Princess Soraya Esfandiary of Iran by

Soraya Esfandiary (1932 - 2001)

Soraya Esfandiary Bakhtiary (1932 - 2001)
Queen of Iran
Princess of Iran

ثریا اسفندیاری بختیاری

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Cremerie de Paris a long history .... Internet cafe Era

Soraya as a childSoraya and her brother as children
Soraya Esfandiari Bakthiari was Iranian through her father
and German through her mother.
1932: June 22, Soraya was born in Isfahan, Iran.
Her childhoon was between Isfahan and Berlin.
1947 Soraya was later sent to a Swiss boarding school in Montreux.

Soraya, the Queen of Iran

Soraya et le Shah lors de leur marriageCouronne de l'imperatrice Soraya faite par Boucheron
During the 1950s and the 1960s Soraya was on all the magazine covers
Her legendary beauty had conquered Mohamed Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran.
The Shad had discoverd her on a snapshot photo
and felt in love instantly.
She was only 18 years old studying English in London.
Shortly later they met and he gave her a legendary 22,37 carat engagement ring
... 1952: February 12, Soraya became the Queen of Iran.

Their marriage took place at the Marble Palace in Tehran
over 3.000 people were invited,
among them Aga Khan III, his beautiful wife Begum Om Haibeh / Yvonne Labrousse
and the legandary Brazilian Aimée de Heeren.

Queen Soraya et Queen Elisabeth
State visit of Queen Soraya at Buckingham Palace.
The picture taken 1955, February 19 also shows the young Queen Elizabeth
and her young children Prince Charles and princess Anne.
The Video is about a March 1955 state visit to Germany
showing Soray in the at the time "provisional capital" Bonn and also in Hamburg.

Queen Soraya had know all the world leaders of the 1950s
and they must have been impressed by her sensational beauty.
Concerning Queen Elisabeth, Soraya later described her
during her internet lessons as very friendly but like having an invisible wall around her.

Portrait de Soraya, reine d'Iran
Soraya and the Shah were a very happy couple.
It was Love from the very first moment.
They had everything they wanted, exept ...

Soraya could not give birth to children
and the Shah needed an heir to transmit his throne.
Maybe today medicine might have been able to help, but not at that time.
The Shah tired all kind of solutions.
Persuading the Iranian council of wise men to accept one of his half brothers
as an heir to the throne.
He also proposed to take a second wife,
but Soraya could not accept this idea, incompatible with her European education.

1958: February 13, Soraya saw Iran for the last time.
For "state reasons" she discreately left the country taking a plane to Zurich
from where she went on to St Moritz.
The Shah called every day trying to convince her to return ... but without success.
The divorce became official 1958 March 14.

Soraya was only 26 years old.
Turning the page was difficult ...

Soraya's life after Iran

The Iranian Crown jewels stayed in Iran,
but Soraya was allowed to keep all the jewels the Shah had given her
as well as a monthly allowance of $4.200 per month,
as long as she was not remarried.
At her divorce press converence Soraya
told the reporters "I shall always love him"

Soraya tries to think about something else
going from one spot to another,
from one Hotel to another.
It was the time Grace Kelly arrived in Monaco,
giving birth to children without difficulties.

Palace Hotel St MoritzSoraya and Johannes Thurn und Taxis at the Palace Hotel St Moritz
1958, Christmas Princess Soraya returned to St Moritz
where she spend the New Years eve
with Johannes von Thurn & Taxis at the Palace Hotel.

Princess Soraya, Johannes Thurn und Taxis
1960, Reception at the Hotel Plaza in New York

She is was lost and poorly prepared for new life ...
Her mother and her friend Johannes try to help as they could.

The composer Françoise Mallet Joris
wrote a song "Je veux pleurer comme Soraya"
to describe the sadness of the Princess.

Soraya tried to find a new sens to her life by trying to become an actress.

From now on she lives between Cologne, Munich, Marbella and Rome.

1976: Soraya moves to Paris where she lives at the Hotel Plaza Athenée.
A little later the Shah buys her a flat on 46 avenue Montaigne, near the Plaza.
The Plaza barman Luigi Colombetti still has a lot of souvenirs.
Unfortunately he just retired ...
(Mr Colombetti please contact us we already left a message
at the bar of the Plaza
but we do not know if you got it)

Le Palais des Solitudes

buy the Book
Le Palais des Solitudes
by Princess Soraya

1991: Soraya published her mémoires "Le Palais des Solitudes".
In the book she describes her solitude and her sadness.

