In 1971, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran, the ‘king of kings’, and Empress Farah celebrated 2,500 years of the Persian monarchy by throwing the greatest party in history at Persepolis, the ancient capital of the Persian Empire.
Featuring interviews by members of the Iranian government and Imperial Court in the 1970s, the BBC documentary “Decadence and Downfall: The Shah of Iran’s Ultimate Party” charts the progress of planning the lavish celebrations throughout the political turmoil in Iran in the 1970s. Money was no object – a lavish tent city, using 37km of silk, was erected in a specially created oasis. The world’s top restaurant at the time, Maxim’s, closed its doors for two weeks to cater the event, a five-course banquet served to over sixty of the world’s kings, queens and presidents, and washed down with some of the rarest wines known to man. Over a decadent five-day period, guests were treated to a pageant of thousands of soldiers dressed in ancient Persian costume, a ‘son et lumiere’ at the foot of Darius the Great’s temple, and the opening of the Azadi Tower in Tehran, designed to honour the Shah himself. Every party leaves a few hangovers. This one left a country reeling, never to recover. It crystallized the opposition, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini. More than any other event, this party marked the break between the king of kings and the people of Iran he reigned over, leading to his exile just a few years later and the downfall of the monarchy.
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