Shiraz and Persepolis

Persepolis is a popular excursion from Shiraz which I undertook with two other guests from the hotel I stayed at. We had hired a taxi with a driver who doubled as a guide.

Persepolis is a complex of palaces built by the Achaemenids from the 6th century BC onward. The largest palace of Persepolis is the Apadana, built by Darius the Great and finished by his son Xerxes the Great. We walked through the audience hall where delegations from subjugated nations brought their gifts to the King of Kings. On the eastern stairway there are three registers with reliefs that depict 23 such delegations. Our guide explained.

From left to right there were Medes followed by Elamites, bringing a lion with two cubs. The overseer was not amused.
Jesus, what is that? Get it out of here! That’s dangerous….
A
nd Arians who had taken a camel. Next up were  Arachosians, who nobody knew where they were from..
You are from…?? Arachosia?  We actually conquered you?
Next came Egyptians (the panel is badly damaged here) and Bactrians who had brought, how satisfactory, a two humped camel, and..
And you are…?
We are Assagartians…
I beg your pardon?
We are Assagartians, we come from Assagartia, it’s not far from Arachosia.
You are from where? And it’s not far from where?

Assargatians got that a lot.
Then there were Assyrians, because they were always there, and Pointed-hat Scythians, a funny looking lot, who had brought horses and trousers, which were a new apparel handy for horse riding, which they happened to like a lot.
Next were Gandarians of the Kabul valley bringing a humped bull.
Just through that door,  if you like. to the left, yes,…. beware of the lion…
Then Amorgian Scythians nobody had ever heard of, and Lydians of Croessus fame.
Greeks who brought wool.
In case the King of Kings wanted knitting.
Which he didn’t.
Cappadocians from Turkey who came with hot air balloons and Parthians who had come with yet more camels and Indians who had brought bags of gold dust.
As you do..
Furthermore European Scythians, looking amused, and Arabs of Jordan, and Palestines, who had all brought more husbandry for the Great King.
Then there were the Zarangians, who came from Mars, followed by Lybians with an antelope and Ethiopians with a giraffe. Some sources speak of an okapi, which must have baffled the Ethiopians, had they known it…

Nobody had brought any donkeys.

Persepolis was destroyed by Alexander the Great and his army looted the remains and according to Plutarch: Carried away its treasure on 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels…. Nowadays, to see what they have left of it, one has to pay a 200.000 rial entrance fee.

Not far from Persepolis are the rock graves of the Achaemenid kings. There are four of them, almost identical and characteristically cruciform (photo right).

The photo to the left is a building that is known as Ka’ba-ye Zartosht, which translates as the ‘cube of Zoroaster’, though it’s no longer generally believed to be a Zoroastrian temple. Its function remains a mystery, though it looks like it could hold a giraffe.

On the rooftop terrace of my hostel, cuddling with a book in the warm sunshine:

A cappuccino please… and do you have a toilet here?
You want with sugar?
Yes… eh.. but you don’t have a toilet?
No sugar?
Yes, I want sugar.
You want sugar?
Yes. And do you have a toilet?
You want a toilet?
Yes
Sorry, no toilet.
You don’t have a toilet?
Where you from?

Musing over a brochure of Shiraz, I read about the Delgosha Garden that I might visit: Some researchers attribute the history of the garden to the past time…. The scribe that had assembled the brochure was nibbling on his pen, that sounded good, researchers attributed it to the past time….. Then the museum which was rubbish …and on the second floor (of the museum) more than 100 different types of old radios are on display….
Lots of different types of radios that’s….. that’s good. Yes.

Instead, I visited the Nasir al-Mulk mosque, popularly known as the Pink Mosque. On sunny mornings the stained windows orchestrate a whirling display of colours.

On the internet I had read an article of the Huffington Post that described the mosque as “a riotous wonderland of color that is absolutely breathtaking”. But I found out that this was to be taken as typical American aggrandisement: It was nice but not breathtaking, even though their photography is obviously much better than mine.
I was intrigued by the sign “Don’t roll up the carpets please”. It suggested that  some tourists were caught in the act of rolling up the carpets.
What are you doing?
Ve are rolling up ze carpets…
Could you please stop that!
Ve vere only trying to help….

Later, I walked through the Bazaar e-Vakil, under its domed ceilings, where I rubbed shoulders with turbaned Baluchis who were dressed in shalwaar khamiz. I drank tea and ate kebab with rubbery bread, which could have been used as placemats, and which was served with raw onion. I tried the dizi, a stew of mutton, chick peas and beans, that is served in a mortar with a pestle. Like all food in Iran it comes with bread. It’s customary to decant the fluid in a bowl and eat it as a soup with the bread. The remainder is then mashed and eaten with more bread.

After a prolonged stay in Shiraz, I took a bus to Isfahan. When we came close to Isfahan, it started to rain and not much later the desert was soaking wet. I was surprised at how big the city was: it took an hour in slow moving traffic around the expressways that surround Isfahan to reach the bus station. In my memory it was just a provincial town. How deceiving memories can be…. but then, after all, Isfahan is half the world as they say.

The river was dry and the famous tea houses under the bridge were gone…

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