Internet lessons at the Cremerie de Paris
(ex Cybercafe de Paris)

1960s Princess Soraya lived in Munich for a while
in a small villa Opitzstrasse 6,
off Pienzenaustrasse in the district of Bogenhausen.
At night she used to walk her dog.
Sometimes she run into Maria von Boch - Brügmann (1899-1980)
a much older Lady of extreme beauty and elegance
that also had dogs an lived nearby on Pienzenauerstrasse 88.

The Ladies used to chat about their dogs and sometimes they were
also running into each other in the Lobby of Munich's Grand Hotel,
the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten.

Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten
1970s The other Lady with the dogs
was a cousin of the great grandparents of the editor of this article.
His sister and himsef were sometimes invited to the lobby
of the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten
to have an ice cream with their wonderful great aunt.

Maria loved children and she enjoyed to tell them all kind of amazing stories,
some were about a fairy tale Princess,
that had once been the Queen of Iran
and that had been to the same Hotel Lobby
sitting there all alone.

1986 The editor of this article mets Princess Soraya
for the first time at a party in Bavaria. But he did not realise
that it was Soraya, there were just too many people at the party.

1992 The editor of this article mets Princess Soraya
for the second time. It was probably at the end of the month of Mai
at a cocktail party given in Paris, avenue Monceau by André Dunstetter
a hi profile French business consutant.

It was his house warming party, there were socialites
but also a lot of young people, students, fashion models, actors.
Some people had come from Los Angeles,
Ken Campbell and Trip Wilmot were already talking about
something completely unknown in Paris, Internet.

There she was, the legendary Princess Soraya.
She was sitting in a corner looking at him with were beautiful eyes.
Unfortunately the editor was just to shy to talk to her
... even though most of the times she was alone.
It's a pain when you are a little shy ...

Princess Soraya, Aimée de Heeren, Ben Solms octobre 2000
2000 October the editor of this artice was invited
to another reception in Paris
a birthday given by Jeanne Marie de la Rochefoucault.
For a moment the editor was standing next to Soraya.
Again he was a little shy but this time he had to talk to her.
Someway a conversation started.

At the time he was running the Cybercafe de Paris
the first internet cafe in Paris located from 1995 to 2005
in the historic Cremerie de Paris N°1

It was the birthtime of the Internet.
Soraya had heared about it in the media
but she did not really know what Internet was.
Also she felt too old for learning how to use a computer.

But there was something that simplified the contact,
both Princess Soraya and the editor of this article spoke German.

The editor spontaneously proposed to Soraya
an internet lesson at the cybercafe ...
Soraya looked at him
as he was inviting her to a "walk on the moon" ....

But Massimo Gargia, a friend of her who wasn't familiar with internet either
thought that such a lesson was a good idea:
"You should go there Soraya, this will be fun and it will change your ideas".

Cybercafe de ParisCybercafe de ParisCybercafe de ParisInternet lessons Cybercafe de Paris
3 weeks later a secretary calls the Cybercafe
to find out if the Princess could still come for a lesson
... the next day,
a red Rollce Royce arrives at 15 rue des Halles
(the car was not really matching the environment of the cafe. -:)

The first lesson took place.
Soraya was not really talented for using a computer
but she was very charming.
Not only charming, very funny as well
with a great spirit and a lot of irony.

La Cremerie de Paris, le coin ou Soraya prenait ses cours d'internetSwiss Cheese Lab

The Cremerie de Paris (Sorayas old internetcafe) has become an Expo Center and Pop Up Store location ...

And when leaving Soraya asked
"Can I come back another time ?".

... we agreed on the next thursday afternoon
but with the Rolls Royce parked a little further down the street.

Louis XIV as a childCoco Chanel
At the Cybercafe (Cremerie de Paris)
Soraya was always sitting at the same spot
next to the window with a view into the magnificant courtyard
of our Hotel de Villeroy,
a spot Louis XIV already knew when he was still a child,
350 years earlier.
playing there in 1646 with his young friend Francois de Villeroy
son of the owner of the house, Nicolas V de Villeroy.
Coco Chanel had also been there 80 and again 40 years
before the the times of the internet lessons
in the 1920s and 1960s.

... but at the time the editor did not realise much
about all the historic things that have happend around the Cremerie.
Well he hardly realised that Princess Soraya was just another one
happening right on the spot

Walking through recent history with a witness

In what concerned the progress of the Internet lessons
Soraya was a bit of a "hopeless" case
... impossible to get her use her new hotmail
email address.

