Wednesday, September 20, 2017



I’m waiting for my friend outside Hasan Abad metro station in southern Tehran just taking in my surroundings. People are rushing downstairs to catch the train, and every few minutes a large crowd comes hurrying up to exit. A man sitting at the top of the stairs is selling various goodies: HiBye chocolate-filled cookies, Naderi layered snack cakes, strawberry wafers. It’s a scorching hot day in July and I can’t help but wish he had ice cold water instead. I have a 500 toman note in my wallet which is convenient because vendors always ask for change. Then I remember the price of water has been raised to 700 tomans. Where’s Florian?

A new wave of people comes out of the metro, and it’s easy to spot his blonde hair. We immediately attract attention because we’re exchanging hellos in English and I’m carrying a large camera case. But mostly, it’s his blonde hair, the telltale sign of a khâreji (foreigner). They stare at him and then eye me for a couple of seconds before looking down at my camera and eventually walking by. We head out and walk a few blocks down Imam Khomeini Street, dodging motorcycles creeping up behind us on the sidewalk and speaking a few notches louder than normal to be able to hear each other over the traffic. 

“Why did you bring a jacket?” I ask Florian. “Aren’t you hot?”

“I needed something to put my belongings in. I’ve been looking for a small bag of sorts, but I haven’t found the right one yet.” 

We haven’t been walking 5 minutes and I’m already sweating up a storm. I shouldn’t have worn this manteau today. I totally underestimated how hot it was. I bought it at the Jom’e Bazaar from Atefe Naderi whose designs and handprinted textile stamps are always adorable. The one I’m wearing has a tipped-over jug on one side and a fish swimming out on the other. “When you wear it, it looks like the vessel is trying to collect the fish again,” she told me when I was trying it on. Note to self: this manteau is entirely too heavy for this time of year.

I try to focus on the house numbers and not look at Florian’s jacket, which just encourages more beads of sweat on my forehead. “We should be close,” I tell him as we continue down the street. “It’s number 249.”

“I hope they’re open,” he says. “You know I’ve gone to the Holy Defense Museum three times, and each time they’ve been closed!”

“That happened to me too. I went on a Friday during Ramadan, which was the worst possible time. They don’t update their hours. But I called this place, and they said they’re open until 1 today.”

We finally arrive at #249, and I look up at the blue tiles above it: Muze Moghadam (Moghadam Museum), it says in Persian calligraphy.


Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
The museum's peaceful garden

We buy tickets and walk in, and I suddenly feel as though everything’s gone quiet and I’ve stepped through a portal into a peaceful zen garden. The sound of trickling water, a small pond with lily pads, stone steps going across it. To the left is a castle-like building with an entrance that looks strangely as if it’s inhabited by a hobbit. To the right, a courtyard and staircase leading to another building. Am I still in Tehran?

Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
Courtyard

Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
Courtyard

Mohsen Moghadam was the son of a mayor during Naser al-Din Shah Qajar’s time, and this was his house. After studying painting in Switzerland, he returned to Iran to study history and archaeology before setting off to travel again. Along with his French wife, they turned their home into a museum with objects and textiles that they collected.


Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
The stone bases of the arches are similar to Chehel Sotun in Esfahan

Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
The bathhouse

Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
A window faces the garden and pool area

Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
This side looks like something you'd find in Morocco

We make our way around, starting in the courtyard, the hamâm (bathhouse), museum, garden, pool, “hobbit castle”, and shell room. I love the arches which seem more suited for Morocco than Iran. I especially appreciate the details around the light switches. What a great idea! 


Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
Details of the light switches

Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
I like the idea of framing light switches

But the greatest part is the tiles. Moghadam Museum is brimming with tiles and mosaics, each one more beautiful than the next, with a different face or pattern bulging out. I find it so inspiring that I’m determined to one day decorate my own home the same way (I don’t know where I’ll get the tiles from, but I have time to figure that out).

Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
Tiles of the bathhouse

Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
Bench in the courtyard

Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
I love the fact that an attempt was made to draw in the rest of this tile

Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
Tiles depicting a Qajar family

Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
Tiles embedded in the walls

Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
Khorshid Khanum (Miss Sunshine) detail on the fireplace

Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
To drink or not to drink?

Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
Shell room

Florian and I take a seat on the staircase in the shade to catch up with each other about work and our latest adventures, all the while trying to prolong our tranquil little escape into this hidden gem and delay our reentry into the hubbub of the lovable beast that is Tehran.

I’m enjoying the atmosphere (and company) so much that I forget how hot it is or that I desperately need a drink of water. I'm simply basking in contentment and wondering how it is that more people don't visit or know about this museum. Much like Qeshm being overshadowed by Shiraz and Esfahan, Moghadam Museum is dwarfed by the likes of Golestan Palace and Sa'ad Abad Complex. But I figure that's what makes this tucked-away treasure all the more special-the fact that it's somewhat secluded from the masses.


Moghadam Musem | Tehran | Iran
Thanks to Florian for capturing a photo of me that I like :) 

It’s too bad the cafe is closed because it would be the perfect spot for a cool drink, I think to myself. But I’ll be back. Spring would be a nice time…when the trees are full of blossoms and temperatures are milder and more pleasant. 

Yes. I’ll come back in the spring. 

 Pontia

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A hidden gem in Tehran | Moghadam Museum | Tehran | Iran

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