“They believe she’s from here because she grew up with their culture,” Cyrus Amuzegar, information minister in Shapour Bakhtiar‘s transitional government and a longtime resident of Paris himself, said of Farah Diba. She and the late Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi first met at a reception held by the Iranian ambassador to France in the late 1950s, when she was a student at Paris’s École d’Architecture. In 1963, Queen—later Shahbanu (Empress)—Farah was awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest decoration.
She used her considerable influence to promote the arts and culture to establish a series of museums and institutions that live on today in different guises. The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, the Reza Abbassi Museum, the Carpet Museum, the Glass Museum, the Shiraz Art Festival, and the Tehran Festival of Films are among a long list of such accomplishments. Many of Iran’s most influential filmmakers—Abbas Kiaroastami, Amir Naderi, and Bahram Beyzai, among them—got their start making movies and programs for the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children & Young Adults that she helped create.