The lessons turned more into connecting to google
either the editor of this article
or Soraya herself were typing on the computer keybord
searching for people
or placed she had known in the past.

The conversations around the Google researches
were absolutely fascinating,
unbeleivable stories of meeting inacessible people
the editor only knew from history books.

One could feel that she was still in love with the Shah.
Mohamed Reza Pahlevi who had already died 20 years
earlier in 1980,
abandonned by all those
that had done everything they could to connect with him
as long as he was still in power over Iran and the world's major oil fileds.

It was touching to see how he was still there in every lesson
regardless the divorce and the Iranian revolution.

Unfortunately when going to "Google Image Search"
one could not find many pictures
neither about herself, nor about the Shah.

Soraya, during the 1950s and the 1960s
the world's most photographed woman
was disappointed to realize that internet had forgotten about her
in an always changing world.

But the editor of the article tried to explain her:
"You know Internet is very new,
it is just coming alive
all you find there are very recent events
Google will take some time,
but soon you will find out more about the past".

If you search for "Princess Soraya Esfandiari" today
Google will present you lots of information
both with "websearch" and with "image search".

Bague de fiancailles de la Princesse Soraya
view into the courtyard of the Hotel de Villeroy from the Cremerie de Paris

Soraya was wearing a big diamond ring,
her engagement ring.

Writing this article the editor realises now,
March 2019,
18 years later,
that the ring he always saw
while Soraya was typing on her computer keyboard
was one of the world's most unbeleivable engagement rings ...

Not only for the 22,37 carats diamand mounted by Harry Winston
which makes it one of the biggest ones.

It was a ring with a tragic Love Story attached to it
Love that lasted through a divorce,
through a revolution
an entire life,
from both sides ...
Cremerie de Paris would be curious to know where the ring is today ?

2002: May 29, It was sadly auctionned off by Beaussant Lefèvre.
Calling up the Beaussant Lefèvre office,
nobody was able to give the name of the new owner,
only the price reached at the time, 1.032.740 euro.

Princesse Soraya was definately one of the very unusual people
that has come to the Cremerie through the long period of time.
A little section in our website called "Fans"
tries to trace back some of them.
Soraya was one of those we had the chance to live in person.

Grand Hotels of the

Grand Hotels of the
Another topic interested Soraya,
the Hotels she has known ....

Princess Soraya had been to many of the most iconic
Grand Hotels of the World,
not as normal hotel guest,
but as a Queen
and as the exceptionally beautiful, young wife
of the one that had control over some of the biggest oil fields,
the Shah of Iran
on an official "state visit" ...

Soraya and Winston ChurchillPrincess Soraya and Konrad AdenauerSoraya and EisenhowerSoraya Jawaharlai Nehru
Listening to her stories was a bit out of this world
Meetings with
the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill,
the German chancelor Konrad Adenauer,
the US President Dwight Eisenhauer,
the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (father of Indira Ghandi) ...

Later she returned to some those Hotels,
no longer under the spotlights
but with her mother, her brother Bijan or a friend.
Towards the end of her life
sometimes alone.

During the lessons her teacher explained her
the "internet domain" phenomenon.
The editor of this article (her teacher)
showed her
how easy it was to register a domain name.

He had already registered some expressions
in a very different field connected to phonenumbers.
The website Phone Book of the
was invented at the Cremerie de Paris.

billet de 500 Francs Françaisbillet de 500 Francs Français
The editor of this article never wanted to get paid for his lessons.
They were so amusing and it was so fascinating to talk to her.
As Soraya insisted she sometimes brought him some photographs as a present.

At the end of one of her last lessons
Soraya suddenly opened her Croco Hermes bag
and pulled out en envelope with a Hotel Plaza Athenée logo on it.

The whole domain registration process started in 1985,
at a time almost nobody knew about the internet
and when Soraya come to her lessons in 2000 / 2001
many, many names were still available.
On another website,, edited from the Cremerie de Paris,
you can find more about the first domains ...

The envelope included a multitude of 500 Francs notes ...
Each of Sorayas bank notes
(152,45 euro ... the biggest bank note that existed in French Francs)
had an "enormous domain shopping power".

Grand Hotels of the

The registration of the
"Grand Hotels of the" domain name
has been financed by a tiny bit of one of her 500 Francs notes.

