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Tehrān, also spelled Teheran, the capital city of Iran and the center of the province (ostān) of Tehrān, located in north-central Iran at the foot of the Elburz mountain range. Since its establishment as the capital city by Āghā Moḥammad Khān more than 200 years ago, Tehrān has grown from a small city to a major metropolis: situated in an urban region of 12 million inhabitants, Tehrān is Iran’s largest city and one of the most populous cities of the world. 


City site

The centre of the city is on latitude 35°41′ N and longitude 51°26′ E. Tehrān is located on the steep southern slopes of the Elburz mountain range, which traces an arc along the coast of the Caspian Sea in northern Iran. Its highest peak, Mount Damāvand (Demavend), has an elevation of more than 18,400 feet (5,600 meters) and is visible from Tehrān on clear days. The highest point in Iran, Damāvand is also higher than any other peak among the summits to its west in Asia and Europe. Figuring prominently in Persian legend, Damāvand holds for Iranians much the same significance as Mount Fuji offers the Japanese. The symbolic significance of this site and its location on the historic east-west trade route (Silk Road) have ensured that this area has been the site of significant settlement for several millennia. Towchāl ridge (12,904 feet [3,933 meters]), the site of a popular ski and recreation site linked to the city by a series of cable cars, dominates the city from the north, while the city’s southern reaches extend toward Kavīr, a desert located in north-central Iran.


The northernmost limits of the city stand at about 5,600 feet (1,700 meters) above sea level and the southernmost limits about 3,600 feet (1,100 meters). There is a difference of about 2,000 feet (600 meters) between the northern heights and the southern edges of the city, some 19 miles (30 km) away. This dramatic difference in height and Tehrān’s location between mountains and desert have had significant impacts on the social and physical characteristics of the city.



Tehrān has a hot, arid climate shared by many parts of central Iran. Although the summer is very long, the city enjoys four distinct seasons, and the Elburz mountain range prevents the humidity of the Caspian Sea in the north from reaching the city. The annual average temperature in Tehrān is 63 °F (17 °C), with an average annual high of 73 °F (23 °C) and annual lows averaging about 53 °F (12 °C). Extreme temperatures can reach a maximum of 109 °F (43 °C) in the summer and a minimum of 5 °F (−15 °C) in the winter. The city has an average annual precipitation of about 10 inches (230 mm) and experiences an average of 48 days of frost per year.

 The juxtaposition of mountains and desert has created diverse climatic conditions in the city and, as a result, diverse social geography. Historically, the city’s more affluent population chose the northern foothills for their summer residence, where trees were more plentiful and summers cooler than in the south, which, being in the vicinity of the desert, experienced hotter, dustier summers and featured fewer trees. In the 20th century, as travel between the city and the suburbs became easier, the northern heights became an integrated part of the city.


City layout 

Tehrān’s urban layout is marked by a clear core-periphery distinction. The old core forms a small part of the city, where a number of older buildings and institutions can be found. Moṭaharī (formerly Sepahsālār) mosque and seminary, with its domes and minarets, was one of the most impressive buildings of the city in the 19th century. The central bazaar, with miles of roofed streets, domed trading halls, mosques, and caravanserais, remains a tourist attraction as well as a center of economic activity. Near the bazaar and the city’s central park, the site of the old royal citadel is now occupied by many central government buildings. Most of the business activities and services are located in the old core and its northward expansion, developed mainly between the 1860s and the 1940s. The city core is surrounded by residential areas and growing suburbs. Older residential areas are built in the traditional style of winding narrow streets and cul-de-sacs leading to one- or two-story buildings around a central courtyard; previously inhabited by a single family, some of the larger homes in these older residential areas are now under the combined pressure of multiple occupations by low-income and migrant households, planning blight, and the expansion of commercial activity. By contrast, newer residential areas consist of wider, straight streets and outward-looking buildings of various heights with walled courtyards.

 Along with green spaces, tree-lined streets, and a more moderate climate, the largely middle- and upper-income groups that inhabit the north also enjoy larger residences, lower population densities divided into smaller households, higher land value, and greater access to quality services and facilities. Against the background of high mountains, the dominant features of the townscape in the north are modern high-rise buildings, resulting in a more diverse skyline. Distinguished from the south by its range of physical and social advantages, the north is on the whole prone to fewer of the problems prevalent in the south—problems associated with flooding, inadequate systems of sewage management, and air pollution.

 Another major feature of the urban structure is its axes. A primary axis formed by a number of north-south streets (including Valī-ye ʿAṣr  Boulevard) connects the center of the south to the city’s northernmost reaches; land value is high along the north-south axis, and many of the city’s facilities and amenities are concentrated there. A secondary axis, mainly defined by Enqelāb Street, runs from east to west and intersects the primary axis at right angles. The principal squares along these two axes boast some of the city’s most important focal points, including hotels, embassies, and museums, in addition to a number of parks and green spaces. This axiality is largely the result of the interrelationship between the core-periphery and north-south divides and is also reflective of a number of traditional patterns of land use: Iranian cities long employed intersecting axes leading to four gates in the city walls, a formal axial pattern also historically used in the chahār bāgh, or traditional Persian quadripartite garden.