It’s arguable that in 1971 the Shah of Iran himself ignited the revolution that overthrew his regime eight years later. In a week-long series of ostentatious, garish festivities, the Shah celebrated the 2,500th year of the Foundation of the Imperial State of Iran, an event no one thought relevant except himself. He commissioned the building of a city of luxurious plastic tents to house the dozens of princes and heads of state whom he charmed, bribed, or cajoled to join him. A crew of chefs from Maxim’s of Paris prepared the lavish meals; the ingredients and wine arrived by plane also from Paris several times a day.
Everything was tenuous, fake, or pathetic. The staff was overworked and couldn’t keep up with the rigors of the fickle and convoluted Imperial protocol. The soldiers who enacted scenes to demonstrate the glory of their ancient ancestors looked absurd in their shiny costumes and fake beards. The singing birds, brought in to enchant the VIP’s housed in the aforementioned plastic tents, died from the heat. The Shah had commissioned a film to document the festivities. Evidence of this momentous debacle is viewable on YouTube, fittingly narrated by the aging and almost impoverished Orson Welles. After watching the footage of his grand party, the Shah turned to his subordinates and asked,“But where are the Iranian people?”
Purchase MQR 57:6 or consider a one-year subscription to read more. Khaled Mattawa’s Note From the Editor appears in the Spring 2019 Issue of MQR on Iran.