My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.

"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Iran: A Persian Odyssey - Persepolis and Naqsh-e Rostam

three  of the four tombs at Naqsh-e Rostam

detail from panel at Naqsh-e Rostam
From Pasargadae we make our way to the Naqsh-e Rostam tombs near Persepolis - four dramatic Achaemenid Empire (550-330BCE) tombs carved high into the rock face above us (the name was given by locals - Naqsh means picture and Rostam was a legendary Persian warrior). The tombs are probably those of Darius II (died 405 BCE), Artaxerxes I (died 424 BCE), Darius the Great (died 484 BCE) and lastly, on the far right, Xerxes I (d. 465 BCE) or Xerxes II (d. 423 BCE). Below the tombs are 7 beautifully carved stone panels from the Sassanid period - (224 - 658 CE). These all need time - panels and tombs alike - to really study and interpret their full magnitude. It is altogether an incredible place, and one not to be missed on any tour. A pair of binoculars was a definite asset here to more fully appreciate the detail high above us.
12.6m high Zoroaster's shrine at Naqsh-e Rostam
its function a mystery

After an excellent buffet lunch at the Laneh-e Tavoos garden restaurant nearby, we are soon off to Persepolis, probably the most important ancient site in Iran for all those interested in the history of the Persian Empire. Founded by Darius the Great around 515 BCE, the Achaemenid Kings received their subjects and generally ran their empire from here. Then Alexander the Great came and burnt it all to the ground. The ruins are still exceptional.     

Of course by the time we arrived after all that we had already seen today it was early afternoon - our visit lasted from 2.30 until 5.30 - some say early morning is best for the light, but we benefited from less crowding and a lovely red colour to the ruins as the sun went down.

detail at Persepolis
We were only allowed to take the tiniest bags into the site, such as money and camera, and were advised to leave everything else in the coach, or bags must otherwise be left with security at the entrance.

part of the famous eastern Apadana staircase at Persepolis
this side  shows envoys from 23 subject nations bringing gifts

There is a good souvenir shop but I had left my money on the bus! And purchases have to be made on leaving the site, not before. So the shop actually missed out on our Rials which we are all itching to spend!

And the toilets at the entrance were pretty grim - even the local ladies and children thought so.
While most of the group went straight to the café on the site at the end of the trip, six of us climbed up to view at close hand one of the royal tombs high above the ruins. Not only was this interesting, but a fabulous panoramic view of the site was our reward. There are four royal tombs up here, two of which we can easily access, those of Artaxerxes II (d. 358 BCE) and Artaxerxes III (d. 338 BCE).  

panorama of Persepolis from royal tombs above
The drinks at the café nestling below us were very expensive when we clambered down to it, although it was a very pleasant place to sit and relax at the end of a hot day. The toilets at this end of the site were even grimmer than those in the car park at the entrance! But don't let that put any one off visiting such an incredible site.

As we leave many of the Iranian families were parking up at the side of the road and disappearing into the adjoining woods to picnic, lighting fires, spreading blankets out and no doubt cooking kebabs - a firm picnic favourite here. As I have said before, this is an Iranian passion. They will picnic just about anywhere, and in many places there are special shaded picnic shelters for the purpose. And they take all their litter away with them, leaving the place as clean as they found it.
an eagle griffin or Homa - auspicious bird - adopted
as symbol of Iranian National airline. 
It has been a very long day, but what a rewarding one! Tomorrow we are off on the long drive to Yazd for the famous Zoroastrian Towers of Silence, but first we will visit the Tomb of the Poet Saadi in its beautiful gardens and will be treated to some soulful singing from our guide...
For much further on information on Persepolis see:

heading home from Persepolis at day's end

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