Persepolis and Passagardae

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January 22nd 2011
Published: February 16th 2011
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shanbe Jan22Sat

Up at the crack of dawn, even earlier, for a 5:00am full-day trip to Persepolis, Naqhsh-e Rostam and Naqhsh-e Rajab, before ending off with Passagardae, which according to LP is a questionable stop for what value there is to see at the site. Let's see!

My driver, Ahmed Miere (a Shirazian with no English), arrives a little late and with only a slight detour to pick up his friend, who is along for the ride, we head off for less than an hour or so before getting to Persepolis.

I am no history enthusiast, nor am I really particularly knowledgeable about Iranian times around 2 million B.C, but I understand that Persepolis, may be possibly the greatest empire of the Achaemenid period, and will be something to behold; this is what I have really come to see in Iran.

Much before the 8:00am opening (totally disappointing to me since I arrived at about 6:00am), I am walking the outside grounds in the hope of getting some shots in the early dawn and with the rising sun. (It is cold, but I persist and the 40D Canon is not working all too well for me; later, I understand that the battery pack is loose and I tighten the connection.)

I return to the car to warm up. Ahmed offers me a sandwich, before I make my way to the ticket wicket -- only 5,000IRR entry fee -- cheap by any standards.

I walk among the ruins and again walk the grounds some more, getting what I hope are adequate shots in the early light; looking for shadows to contrast with the harsh rising sun. While I hope the arches make for some inspiring photos, the sun is now getting higher in the morning sky and it hits everywhere in the ruins casting hard bright light. I walk quickly looking for something really worthwhile to take home with me; however, I do not think I am getting any photo contest winners today; shooting with the 50mm lens is not that easy either.

This site needed advance scouting for shot options and light, hardly possible as a tourist arriving in the morning from Shiraz. This would require another visit and a private car for added flexibility. (The real problem I realize is the 8:00 am opening that prevents getting the really high impact “golden hour” light and shadow opportunities.)

Eventually, I re-walk the site, satisfied with photos of the Grand Stairway, Xerxes Gateway, Apadana Palace and Staircase and the winged lions, and yes surely the arches as well. Still surprisingly, there is not all that much remaining on this vast site to suggest its one time dominance as an empire. I gather Alexander the Great’s 3000 camels, carried away just about everything of any value, or that was not too heavy to pack and load.

All said, I come away happy to have see the ruins and had the early morning start, poor light notwithstanding.

Next to be visited is Naqhsh-e Rostam, Petra-like mountain-hewn tomb carvings, quite impressive. I would never have believed the quality held within these mountain tombs. As for disbelief, the Naqhsh-e Rajab reliefs are just that, and, as LP points out, well worth the stop, as will be seen in the photos.

As for Passagardae, suffice to say that, indeed, it is a disappointment.

Following the tour, we begin the long ride to Isfahan. I didn’t know the distance, so I expect a short drive time. While delayed by the ½ hour stop for chelo o kebab at a roadside diner, it is still some time before we get to Isfahan (“Isfahan, nesf-e jahan” – Isfahan is half the world).

On arrival in Isfahan, somehow we manoeuvre bad roads and traffic. Ahmed blindly drives into the downtown; however, with the help of a hitch-hiker we pick up along the way and without whom I don’t know how much longer we would have been endlessly driving around, we find Pol-e si-o-seh. Ahmed really ought to have learned the route into town. After all is said and done, he is not worth what I paid.

Isfahan downtown is humming. Traffic as common in any tourist town or city and a hoard of people walking the fine, clean, marble-like paving stone walks. This is every retail shopper’s behesht, paradise. Stores vie for business all along the main drag from the bridge to some distance to the north along Chahar Bargh Abassi St.

In the end, we find the Sahel Hotel, a little run down dive of a hole, but clean enough and only minutes from the Pol-e si-o-seh (33 arch bridge, si =30; se=3). The only room available, unfortunately, is one without a private bathroom (28,000 toman), which I will get the next night; at least I am not running around looking for a place to stay in the middle of the night.

I check in and leave gear in room so that I can get a night view of the bridge right away and have a cup of chay under the bridge (chaykhaneh).

This site certainly lives up to its reputation! Mostly young people hanging around, couples in town enjoying a stroll on the bridge and older people passing by, many on their way to get ice cream (a popular Iranian pastime) and others returning home to the Armenian Quarter (where I later learn “alcohol” can be found if you know how to go about getting it - I do not).

The hours pass by easily, a chill is in the air and fatigue sets in now, but nothing a good night’s sleep would not fix.

As TV consists only of Farsi language shows, I am SOL and go to bed.

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