A walk down Si-e Tir street will break your religious stereotypes about what we call the Islamic Republic of Iran these days: a synagogue, a mosque, 2 Christian churches and a Zoroastrian fire temple sit together on this cobblestone street. Also, the National Museum of Iran and the Museum of Glassware and Ceramics are located here.
In Farsi, Si-e Tir means the 30th of the Tir (which is the 4th month of the Iranian calendar). It is named after the day in 1952 on which Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the last King of Iran, reinstated Mohammad Mossadeq as the country’s prime minister, after people poured into the streets for days with cries of “Give me death, or give me Mossadegh”. It’s that quintessential Iranian passion.
Although you could argue the religious coexistence on this street in the heart of Tehran is not exactly representative of the political situation at large, it does represent something. What exactly is a matter of opinion; luckily Si-e Tir also holds one of Tehran’s most illustrious cafes, where you can chew the fat with locals.
Walking Si-e Tir
If you walk up north from the National Museum, where the Si-e Tir street starts, until its official end at Jomhuri street, you will get disappointed – there’s absolutely no sign of any church or synagogue! Don’t give up, here’s the way.
Coming from the National Museum, walk up Si-e Tir for around 800m; you will see the garden of the St. Peter Evangelical Church on your right.
Keep walking up, and you will soon find Simi Alley on your left. The Chaim Synagogue, which hosted Polish Jewish refugees during the Second World War, is 20 m down this alley. The Synagogue is usually closed for visit during the day. But neighbours told us it sometimes opens in the evening, and also on Saturdays. Try your luck!
Getting back to Si-e Tir heading north, you’ll see the Glassware and Ceramic Museum (the Abgineh Museum) on your right. A little further up is the Hazrat Ebrahim Mosque in the Rostami Jahed Alley.
Eating Si-e Tir
While you are here, there is one place on the left you don’t want to miss out on: Gol Rezaieh Cafe, established over 80 years ago as one the oldest cafe-restaurants in the city. It has a longstanding reputation as a hub of intellectual discussion and is still very popular among locals. Expect to wait a while if you are coming for lunch. And remember they close at 15:00.
After its nostalgic facade, entering Gol Rezaieh is like being transported into a parallel universe, where the city’s history somehow lives on. Prices are higher than what you are used to paying in Tehran, but the food is worth the money. Their khoreshts are excellent. These stew dishes require a lot of time to prepare, and Iranians generally look down on restaurants’ commercial, quick-quick khoreshts. But this cafe has the best we’ve tried in Tehran. And there’s barely any tourists there.
The crossing with Jomhuri street marks the end of Si-e Tir. Just keep walking straight; as you enter Mirza Kouchak Khan Street, you will see the Adorian Zoroastrian Fire Temple on your left. It’s behind closed doors. But you can knock.
The flame was brought from the fire temple in Yazd, but unlike the famous fire temple in Yazd, this one is not touristy at all. Smell the peaceful aroma of burning wood and take a moment to yourself in this crowded city.
Across from the fire temple is the St. Mary Armenian Church, the first to be constructed by Iranian Armenians in the capital in 1945.
If you come here during lunch or dinner time, you’ll see people queuing in front of a small food place right next to the church: the Reza Loghme. They prepare a kind of snack made of kubideh kebab, fresh herbs and lavash nan. Definitely gives you a fresh view on fast food in Iran. You might want to order 3 loghme at once, because you don’t want to queue up again for another half hour. :-)