Pasargadae, Naqsh-e Rostam and Persepolis

On Tuesday morning Kevin, who we met the night before, was waiting for us in the hotel lobby. He was upset because apparently we were late. He took us to a museum and a bazar. We chatted along the way. He asked if he could meet us the next day.

In the afternoon we took a taxi to visit the most famous historical sites in Iran. They date from the Achemenid period (550-330 BC). Pasargadae was King Cyrus the Great's royal residence and gardens which began to be built in 546 BC. Cyrus' mausoleum is also there.

On the way we saw more textbook fold mountains.

The great big tomb of Iran's greatest king, Cyrus the Great!

The remains of Cyrus' garden; the very first Persian garden! This is the remains of a fountain just like the fountains we saw in Esfahan and spreads out from the centre towards the four directions north, south, east and west forming a cross-shape. No water in it unfortunately, now its all just semi-desert but this was once lush palace gardens.

Cyrus' tomb in the desert heat.

The remains of King Cyrus' palace where he lived. King Cyrus is Irans favourite historic king. He invented human rights so they say. He released the Jews from exile in Babylon and helped them rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. He is generally considered to have been a just and kindly ruler of a great and wealthy Persian empire.

Up the road at Naqsh-e Rostam is a series of Achaemenid royal rock tombs and elaborate Sassanian rock-relief carvings cut out of a high cliff. The tombs are those of Kings Darius I, Darius II, Xerxes I and Artaxerxes I . The tombs are high up in the cliff and are Achaemenid. The younger Sassanian rock-relief carvings are lower down beneath the tombs.

The tombs are cruciform. The openings in the centre of each one lead to the funerary chambers where the bones of the dead kings were placed after vultures had picked off the flesh. The Achamenid state religion was Zoroastrianism. One of their beliefs was that the Earth is sacred and should not be polluted by corpses. Therefore, the corpses of the dead were taken to a special tower and placed above the ground on a kind of rack where only vultures could pick the bones clean. Then the bones were placed in a hole. However, the bones of the kings were placed in tombs.

A carving above one of the tombs. See the Fravohar, symbol of the Zoroastrian faith.

A Sassanian rock-relief carving of King Ardashir I, founder of the Sassanian dynasty. He was crowned Shahenshah (King of Kings) of Iran in Ctesiphon (now Basra, Iraq) in 224 AD. On one horse is Ardashir and on the other Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), God of the Zoroastrian Faith.

View of Naqsh-e Rostam.

Then we went to our final and most spectacular destination of the day, Persepolis. The remains of the breathtaking great reception hall of the Persian empire built by King Darius around 518 BC.

Walking up to the entry gate.

The view from the gate looking south along the royal road. Every year kings, nobles and leaders from all the lands of the known world came to pay tribute to the great king. They would proceed up this great road and up the grand steps bearing gifts.

Entering through the Gate of All Lands, guarded by strange majestic guardian bulls; part bull, part eagle and part bearded wise man.

Profile of the heavenly guardian bulls.

Ruth with some ancient Persians. All over the ruins are beautiful rock-relief carvings of life-size figures representing the kings and noble visitors from all the tribes, nations and peoples who came to pay tribute to the King of Kings on his throne here at Persepolis. These 1500 year-old carvings are really well preserved.

Look at them holding hands and stuff. Different peoples and tribes are identified by their distinctive clothing, hats etc.

Some Assyrians with round hats bringing two rams as a gift.

Some pointed-hat wearing Scythians (from the area of modern southern Russia and Kazakhstan) bringing armlets, whatever they are.

Lydians, from western Turkey, bringing amphora, bowls and armlets.

Winged guardian bull with the head of a bearded wise-man.

A Fravohar symbol hovering above King Darius on his throne.

An original Achaemenid Fravohar symbol. Zoroastrian symbol representing the eternal and free nature of the soul and the virtues of wisdom through good thoughts, good words and good deeds.

Sunset at Persepolis.

We got back to Shiraz about 9:30 and went out to look for some food. While we were walking up the street somebody started bellowing at us in English "Hello my friend. Can I help you? Where are you going? I saw you this morning at the Bazar". Sure enough the same guy had accosted me in a similar way in the morning when Kevin was taking us round the town and I had brushed him off a bit rudely because Iranian hospitality can be very demanding and it gets a bit much sometimes.
His name was Mahmood. We started chatting and he offered to show us a decent place to eat. We went and had a tasty aubergine meal and met his friend.


  1. And to think, I almost made it to Persepolis. But oh no, Eric just had to fit an extra couple of (fairly pointless) hours of fieldwork in, rather than seeing one of the great ancient sites, before we caught our plane back to Tehran. Git!

    Dom x