Elizabeth Taylor: Princess of Persia

updated 03/07/2011 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/07/2011 AT 01:00 AM EST

Grande Dame

Iranian-born Zahedi met Taylor via his cousin Ardeshir Zahedi, then the Iranian ambassador to the U.S. and the actress' beau. Firooz served as Taylor's guide during their two-week trip, which took place three years before Iran's Islamic revolution overthrew the ruling shah. After a visit to a bazaar, Taylor-then 44-donned this tribal outfit along with the Taj Mahal diamond (on her forehead) given to her by Richard Burton, from whom she had split for the second time.

Old-World Beauty

"She was at peace," Zahedi says of Taylor (in the city of Shiraz). The star, who is recovering from recent heart problems, "is my guardian angel. You see her warmth in these photos."

The Eyes Have It

"Those eyes are just so amazing," Zahedi, 61, says of Taylor, who donned a traditional robe, or chador, outside a mosque. "She was having fun because nobody recognized her. She could breathe free." Zahedi's photos of the trip are currently on exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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