1971 was an extremely politically sensitive time for Iran. The Royal Family was keen to show the world that the new era was a renaissance of Iranian Civilization, which could go toe to toe with other major players around the world.
2,500-year celebration of the Persian Empire
As the 2, 500 Anniversary of the Persian Empire approached, the Shah decided to mark the occasion in the best way he knew by throwing what he said would be, “the biggest party on Earth.”
True to his word, the Shah began sending invitations to foreign dignitaries such as Kings, Viceroys, Princes and Prime Ministers.
In the lap of luxury
The Shah was determined that his planned party would live up to its hype: ‘he hired French architects, interior designers and Couturiers 50 tent-like suites for Royal Visitors next to the ruins of the ancient city of Persepolis.
The tents were, in fact, prefabricated luxury apartments encased in traditional Persian tent-cloth. Each one had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, an office and a lavishly furnished salon that could accommodate up to 12 people. They even had a direct telephone and telex connections to the attendees’ home countries.
The suites were arranged along five avenues arranged outwards from a central fountain in a star shape. The main tent measuring 68m X 24m was to be the banquet hall. Particular attention was paid to make sure that this was a true slice of paradise: trees and decorative plants were planted along the avenues. 50,000 songbirds were then brought in from Europe and released into this newly made forest. The area around Persepolis itself was cleared of snakes and vermin to ensure visitor safety.
The Shah made access easy by having an airfield built next to his original tent-city, as well as laying a 1,000 km motorway between Tehran and Persepolis. Guests were chauffeured to and from the airport in no less than 250 red Mercedes-Benz limousines.
Attention was paid to every last detail: the serpentine 70m table reserved for guests of the honor was covered by a tablecloth, hand-
embroidered by 125 women over six months.
A banquet fit for a Shah
With accommodation sorted, the Iranian Government focused on preparing huge amounts of high-quality food for its prestigious guests. First, they built an enormous kitchen, equipped with 150 tons of the very best culinary equipment, all of which were imported in Paris.
The kitchen utensils weren’t the only import from the City of Lights: The Iranian Government also invited the owner of Maxim’s restaurant in Paris to oversee the catering.
At the time, it was considered to be the finest place to eat in the entire world.
Maxim’s professional chefs certainly lived up to their reputation, producing over 18 tons of food. The menu itself was prepared and printed on a specially rare and valuable Parchment, offering lavishly prepared beef, pork, fowl & game-based dishes.
Maxim’s also served a meticulously selected list of beverages including champagne, cognac, white & red wine. One of France’s most famous wine tasters sampled each one of the hundreds of bottles to ensure that only the finest quality drinks found their way to the tables.
The chosen red wine was a 1945 vintage Château Lafite Rothschild, one of the most superb in the world. The Cognac was an even finer vintage, dating back to 1860. An entire truck-load of ice was needed for cooling the drinks.
On the day of the party, six hundred guests dined for over five and a half hours, making the celebration the longest and most lavish official banquet in modern history. In case there’s any doubt, this has been recorded in successive prints of The Guinness Book of World Records.
The most A-List party in history
The event included a huge military parade, showing Iranian soldiers wearing different uniforms representing various historic eras of the Persian Army.
The A-list guests included the rulers of 2 of the 3 oldest extant monarchies in the world at the Time: the Shah and Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. By the end of the Seventies, both monarchies would no longer exist.
Queen Elizabeth II was advised not to attend for security reasons, so she was instead represented by the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Anne. Emperor Showa of Japan was also represented by his youngest brother, Prince Mikasa.
The only thing more majestic than the Royal visitors themselves was their clothing and accessories the Shahbanu (Shah’s Wife) for instance wore a 10-pound containing emeralds the size of golf balls. Her diamonds were only slightly smaller.
Eyes of the World
The Shah made sure that the celebration was broadcast worldwide via an on-satellite Connection, which at the time would have been incredibly expensive. The famous American actor Orson Welles narrated the English-language broadcast.
The event attracted so much attention in the global press, particularly given the sheer level of luxury and opulence that some historians believe it contributed to the Iranian Revolution. In years to come, the Persian monarchy was replaced by the Islamic Republic under Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Be that as it may, the “biggest party on Earth” remains an astonishing oriental tale of one of the most extravagant events in the history of the world.
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