I had seen the ancient Roman temples of Baalbek in an old BBC documentary and have had it on my travel list for many years. Now seemed a good time to visit, I was in the region and the recent fighting close by in Syria, which had sent rockets crashing into the town, and incursions over the border, had quietened down considerably.
I got out to stretch my legs, and then I heard it again, but this time it was louder and more concentrated. Distant, but unmistakable, there was a fairly major gun battle raging beyond the Syrian hills behind me.
Yazd, a city right in the middle of two Iran's harshest deserts, the Dasht-e Kavir and the Kavir-e Lut. This isolation has led to it avoiding many of the wars and battles which destroyed many of Iran's other cities and has left a beautifully preserved ancient city. Genghis Khan never made it here, but Marco Polo did and he wrote extensively about it. I found it a great place to visit, ideal for walking and exploring, and it is the home of the best Baklava in Iran.
|Evening prayer at the Jameh Mosque|
Isfahan, also spelt Esfahan, is one of the great cities of the world. Once the capital of Persia, it was compared to Rome and Athens by the writer Robert Byron in the classic Silk Road travelogue 'The Road to Oxiana'. Today it is in the news for having the site of Iran's nuclear research facility nearby, and causing the resulting global sanctions against the country (which are now being lifted), but is really should be known for its stunning treasures.
In an arid desert area, thirty minutes from the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, lies the ruins of Persepolis, once one of the greatest cities on earth. Founded by King Darius I in 518 BC it was the capital of the Persian empire and inspired awe from those who visited it. The ancient Greek historian, Diodorus Siculus, described it as "...the richest city under the sun". And so it remained until Alexander the Great looted and burnt it down two hundred years later as revenge for the Persian sacking of Athens.