Most of it went to the acquisition of the domain
"Hotels of the"
already owned by a domain investor

The Symbol "5" in the Grand Hotels of the World Logo
comes from the Cremerie's historic staircase.
It was built in 1640.
Sometimes, while making a break during her internet lessons,
Princess Soraya and her former Internet teacher
(the editor of this article and designer of the above Hotel Logo)
went there to have a coffee break.

The staircase is located 83 m from the spot where was placed
the computer Soraya used at the Cybercafe.
The Video was made 15 years later by the fashion designer Daniel Tohou
at the occasion of a fashion event in our petite Cremerie de Paris.

Grand Hotels of the World
tries to retrace a little bit of the magic
of all thoses places
Soraya had mentionned
a little bit as if she was still there coming to the Cremerie
every thursday afternoon
to tell us some fairy tale hotel legends
that have been forgotten a long time ago.

People that were important to Soraya

During the internet lessons Soraya
was googeling many people that have come accross her life.
Talking to her was fascinating
as if one could make a flashback into a past for which one was still too young.

Of course the most important people for her were the Shah,
her parents and her brother Bijan Esfandiary-Bakhtiari.

Many times the conversations concerned the city of Munich
where Soraya had known quite some people, restaurants, boutiques ...

Princesse Soray et  Johannes von Thurn und TaxisPrincesse Soray et  Johannes von Thurn und TaxisPrincesse Soray et Johannes von Thurn und Taxis at the Palace Hotel St MoritzPrincesse Soray et  Johannes von Thurn und Taxis
Johannes von Thurn und Taxis avait été un très bon ami pour la Princesse Soraya mais il est mort bien trop tôt

She often mentionned Johannes von Thurn und Taxis,
who had been very present for her after her divorce.
She was sad that he had died much too early 1990, December 14.

Once she brought some photographs
of when she had been with him to the Oktoberfest or to different parties
at the Munich Fourseasons, Schloss Mittersill, Regensburg Castle
or the St Moritz Palace Hotel.

In fact he also had kept a little place in his heart for Soraya.

Soraya was grateful to Thurn und Taxis for many clever
investment advice having permitted
to considerabely increase her assets once the Shah was longer there to help.
The most important one was to protect her from the
desatrous and very pushy advisers
around the former Comte de Paris.

Soraya was also thinking
about some much younger people.
People the Princess had met
a long time ago when they were still children
or she only knew from pictures.

There was a guy from Munich, today a business lawyer,
who unfortunately did not even remember he had ever met the Princess.

Ali Reza Pahlavi, le 2eme fils du Shah d'IranRixa von Oldenburg
Among the young people that interested Princess Soraya
Soraya was very interested by everything around Ali Reza Pahlavi,
the younger son of the Shah.
She wanted to know what they were doing ....
but at the time Google was not providing much information about them.

Soraya also admired
Rixa von Oldenburg, a very happening open minded girl,
that organises balls and events.
Authentic royalty descending from both Queen Victoria
and the Russian Romanovs.
The Shahbanou would have loved to see her in a James Bond film,
Rixa was also a frequent client of the Cybercafe de Paris,
she used the cafe to check her email while living in Paris.

Concerning the pretty Claire Saran (unfortunately there is no photo),
Soraya got the news from her mother,
her lifelong friend, Lily Claire Saran.

La Princesse Soraya et Lily Claire SaranLily Claire Saran, Massimo Gargia et Allisson AdoueSoraya et Chahrizad FirouzabadianChahrizad Firouzabadian, la plus fidèle amie et dame de cour de Soraya
Lily Claire Saran et Chahrizad Firouzabadian ... les deux copines qui l'ont accompagnes toute la vie
Besides Lily Claire Saran (also German),
the best and most faithful friend of Soraya
was Chahrizad Firouzabadian (also Iranian).
Unfortunately the editor of this article lost their number,
he should try to find it again
so he would have someone to talk about the wonderful
Princees aux yeux tristes
as she was called.

Loneliness of the Princess

Soraya had been the "Queen" of a country,
not a marionette with a purely representative mission,
the very young wife
of the very powerful Shah of Iran,
in control of some of the world's largest oil fields.

His fall in 1979 still has an impact on today's world.

Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten
After her divorce in 1958 Soraya was often very lonely and isolated.
She had been too young, only 18 years old
when she had become the Queen of Iran.

During her Internet lessons she sometimes explained
that she had not been well prepared for a normal life.
Until 26, age of her divorce,
she did not even know how to pay a restaurant bill
... always surrounded by people arranging everything for her.

