Friday, 27 November 2009
Iran: I said I'd be back
We left Sharjah at 5pm for the flight to Shiraz in Iran which takes a bit over an hour. The first thing we saw in Shiraz airport was a sign depicting a pair of non-sex specific cartoon characters hugging with a big “banned” symbol across it. Our driver/guide, Abbas, met us once we cleared customs and took us to our hotel. The trip took about 40 minutes and it quickly became apparent why Iran has the highest rate of road deaths in the world, in 2006 nearly 28,000!
Today we visited Pasargardae the ruins of a city started by Cyrus the Great in 546BC. The main sight to see is the tomb of Cyrus himself, a relatively stark stone mausoleum on 6 raised stone steps, the tomb was once surrounded by gardens but these are long gone.
From Pasargardae we went on to the rock tombs at Naqsh-e Rostum. There are 4 tombs (Darius I and II, Xerxes and Artaxerxes) cut out of the cliff way above the ground, each tomb has impressive stone reliefs engraved below it. As the kings at that time were Zoroastrian, their bodies were initially put on Towers of Silence to be picked clean by birds of prey, after that the bones were moved into the rock tombs. Opposite the tombs is a small building called the Kaba Zartosht, its purpose is still being debated, maybe it was a fire temple or a treasury.
Next stop was Persepolis. The complex at Persepolis covers 12 hectares and at its peak contained 14 separate palaces. Its built on a huge stone platform at the foot of what's known as Mt Mercy. Construction started in about 518BC under the direction of Darius I. Visitors enter up the majestic Grand Staircase. Despite there being 111 steps it seems an easy climb as the height of the steps is less than their width. Its thought the stairs were designed this way so that 4 footed animals could be brought up the stairs to be presented to the king and also so important visitors could glide up the stairs in their flowing long gowns (that's blokes I'm talking about here) without the risk of tripping over.
At the top of the stairs is the Gate of All Lands, two huge stone blocks with bull shaped statues. The bulls have wings and human heads. All visitors passed through this gate before entering the palace complex. There's a lot of graffiti on the stone bases of the statues including that of Stanley of the NY Herald-Tribune, who later became famous for saying: “Dr Livingstone I presume.” Inside the complex the Apadana audience hall is the largest of all the buildings. The building was constructed in around 515BC and continued in use for nearly 200 years. All the walls in the complex were covered with bas relief figures, many showing the numerous nations that made up the Persian empire at that time. Persepolis was destroyed by Alexander the Great's troops one December night in 330BC. Unfortunately it poured with rain the whole time we were there, but rain is a novelty after Dubai, so it didn't detract from the magnificence of the ruins.
I took lots of photos and I'll upload them to Smugmug when I get back to Dubai.