay Parsis. In its center burns an eternal flame, which is never permitted to go out, and is tended constantly by white-robed priests. It also houses a charming museum of the Zoroastrian community in Tehran.

Zoroastrian Fire Temple in Yazd

Zurkhaneh-ye Ayatollah Taleghani-Chizar

Appearing to the casual observer like a cross between juggling, weight-training and gymnastics, the ancient traditions of the Zurkhaneh (House of Strength) are actually steeped in Shi’ite mysticism. Participants stand in a circular pit, often surrounded by spectators, and perform a series of esoteric exercises, including pirouettes, lunges, and swinging heavy clubs. At the same time, drums are beaten and Sufi chants are recited, showing the practice’s clear links to the customs of Turkey’s whirling dervishes. Though unassuming from the outside, the Zurkhaneh-ye Ayatollah Taleghani-Chizar is one of the most exemplary homes of this ancient tradition in Tehran.

Zurkhanehye Ayatollah

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