Difficult to understand today,
but at the Imperial court of Persia
she was not allowed to pull tea into a tea cup
as this was seen "below the dignity of an Empress",
a Lady in Waiting always beeing there ...

Returning to normal life
after having been in a "Golden Cage" was extremely difficult.

After her divorce Soraya lived in Marienburg south of Cologne
Parkstr 8 / corner Marienburger Strasse.
The house which still exists is located
2 minutes waking distance from the river Rhine
and 4 minutes from the Marienburg, the Villa of the Gerling family.

This difficulty to adapt one could still feel during the Internet lessons.

In the early 1960s
one could find her in the Lobby
of the Four Seasons Hotel in Munich.
She was there looking at the Four Seasons coupola
daydreaming about Iran.

Hotel Plaza Athenée
In the 1990s
when she was getting older
in the Lobby of the Plaza Athenée in Paris.

2013 the editor of this article met someone a little younger
who had once noticed Soraya sitting there in the Plaza Athenée
all alone
except the company of her white terrier "Dundi" ....
"If I imagine I might have been able to talk to her ..."

Yes he could have,
all he would have needed to say is something like,
Madame, your dog is so cute
do you mind if I sit next to you for a few  minutes ??

... and if he would not have been pushy
a fascinating conversation might have started.
She would have loved it ...

But today so many young people
have this increadible barrier in their head,
they have hundreds of unknown facebook friends
the moment they have the opportunity to meet someone exceptional
only a little bit older,
impossible to communicate.
Now it is too late ...

2001: October 11, Soraya died much too early.
She was only 69 years old.

Remembering Princess Soraya

Cremerie de Paris really regrets her ...
Soraya had such a very crazy ad funny caracter,
so amusing and so increadibly charming

If she would still be alive,
the moment this article is written she would be 81 years old,
we would have tried to share with her
some of the "joy of life"
the former Internet Cafe is surrounded by today.

Today the former Cybercafe was transformed
into a Pop Up Store and film location.
At the time we did not realise all the history that had happened on the spot,
well Princess Soraya was one of them.

All this history attracts fascinating AD Agencies that come from all around the world
to set up pop up expos for washing powder, dating websites, motorcycles,
sports clothing, haute couture or designer fashion
... even cheese products.
It changes all the time, one expo followed by the next one.

Her former internet teacher has the chance to work
with some very amusing people
that have in common with Soraya
their originality and their sense of humor.

A woman helping with today's Pop Up Stores:
"Oh how very much I regret I could never meet this wonderfull Princess
yes Soraya would be so much fun,
we would sing Guten Morgen Sonnenschein
(right now her favorite kitch song by Nana Mouskouri)
and we would laugh all the time ....

No Soraya would have no more time to feel lonely
you would have to ask her
to come as much as she possibly could
who else could tell us
all these spectecular stories
and forgotten secrets of the
Grand Hotels of the World ???

You would have asked her to write little short stories
about her visits to all the Grand Hotels she has known ...

Hotel Adlon BerlinHotel Excelsior RomeHotel Savoy LondonHotel Atlantic Hamburg
Brenners Park Hotel, Baden BadenPalace Hotel St MoritzKulm Hotel St MoritzHotel Carlton, St Moritz
Hotel Vier JahreszeitenSchloss MittersillHotel du Cap AntibesHotel Cartlon Cannes
Grand Hotel du CapHotel de Paris, MonacoHotel Vier Jahreszeiten, HamburgCopacabana Palace, Rio
Hotel Meurice, Paris
Hotel Le Bristol, ParisHotel Ritz, ParisHotel Plaza Athenee, Paris
above Hotels that came up in the conversations around Sorayas internet lessons ...

What remains from the Princess
are her generous 500 French Francs notes,
in the meantime
converted into iconic hotel culture domain names,

unforgettable, wonderful souvenirs

and her incountable fairy tale legends
that need to be reconstructed,
one by one,
so that they are in some way
documented in the
Grand Hotels of the

This was one of her recommandations:
"whenever I go to a restaurant
I always give a generous tip the moment I arrive,
I want to be sure the waiter knows I will honor him
and I am sure he will take good care of me,
never when I leave
then it is too late".

The editor of this aticle has learned from her:
"whenever YOU meet someone much older
don't be too shy,
just talk to him
because sometimes older people have fascinating stories to tell
... much more than what you even imagine.

And if you don't,
one day it's too late"