Friday, 25 November 2011

Persian Rocks 24th-25th Nov

We camp in the car park of Persepolis, (or in Farsi, Takhte Jamshid) and hear hair raising tales from other overlanders that strayed too close to a secret place in the desert and got detained. Saw the extensive remains of Iran's most impressively old and big palace, (while impressed I was feeling ill so probably didn't appreciate it as much as I should have), followed by tombs at Naqsh-e Rostam and other remains at Pasargad. Park up not far from here.

We arrived only about an hour before closing at Persepolis so decided we'd go in and see it tomorrow. The plan was to camp in the car park- the gudebook said that this was fine and we were encouraged to find a campavan with Swiss plates parked up right in the middle already. We drove over and they came out to say hi but were busy eating. They invited us to come over in a bit so we set up the car in the meantime. Neither of us felt at al hungry- we'd been fed so stupendously over the last twenty four hours that there was no way we needed more!

We had a very nice evening with them- it was very relaxing for us communicating in Engliish and certainly a lot easier for them than in Farsi. I was so overwhelmed by being able to talk freely, both lingistically and culturally that I bubbled over, almost incoherantly with words! They had just had an unsettling run in with the police. They had been at a nice salt lake south of Tehran and there were various tracks beyond the official road so they had decided to see if they could cut around. A short way into the national park they were stopped and taken, in convoy to a town about six hours drive away on the bumpy rough tracks for questioning. The man has to do all the talking as the police refused to address the woman and they were questioned over and over again about all the photos of deserts she had taken in two specific areas. They searched every inch of their vehical and fully explored their computer and deleted all the track data from their sat nav. They asked about all the people they had taken photos of in Iran and checked their phones for numbers called. Apparently the police were not unkind or rude but they were sleep deprived for about two days and had absolute uncertainty as to what this may lead to or how long it would take or what it was all about or anything. They had been in Iran for a month and a half, and like us had met many brilliant indiviuals and had a really fantastic time but all they wanted to do now was head south and get across to UAE, away from the bad taste it had left in their mouth. They had been travelling for eight months, with no time limit on the horizon so were just going where they wanted. It was a shame and a useful warning to us but they felt certain that these bad memeories would fade once they'd had a few good nights sleep and felt safe again in another country

We all turned in early and then got a hair-raising sharp knock on the window just before we settled down to sleep. Eeek, it was the police, we threw clothes on and rapidly tucked away the sat nav nav. They indicated to us that they wanted us to move the car across to one side of the car park by the fence near a lit building. The others followed us over which was very nice, I didn't want to drag them into whatever this was after what they'd just experienced. Alex and the other traveller guy got out once we'd moved to ask what it was about and we were all very relived to find out that it was litrially asking us to move to here as a safer spot- the carpark was also weirdly a through road and the police had fet a central position was dangerous to passing traffic. PHEWWW. And back to bed.

We waved the others off the next morning then headed into Tahkt-e-jamshid, (the Iranian name for persepolis). It's an impressively scaled site with very tastefully made and instructive glass signs in both farsi and English. I was going to go into great detail about the history of the palace and site here but since it's now weeks later I'd have to look it all up which would be better to do online if you're interested. You should also look up persepols 3D- I want to a lecture in Edinburgh about this interesting project to recreate the whole site in three dimensions in a virtual form you can move through. The details and colours in the programme really bring the place to life and I was remembering and envisaging these as I walked around. It is an incredibly impressive site- huge scales of building with massive blocks of rock and a truly extensive area in order to house the whole royal onterage. You are able to view the site up close walking about it and also from above from the cliffside tombs. I found it interesting that you could still see indvdual chisel marks, especially where they had hollowed out the solid rock for the tombs. It gves a reminder of just what an undertaking the building of this was over a number of generations. It's also made out of extrodinairy rock- weathered grey but shiny and black where it has been polished up- presumably the whole palace would have been polished and gleaming darkly in it's day. The hundreds of detailed carvings, excellently preserved in the dry sand are one of the most important things- clearly depicting traditions, customs, clothes and society from accross the Persion Empire at that time.

Smaller, more delicate finds are held in a small museum- one of the lesser buildings has been artfully rebuilt to be as it was. We were quickly befriended in there by an excellent English speaker who gave us a guided tour of the exhibits and was very nice. We worried about whether we'd be able to escape the generous Iranian hospuitality in order to move on to the next site but he was very undertanding and let us go. As a pile of rocks goes it was pretty darn good actually. I had a lot less patience for it than I felt I should have as I was beging to feel ill and floaty with a cold, probably caught from the poor sick baby Helena. For this reason I wasn't going to bother looking around the second site but actually it was so appealing when we got there, (a short hop down the road) that I took a look anyway. These were the other rock tombs at Naqsh-e-Rostam and we were both a lot more impressed with them than we had expected to be. There were not only tombs but reliefs from other eras carved at other intervals into the rock face. The scale and majesty of such things can only be fully appreciated in person and you can't help but be impressed.

At the final site- Passagarde, I only got out to take photos of the first impressive marble tomb. It is a large site which you drive around and walk to the remains from various car parks. I let Alex look at the rest while I wrote postcards. We thought about camping on site but realised we wouldn't be allowed to and the entrance was in a small town so that wasn't appealing either. Thankfully we found a nice enough and discrete spot a mere fifteen minutes away and had a good night's sleep there.

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