Iran Day 3: Shiraz & Yadz (3 Mar 11) – The Ancient Wonder of Persepolis, Necropolis and Pasargardae

Persepolis – The Richest Palace Under the Sun

Today marks the start of our Iranian road trip and certainly the first of 3 climaxes of the trip. Our first stop is some 70 km away from Shiraz and we will end up in the next town at the end of the day for a well deserved rest. Persepolis, the greatest treasure of the ancient Persian Empire was built at around 515 BC! When we arrived at Persepolis, we saw a large group of students on their field trip here as well. As we walked past them, we attracted alot of attention as though as we are some sort of celebrities. The students are thrilled to see us and we had alot of “Hellos” and “Welcome to Iran” thrown our way. The guide books are right, the Iranians are a bunch of welcoming people!

We arrived at the entrance of Persepolis, from here I can already feel the majestic of this palace, the 2 stairways leading up to the palace were designed in such a way that the host will always arrive first to welcome their guests despite setting off at the same time. Such ingenuity that was heavily embedded into the design and construction was seen throughout this palace. We ascended the stairs and what I saw at the top of the stairs was this vast land mass that once housed the greatest creation of the Persian Empire. The massiveness of Persepolis could be on par with the Forbidden City in Beijing. However it is now reduced to ruins by Alexandra The Great during one of the wars. The first gate that caught my sight was the Gate of all nations, as it is here that all people, regardless of where you come from, has to pass through to access into the palace grounds. At this gate, I can see 2 huge horse like statues. According to our guide, these statues has the head of human, which symbolises wisdom, and the body of bull, which symbolises strength. On these entrance, I can see it was heavily vandalised since 1800! It is a good thing that they had glassed up the lower portion of this gate to prevent more vandalism.

Passing this gate, there were some pillars on leading to the next gateway. These pillars are at least 20 metres tall, and seemed to be used to support some shelter back in 500 BC. The next gate is similar to the first gate we see. However the key difference is the statue being carved into the walls of these 2 gates. The too have the human head and the bull body, but they also have extra wings, which symbolises the Persian Power. Passing these gates are 2 Homas on display at a distance. Homas are the Persian version of a Gryphon, a Eagle head, lion body creature. These are the only Homas I see throughout the Persepolis. We came across this statue (actually alot of them throughout Persepolis) that has a horse head and bull body. Our guide told us that this is actually a statue of a bull, though the head resembles a horse. There is a gate that showcased how this carvings was being done on the gates. Pass this area was more ruins, practically the whole area was in ruins, every wall, every pillar. Some walls are better preserved with carvings of the kings and the soldiers clearly seen on the wall, while others are not so well preserved.

Driving out of Shiraz
Some Mountains we saw at outskirt Shiraz
Walking towards Persepolis
Gate of All Nations
Gate of All Nations, which served as the main entrance into Persepolis
Carvings on Gate of All Nations Up Close
So much detail that went into the carvings
The pillars that support the ceiling serving as the corridor into the main hall from  Gate of All Nations
Ruins of Persepolis
Some of the carvings that survived the millenniums
Some of the carvings that survived the millenniums
Homas from far
Close up shot of the Homas
Some of the better preserved carvings
Ruins of Persepolis
Ruins of Persepolis
Ruins of Persepolis
Ruins of Persepolis
Ruins of Persepolis
Ruins of Persepolis
Ruins of Persepolis
Ruins of Persepolis
Ruins of Persepolis
Ruins of Persepolis
This area of the Palace has been totally destroyed by its conquerers
This is believed to the queen’s bedroom, where the fire that destroyed the whole of Persepolis was started by Alexandra
Ruins of Persepolis

We were then lead to this shed that shelters some of the better preserved carvings. It is common to see carvings of lion attacking bull, which symoblises a day of spring, with the bull representing earth and the lion representing the sun. The carvings here seem to represent how mighty the Persian Empires was at its peak, with convoys from all neighbouring nations coming to offer their well wishes to the Persian Kings. As our guide was explaining the stories behind the carvings, an Iranian lady seemed to be very interested and requested permission from our guide to joined us in listening to his explanations. Of course our guide was generous to share the information with her.

