No Iran travelogue is complete without a mention of its glorious pre Islamic ruins and Persepolis tops them all. I too had stopped by at Persepolis on my way back to Shiraz from Esfahan on one of my previous trips and it had been a beautiful glimpse into Persia’s powerful Zoroastrian history. To help understand my Iran travails better from a geographical point of view, I had started exploring from south to head towards the western part of the country and had continued doing a northern loop, only to cross through the central part to return to Shiraz. On that trip, I had covered more than 3000 kilometers, seen the country change its landscape, culture, weather and mentality and Persepolis had been the grand finale.

The ceremonial capital of Archaemenid empire (550-330 B.C) and a UNESCO world heritage site, Persepolis had been situated around 70 kilometers away from Shiraz and it had been the place where Cyrus, the Great, Darius I and Xerxes, the Great had prospered, ruled and become immortal. The silent proud ruins had witnessed endless grand celebrations of the special event Nawruz and many powerful kings, emissaries and artists have paid their tribute to them. Created from grey limestone, Persepolis had been partially constructed using blocks and the rest of the structure had been cut out of a mountain.Those incredible ruins, some of which had still been in excellent condition had bared prominent glimpses of the powerful Archaemenid dynasty and the reliefs bearing engravings of traders and soldiers from all over the world (as far as Africa, India and China paying homage to the great rulers) had clearly given away the strength of the empire during that time.

The site had also contained some tombs of Archaemenid kings and modern day Persia had looked bland when seen from Persepolis’s elevated perch. Persepolis had been destroyed by Alexander the Great and his drunken army had set fire to the spectacular Persian palaces after looting them. It had been a sad, but slightly predictable ending of anything great and I had returned to Shiraz from Persepolis with a heavy heart. That had also been my last day in Iran and to be honest, I had mixed feelings about my trip. One of the most beautiful countries in the world, Iran had been tough and soulful at the same time and it had so much to offer, that I had felt like a child in a candy shop. My last night, as usual had been spent at Tiam’s home and the friendly cocoon had tugged at my heartstrings.

Exiting Iran had been blissfully easy and during the Sharjah airport transit, I had mentally summed up my yet another Iran visit. Confusing, frustrating, deep, rich and incredibly beautiful, I had hated to leave Iran and it had been because of the people. Touted and portrayed as a dangerous country, most people’s reaction towards Iran is filled with apprehension and doubt. Fear also rules people’s minds and the media had done a great job at creating the deathly shroud. The reality is a far from the scary image and although, not easy, Iran is breathtakingly generous to its travelers. Not many travelers go there and solo female visitors are pretty rare. It had been an impulsive decision for me to travel to Iran, but I have definitely not been the only one. Many solo women had traveled their before and you can read there chronicles herehere and here

Like most of its visitors, I have returned from Iran with exceptionally beautiful memories, awe and warmth. The visa regulations (unless you are eligible for visa on arrival) and dress code are not easy, but let them not hinder you from visiting the beautiful country. Even today, as I sit back and remember my Iranian days, only the friendly faces, magnificent history, exotic culture and mouthwatering cuisine come to my mind. Traveling to a foreign country is never easy and my moral police experience had stemmed from my own lack of awareness. A lot of times, we, as travelers take our destinations or host countries for granted and forget out “guest” status. We disregard its sensitivities, its cultural differences and the fact that we are in someone else’s home. This creates avalanche of shocks, bad feelings and unending sense of displacement. I guess, my own Tehran travel tales (read about it here) would have been different too, had I been more prepared (and aware) and I conclude my Iran series, by saying من تعظیم به شما.

It means “I bow down to you” in Farsi and I truly pay my tribute to this magnificent country and its people for nurturing me, empowering me and opening my eyes to a world beyond my imagination (and media painted images). I have often been asked if after all my experiences, good, bad and ugly, would I go back again to Iran? And the answer had been childishly easy to garner. I absolutely would return anytime I get a chance, because Iran is an addiction, that is best maintained.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING – BECAUSE I CARE

Some photos used in this post have been taken from the Internet. 

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Persepolis is a sad leftover glory

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Of the ancient great Archaemenid emperors

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That drew people from

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Far and wide

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I had spent a long afternoon there

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Hearing the tales of the lonely stones

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And remembering my Iran days

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It had been a great journey

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But there was still so much to see (badab-e-sourt)

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So much to experience

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So much to learn and

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And indulge

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Iran is an addiction

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That I can’t get enough of

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And I will return again

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And again to myself in its powerful aura