5 Cities That Changed Unrecognizably In Only A Few Decades
The ways cities change over the ages never cease to amaze people. We love to think about the times our home megalopolises were nothing but tiny little specks of civilization, back when everyone knew each other's names and wore monocles, and dinosaurs flew biplanes. But we also think that these cities stay basically the same, simply slowly swapping wood for stone, gaslight for electricity, and quite tall buildings for really tall buildings. It takes ages for a city to truly change. But that's not necessarily true. There are cities that, due to war, societal upheaval, or other extraordinary circumstances, completely transformed in the span of a few seasons of The Bachelor. For example ...
Pre-Revolution Tehran Was One Of The Hippest Cities In The World
Since the late 1970s, the popular perception of life in Iran is that of fatwa-issuing ayatollahs, rabid flag-burning crowds chanting "Death to America," and women getting harangued for having the audacity to let too much hair poke out from underneath their headscarves.
But before the Iranian Revolution, the capital city of Tehran had the opposite reputation of religious extremism: being cool as hell. For decades, Iran was at the cutting edge of culture and civic progress. In '50s Iran, you could visit the kind of rock and jazz clubs that could easily be in Hamburg. This was when the Beatles were still calling themselves the Quarrymen.
Back when "rocking out" couldn't be confused with "death by stoning."
But the greatest symbol of how progressive Iran was had to be its very chill attitude concerning women. During the '60s and '70s, downtown Tehran was as into big hair, short dresses, and freedom of expression as any secular Western country. Just take a look at their amazing fashion magazines:
Yes, during the time of free love and disco, the women of Tehran didn't have any "morality laws" to keep them down. The new generation of Iranian gals could do anything they set their minds to -- from studying at the country's actively pro-women universities to competing in one of the country's many beauty pageants ...
... to becoming actors, writers, and bona fide pop stars ...
Those are two album covers of vaguely Cher-like Iranian pop sensation Googoosh. She was reportedly a favorite of the Shah, and was set to conquer the world with her happy music. But after returning from a trip to Los Angeles, she found herself in the midst of the revolution, which banned her music, banned her from performing on stage, and finally banned Googoosh herself, as she went into exile in Egypt.
Not that Googoosh or her many artist friends had any desire to stay. She also returned to a land where the new regime tried its hardest to scale back women's education, going so far as to make several academic fields "men only." And while crushed velvet and turtleneck sweater dresses aren't to everyone's taste, it's a helluva lot more chic than the current Iranian "fashion," whereby adding a little bit of white to the all-black outfit is considered a heroic act of symbolic protest.
Mogadishu Was Once A Hopping Vacation Town
In popular culture, Somalia is mostly known for warlords and pirates of the non-swashbuckling variety. But the capital city, Mogadishu, was once one of the jewels of the Horn of Africa. Thanks to a few decades of nonstop coups, assassinations, and civil war, the city has lost its once-sterling reputation as a lovely seaside tourist destination with pristine beaches and a vibrant nightlife. Now, a good night out means successfully crossing the street without getting shot.
Over the past two decades, there hasn't been so much as a long weekend during which Mogadishu wasn't involved in some sort of militaristic pissing match. That last image is of the beautiful Jazeera Palace Hotel, which al-Shabaab terrorists blew to smithereens with a car bomb in 2015 in an effort to murder foreign journalists. Occurrences like these are how Mogadishu has earned the reputation of being "one of the world's most dangerous cities," something that doesn't sound too great on a tourism billboard.
Even Detroit finds this a bit excessive.
Yet despite all this, there's talk of Mogadishu making a comeback. Beaches are being reclaimed, a "peace garden" has been built, and there are even reports of the former financial district becoming a "beehive of commercial activity" once again. And it doesn't take too long for a town to go from ruins to prosperity, as evidenced by ...
