I had always thought that the regime of the Shah of Persia was exemplary in its liberality in contrast to the Islamic Republic under the rule of Ayatollah Khomeini that followed from late 1979 onwards, obtained by an Islamic revolution.
Until now - after seeing the documentary Decadence and Downfall: The Shah of Iran's Ultimate Party (2016). In the film the Shah responds - as part of a charm offensive - to allegations by journalists who were apparently allowed to openly criticise him and question his intends. I was surprised by his evasive answers and words of contempt and oppression, which are backed up throughout the documentary by the testimonies of those who were imprisoned and tortured simply because - for instance - they read books that are questionably unwelcome to the Shas' regime.
The prelude to his downfall was in any case the ludicrous 2500-year celebration of the founding of the ancient Achaemenid Empire by Cyrus the Great, with some 60 world leaders flown in from afar and for which an insane guesthouse complex was set up in the middle of the burning sun of the red-hot and bone-dry desert, while at least half of the population lived in poverty. Here, exquisite wine, caviar and lobster splashed from the walls. The intent of the celebration was to highlight Iran's ancient civilisation and history as well as to showcase its contemporary advances under the Shah. It took place in the remote desert when the Shah and the Shahbanu paid homage to Cyrus the Great at his mausoleum at Persepolis. This all was to be considered a declaration of war against the clergy. The rest is history.
One of the most peculiar sensations was the fact that in the run-up to the festivities in October 1971, cargo planes flew back and forth every day with gigantic ice cubes in their holds, which were placed in the out and open desert, not meant to cool down all the 1,000 people working on this megalomaniac project, but primarily to cool down the wines.
PS I took like 50 screenshots but decided just to go for the most bizarre one.