The 2,500th celebration of the Persian Empire founded by Cyrus the Great
The Tent City (also Golden City) was planned by the Parisian interior design firm Maison Jansen on 160 acres (0.65 km2) that took its inspiration from the meeting between Francis I of France and Henry VIII of England at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. Fifty ‘tents’ (actually prefabricated luxury apartments with traditional Persian tent-cloth surrounds) were arranged in a star pattern around a central fountain, and vast numbers of trees were planted around them in the desert, recreating something of how the ancient Persepolis would have looked.
The large Tent of Honor was designed for the reception of the dignitaries. The Banqueting Hall was the largest structure and measured 68 by 24 meters. The tent site was surrounded by gardens of trees and other plants flown in from France and adjacent to the ruins of Persepolis. Catering services were provided by Maxim’s de Paris, which closed its restaurant in Paris for almost two weeks in order to provide for the glittering celebrations. Legendary hotelier Max Blouet came out of retirement to supervise the banquet. Lanvin designed the uniforms of the Imperial Household. 250 red Mercedes-Benz limousines were used to chauffeur guests from the airport and back. Dinnerware was created by Limoges and linen by Porthault.
The festivities were opened on 12 October 1971 when the Shah and the Shahbanu paid homage to Cyrus the Great at his mausoleum at Pasargadae. For the next two days, the Shah and his wife greeted arriving guests, often directly at the Shiraz airport. On 14 October, a grand gala dinner took place in the Banqueting Hall in celebration of the birthday of the Shahbanu. Sixty members of royal families and heads of state were assembled at the single large serpentine table in the Banqueting Hall. The official toast was raised with a Dom Perignon Rosé 1959.
Six hundred guests dined over five and a half hours thus making for the longest and most lavish official banquet in modern history as recorded in successive editions of the Guinness Book of World Records. A son et lumière show, the Polytope of Persepolis designed by Iannis Xenakis and accompanied by the specially-commissioned electronic music piece Persepolis concluded the evening. The next day saw a parade of armies of different Iranian empires covering two and half millennia by 1,724 men of the Iranian armed forces, all in period costumes. In the evening a less formal “traditional Persian party” was held in the Banqueting Hall as the concluding event at Persepolis.
The event brought together the rulers of two of the oldest extant monarchies, the Shah and Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. By the end of the decade, both monarchies had ceased to exist. Orson Welles said of the event: “This was no party of the year, it was the celebration of 25 centuries!”