Sarajevo Is Proof That Cities Can Recover From War, And Quickly
Just to show we're not completely beholden to a company policy of relentless gloom and doom, we're glad to tell the story of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the flashpoint for a depressingly destructive war in the '90s. But despite losing over 11,000 souls and having their city methodically leveled during years of needless carnage, Sarajevans refused to wallow in the rubble for even a second. So they pulled themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps, shook off the literal dust, and got to work.
The last time you may have seen images of the place, there were probably featuring plenty of bombed-out structures. But we're glad to say that these photos are now embarrassingly out of date. In a matter of years, Sarajevo rebuilt to the point where you could forget the city was ever a war zone.
Unlike most other places, which would prefer to start fresh and erect new buildings, Sarajevo decided that it liked things exactly how they were before being bombed to hell. So when the shelling finally stopped, people repaired their bombed-out buildings right where they stood. Reportedly, a full 80 percent of all damaged structures have been brought back to life, which as one reporter noted, shows "raw evidence of the hardiness of the human spirit." Refusing to pay for a new city because the old one will be fine after they fix it? Sarajevo isn't merely tough; it's dad-with-his-own-tool-shed tough.
It Only Took A Few Decades For Dubai To Become A Futuristic Wonderland
Whenever Dubai shows up on our radar, it's usually because of some kind of over-the-top architectural marvel or ostentatious display (of the gold-plated sports car with cheetahs in the passenger seat variety) of some obnoxiously wealthy sheikh. But Dubai wasn't always a land of donut-shaped skyscrapers, seven-star hotels, and huge man-made islands in the shape of palm trees. Only a few decades ago, it got as much tourism as Paris, Georgia. If you want to know how much of a difference a dream, some hard work, and a ton of slave labor can achieve, take a look at before and after photos of the Dubai Airport, or the downtown area, or the transformation of its beachfront (and actual beach).
What got the ball rolling on Dubai's metropolis was, unsurprisingly, oil. However, the folks in charge realized early on that their petroleum-based windfall wasn't going to last forever. So in order to find a permanent source of income, they invested heavily in a short time to make Dubai the premier tourist Mecca in the Middle East -- besides, you know, the actual Mecca. Too bad the place is such an architectural affront to nature itself that Neptune is trying to drag it down into the sea.
Shanghai Expanded So Fast That It Changed The Climate
It's hard to imagine a place like Paris or Chicago ever not having clean water, safe roads, and a Starbucks every 0.8 miles. But the truth is that it takes a city centuries or more for all those amenities and comforts to be built. Except for Shanghai, which became a modern city so fast that it made Mother Nature's head spin.
As China's most important port and industrial center, Shanghai had to keep up as the country became an economic giant over but a few decades, and the results are jarring. According to NASA, over the last 40 years, Shanghai has doubled in population, jumping from 12 million to 24 million. Because of this rapid increase in both people and infrastructure, the city limits grew from 119 square miles to over 500, making aerial shots of Shanghai over the years look like the aftermath of a giant concrete mill explosion.
But this incredible expansion hasn't been all sunshine -- or rather, it has, and that's the problem. As everything green gave way to concrete gray, the result was an "urban heat island effect," wherein switching cool nature with a bunch of heat-absorbing surfaces like asphalt and concrete causes an area's average temperature to shoot up by several degrees. It's not exactly what we traditionally think of as climate change, but you try explaining the difference in a place where cooking shrimp on manhole covers is considered the new normal.
And it's only going to get worse. Its city center is already considered #1 in runaway bigliness, and some predict that Shanghai will bloat itself into becoming the third-largest city in the world by 2030. The Chinese are understandably proud of what they've accomplished in a short amount of time, and good for them. And if continuing that hot streak means raising the temperature to the point where Shanghai becomes a citywide crock pot slowly cooking a few dozen million people to perfection? Well, that's the price of progress.
Crock Pots are best used on chicken, not people.
Support Cracked's journalism with a visit to our Contribution Page. Please and thank you.
Are you following us on Facebook yet?