Although this place is reduced to ruins, the massiveness and the grandeur can see be evident till this day throughout Persepolis. We were given time to explore the rest of the ruins. Our guide told us to get a good panoramic view of the whole site, it is best we scale up one of the 2 tombs nearby the ruins. And we did that, the walk up isn’t tedious or far, it is just 5 mins away from the base of Persepolis. On the way we saw this well, which is supposedly to be very old. We took a peek into the well, all I can see was pitch darkness and nothing else. We continued towards the tomb. Now the catacomb of the tomb was carved into the hills. At the entrance of the catacomb was carvings of the greatness of the king being buried inside. The catacomb was facing Persepolis, from here we did get a panoramic view of the palace. The grandeur of Persepolis can truly be appreciated here. On our way down, we met this group of 5 Iranian girls. They are as welcoming as any other Iranians we met, we started to chat abit asking them which cities they came from and stuff. We continued walking around Persepolis taking picture of this great wonder. We met up with our guide at the entrance of Persepolis and headed to our next destination.

Ruins of Persepolis
Carvings that depict the life when Persepolis was at its Hay day
Ruins of Persepolis
Carvings that depict the life when Persepolis was at its Hay day
Carvings that depict the life when Persepolis was at its Hay day
Ruins at Persepolis
Carvings that depict the life when Persepolis was at its Hay day
Carvings that depict the annual tribute the nearby nations paid to the Persian King
Carvings that depict the annual tribute the nearby nations paid to the Persian King
Carvings that depict the annual tribute the nearby nations paid to the Persian King
Zoroastrian Carving on Persepolis 
Ruins of Persepolis
The Tombs on the backyard of Persepolis
Ruins of Persepolis
Ruins of Persepolis
Me at Persepolis
The Royal Tomb overlooking Persepolis
The Royal Tomb overlooking Persepolis
The Royal Tomb overlooking Persepolis
View of Persepolis from the Royal Tomb
The Royal Tomb overlooking Persepolis
Me at Persepolis
View of Persepolis from the Royal Tomb
Ruins of Persepolis
Ruins of Persepolis
Ruins of Persepolis
Ruins of Persepolis
Ruins of Persepolis
Ruins of Persepolis
Ruins of Persepolis
The stairways that leads to the entrance of Persepolis

Nashq-e Rostam – The Final Resting Grounds of The Persian Royal Families

The Nashq-e Rostam, or Necropolis as it is loosely called is a place where the kings (and their families) are being buried. There are 4 catacombs being carved into the mountains. The entrance of these catacombs are at least 10m high. It is amazing how they actually transport the caskets of the royalties into the catacomb itself. Our guide mentioned that the entrance used to be higher, due to erosion from the mountains, the entrance is now closer to the ground that we are standing on. On the entrance of each catacomb, carvings are evident. There is one big one that caught my attention, which seem to depict someone surrendering to the king. This seemed to be carved to remind people the greatness of the kings being buried there. There are also carvings of battle scenes on the walls of these mountains. On one corner was a solitary cubic structure, which was believed to be a Achaemenid fire temple. But we were told that there was many argument about the purpose of this structure. Nowadays no one knows for sure what it was used for.

Arriving at Nashq-e-Rostam 
Walking towards Nashq-e-Rostam
Nashq-e-Rostam close up
Coffins of the kings were hoisted into the tomb above
Close up of the entrance of the tomb
Carvings at Nashq-e-Rostam
Carvings at the Nashq-e-Rostam
Full view of one of the tombs at Nashq-e-Rostam
Carvings at the Nashq-e-Rostam
Carvings at the Nashq-e-Rostam
Nashq-e-Rostam close up
Carvings at the Nashq-e-Rostam
Nashq-e-Rostam
Nashq-e-Rostam
Nashq-e-Rostam
Nashq-e-Rostam
Me at Nashq-e-Rostam
The fire temple
Close up of the carvings at Nashq-e-Rostam
Close up of the carvings at Nashq-e-Rostam

Pasargadae – Tomb of The First Emperor of Persia, Cyrus the Great 

We departed Nashq-e Rostam for Pasargadae, the burial ground for Cyrus the great. The drive towards Pasargadae was scenic as I see mountains and mountains rise and fall before our eyes. As we arrived at Pasargadae, what I saw was a single mausoleum structure standing in the middle of nowhere. Our guide explained that this is the burial grounds of Cyrus the great. His wife and himself were believed to be buried, not inside the building, but within the roof structure of the mausoleum. Our guide went on to explain the grounds where this mausoleum stands is where one of the great battles that was supposed to take place. As Cyrus was suppose to fight his grandfather’s army here, his enemies actually deflected to his side as they did not agree to the cause of their battle. Thus the battle never took place. From the mausoleum, I can see a building, which was made known to be the palace of Cyrus. This modest-sized building looked more like a farm house then a palace. It seemed to suggest how modest Cyrus lived in those days. No wonder he was well-liked by his people as a ruler. We were then driven to see the next 2 structures. The first one we saw was this wall structure. Our guide mentioned that the purpose of this structure and the exact age is unknown. Next structure we saw was this huge platform, constructed on an elevated ground. This used to be the watch tower back in those days. The drive did not take too long before we were heading towards the desert city of  Yazd, where we would spend the night.

