We apologize for the silence on our blog over the last week. Our travels across Iran, while rich and deeply fulfilling, have teamed up with slow and censored internet, a blistering pace of full days that end late, and an attempt to process it all that feels like a slow drip.
A table of women in Kermanshah invite Dan to share their qalyan (water pipe).
Now that we’ve dispensed with the excuses, we offer a few snapshots of our journey to not-so-traveled Western Iran where our path through the country begins.
Our road trip took us from Tehran west then south though ancient, pre-Islamic civilizations — the Elamite Ziggurat of Tchogha Zabnil (1250 BC), Tomb of Esther (yes, the Esther from the bible), remains of the Achaemenian dynasty at Susa (Shush) (6th century BC), reliefs of Achaemenian King Darius the Great at Bisotun (6th century BC), and the Sassanid Empire sites of Bishapur city and Taq-e Bostan rock reliefs (3rd-7th century AD).
Use caution the next time you use the word “old.”
Along the way, we soaked up present culture. We met Iranian people, we poked around markets, we collected more warm greetings and invitations than we knew what to do with. We even dropped in on a roadside kebab stand frequented by packs of jovial Kurdish truckers making their way from Iraqi Kurdistan.
Although this segment of the trip doesn’t feature any of the dazzling bits of Persian design and architecture that we’ll be serving up in later posts, it provided the historical and cultural base from which to begin to comprehend early Persian history and the surprising ethnic diversity of the Iranian people.
A typical Iranian street scene in Hamadan, including chadors, biege bricks, Islamic street mural and traffic.
Dan gets a friendly 3-buck cut on our first night out in Hamadan.
Persian visual geometry at work inside Baba Taher tomb.
Friendly Iranian tea drinker in the Hamadan bazaar.
Tomb of Esther (yes, the Jewish queen from the bible) in Hamadan. There are about 15 Jewish people still living in the neighborhood.
Fava beans with vinegar and spices in the mountains outside Hamadan. Thankful for something other than meat!
In and Around Kermanshah
Taq-e Bostan Reliefs outside Kermanshah, dating from Sassanid Empire (4th century A.D.).
Mountain views from Kermanshah to Ahvaz.
Kebab master at roadside stand in the mountains south of Kermanshah.
Pomegranate vendor at a small town bazaar. He gave us a bag of them as a gift.
In and Around Ahvaz
Tchogha Zabnil Ziggurat, one of Iran’s many UNESCO sites dates from the Elamite period (1250 B.C.). Was originally five stories tall, but only three stories remain.
Friendly fish vendor of Ahvaz. Kept finding fish in the market, but never in restaurants!
Ancient bull stone sculpture at the winter capital of Achaemenid Empire, dating back to 6th century B.C. (Notice the lotus flower decoration.)
An Iranian kebab press? Who knew a machine was behind all those perfectly-formed ground lamb kebabs?
Bishapur rock reliefs depicting Shapur I (Sassanian king) and his victory over the Romans in 3rd century AD.
Next up: The crown jewel of the Achaemenid Empire — Persepolis — and the dazzling Persian art and architecture of Shiraz.
Disclosure: Our trip to Iran is in cooperation with G Adventures as Wanderers in Residence. We paid our own transport to and from Iran, some expenses on the ground and for an additional one week private tour. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own.
We traveled to Iran with the G Adventures Discover Persia Tour. If you plan to book this or another tour with G Adventures, please consider starting the process by clicking on the ad below. The price stays the same to you and we earn a small commission that helps us to continue sharing stories like this. Thank you!