Located on massive grounds in amongst beautifully manicured parkland, as well as American and Israeli made tanks and weapons stands the impressive Holy Defense Museum. Just the surrounds are enough for any military buff, with displays of rockets, aeroplanes and all sorts of other military equipment.
The full name of this grand attraction is the National Museum of the Islamic Revolution and Holy Defense (موزه ملی انقلاب اسلامی و دفاع مقدس, Muze-ye Melli-e enghelab-e eslami ve defa'-e moghadas).
Starting with criticism of the Shah and the previous Iranian regime, the museum shows the Islamic Revolution followed by the main focus which is the Iran-Iraq war which lasted from 1980 until 1988.
Several of the rooms dedicated to the fallen soldiers are surreal with flashing coloured lights, displays glorifying their ascent into heaven. Each section of the museum, of which there are seven in total, has been dedicated to a specific facet of the Iran-Iraq war through video clips and other medias to portray the long-lasting impacts of the war and some cruel and bitter realities of it. In the entrance, the “Hall of Butterflies” is located to welcome visitors by displaying the personal belonging of the victims of the war found on different battlefields.
There is an entire section where the town of Khoramshahr has been recreated, complete with bombed out buildings and destroyed businesses, individuals’ belongings left as those who survived fled the city. Khoramshahr being the location of one of the most destructive and vicious battles of the war.
There are sections which are interactive, including a freezer room and a sauna which are meant to replicate the conditions experienced by those who fought in the extreme conditions of the deserts of Iran and Iraq. There is even a mine field you can run across with each step creating a fake explosion.
There are of course short films during the experience and even a whole section just dedicated to the Ayatollah’s life, although strangely this section is not in English, nor does it have an English language guide.
To many, this museum is a disgusting exercise in propaganda, designed to praise and venerate the Islamic Republic, and on the flipside show the evil of the West, primarily the United States and Israel (they even have Stars of David on all of the rubbish bins). However, we think this is an integral part of any visit to Iran. For better or worse the Islamic Revolution, the War with Iraq and its relationship with Western countries has created the Iran that exists today.
Like any war museum anywhere in the world, the Holy Defense Museum in Tehran tells the story from the side of the country whose museum it is. To understand Iran and where they come from is to understand their history from their perspective, even if you disagree with it.
If you plan on seeing the whole thing, you’ll need to allocate at least 3 hours, as this place is huge. Even over 3 hours you won’t be able to read every display, and you actually could at spend much longer there if you wanted to. Utilising state of the art audio-visual equipment, and unique storytelling techniques, the Holy Defense Museum is a must see for anyone who is visiting Tehran.
Entrance Fee: 1,000,000 Rials (roughly US$3)
If you'd like to visit this epic museum with us, have a look at all our tours to Iran .