Pasargardae – Tomb of Cyrus the Great
This is where the battle of Cyrus against his grandfather supposed to take place
Pasargardae
This building is so ancient that no one knows the purpose of this building
Watch tower at the elevated ground

Driving to Yazd

Along the way, we stopped by this town, where we were shown an ice house. As this area is mostly desert, people keep ice and snow during winter in the underground chamber of this building for use during summer. We were then driven to the next town to see the oldest tree in Iran. This Cypress Tree is about 4500 years old. At first sight, I have no idea how old this tree is until the guide told us so. 4500 years later, the tree is still standing tall and lushful. As we journey into Yazd, the might of Zagros Mountains was better appreciated when driving compared to flying. At ground zero, driving through these snow-capped mountains, it made me feel humans are really insignificant. One sneeze from these mammoth mountains, we will be buried underneath the stones and snows. We arrived at Yazd some 2 hours later. The hotel that we checked into is indeed a gem in the deserts. It is located in the old part of Yazd, where the alleys were constructed to resemble some sort of mazes. If not for our guide I am sure to get lost in here. Now back to our hotel, from the outside it really looked very ordinary and run down. However the inside is a surprise, this is the nicest hotel we stayed throughout the whole of our trip in Iran. The rooms are very cozy and large and the staff are simply wonderful and friendly. After checking in and leaving our luggage, we headed out for dinner. As my guide knew I wanted to try camel meat, he brought us through the mazed alleys to this restaurant that serves camel meat. The texture of camel meat tasted like lamb, except it does not have the lamb smell. 

Driving towards Yadz
Driving towards Yadz
The Ice House, used to store ice in winter so that the locals will have water to last through summer
The 4500 years old Cypress Tree
Driving pass the Zagros Mountain
Driving pass the Zagros Mountain
Driving pass the Zagros Mountain
Driving pass the Zagros Mountain
Driving pass the Zagros Mountain
Driving pass the Zagros Mountain
Arrival at Yadz
Arrival at Yadz
The lobby of the hotel we put up
Camel Stew for dinner

The Maze Alleys of Old Yazd

We headed back to the hotel to rest for the night, on the way back, our guide brought us to this shop, where the shopkeeper was kind enough to show us Old Yazd from the roof top. I had read on Lonely Planet that when in Yazd, we should get onto the roof of these building and see the old town from a different perspective. The view up here is indeed different, it felt like part of the set of “Prince of Persia”, certainly felt as if I can jump from roof top to roof top. As wind towers are a characteristics of buildings in Yazd, from the roof I can see loads of wind towers on each of the buildings. I can almost see the whole of Old Yazd from up here as well. After taking some pictures, the shopkeeper said he has something to show us. Little did I expect he was actually trying to sell us Persian Carpets, felt abit cheated though. Nonetheless we had a more detailed lesson on how to differentiate the different types of Persian Rugs and why some rugs cost more then the others. Though we did not buy anything from him, the shopkeeper still kept his smile. We headed back to the hotel after leaving the shop to rest for the night, walking through the Old Yazd is really amazing, as some parts are so narrow that only 2 person can walk side by side. At times there were cars coming and we had to dodge for these cars. The walk is truly amazing.

Part of Old Yadz
Traditional Yadz housing
Through the alley of Old Yadz, most of the buildings have wind towers as a feature to cool the house in summer
Mazing through Old Yadz
View of Old Yadz from the roof of one of the buildings
We can see the mosque afar from the roof
Mosque view from the roof
View of Old Yadz from the roof
View of Old Yadz from the roof
View of Old Yadz from the roof 
The quiet maze of Old Yadz
Building in Old Yadz
Quiet but safe street of Old Yadz. The only danger is getting lost in these mazes
Street of Old Yadz
Street of Old Yadz
Street of Old Yadz

 

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