After the Iranian Revolution in 1979 — when the country’s last shah was ousted and Islamic religious leaders took control of the government — a large number of Iranians emigrated to the U.S., specifically to the LA area.
But what many Angelenos don’t realize is that Iranians were in LA long before that. Starting as early as the 1940s, Iranians had been sending their children to study here, which helps explain the close relationship between Iranian expats and UCLA/Westwood, particularly the neighborhood known as Tehrangeles, where Attari Sandwich Shop serves authentic Iranian food.
Tehrangeles is one location featured in a new driving tour — put on by the Los Angeles Conservancy — that explores the past and present influence of Iranian culture in LA.
Sarah Lann, director of Education for the Los Angeles Conservancy, highlights the tour’s other stops:
The San Fernando Valley (Reseda, Woodland Hills, and Encino) - Cabaret Tehran touts itself as being the first venue outside of Iran to promote Iranian music and singers.
Glendale - Abril Books serves Iranian Armenians and has existed since the 1970s.
Downtown LA’s Jewelry District - Jewels by Jane is a female-owned establishment that's existed since the late 1980s.
West LA’s Pico-Robertson - Elat Market is kosher, massive, offers great deals, and has been operating since the late 1980s.
Lann points out that Iran is diverse, and the communities on the tour feature Muslims, Jews, Bahais, Armenians, Assyrians, Zoroastrians, Kurds…. “And there's more than that, all of whom identify with that particular identity as well as the larger one of Iranian.”
The tour also features audio commentaries and a playlist of Persian pop songs, curated by Arash Saedinia.
“LA served as this incubator in many ways for pop Persian artists. … The pop music industry was dismantled in Iran. It was banned for folks to produce music or perform. And post-revolution, many of those artists migrated to LA. And LA … became this primary destination for Persian pop music makers. Because of that, we just have this rich, rich background in being the city that helped create the pop Persian market as it is today.”