The Ramsar Hotel – where it all began

1 December, 2009

Filed under: Everything else — Tags: — admin @ 1:46 am

The town of Ramsar (called Sakhtsar in ancient times) sits at the western end of Iran’s Mazandaran province, along the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. In this town, in 1971, a meeting was held. Several important minds toiled for some time, and what emerged was the Ramsar Convention, a multi-lateral global environmental treaty on wetlands and their wise use. All may still not be well with the world’s wetlands, but that is not my story. This story is about the hotel where they met in 1971, the Ramsar Hotel.

old tree-lined avenue from hotel to caspian

old ramsar hotel

old and new ramsar hotels

leather sofa - old ramsar

The Ramsar hotel was apparently built by Germans sometime in the 2nd half of the 19th century, when they had a presence in the lower Caspian. It was the main hotel for a century, until Shah Pahlavi II built a second hotel adjacent to it. Up to the revolution, the old hotel served as a casino.

interior - old ramsar hotel

rear facade

Walking around the hotel, which still accommodates guests, is like a walk back in time, with its thick dark carpets under your feet, foot-wide, leather-wrapped cushioned handrails, leather sofas and armchairs cracked with age, ornate wall and ceiling furnishings, and lush gardens with statues and lion figurines. One can almost feel the presence of the old ones, walking the patios and having teas on the terrace. It is a fine feeling.

back terrace

The town of Ramsar, including the old Ramsar hotel, the Shah Pahlavi I’s palace and the city gardens, have been submitted in Aug 2007 to UNESCO for listing as a world heritage site. It has not been accepted to date.

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