An encounter with the Arabs of Iran

Shush Travel Blog

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People i met here, who contributed to and improved my trip: Julia (Russia), Saeed (Iran)

As if we hadn't already seen enough ancient History, today we went to Shush (Susa), which claims to be one of the oldest Cities in the World. The Elamites occupied the land almost 4000 years ago, before Assyrian's (Ashurbanipal), Achaemenid's (Darius I - Persepolis), Macedonians (Alexander the Great), Seleucid's, Parthian's, Sassanian's (Shapur II) and Mongolians (Genghis Khan) staked their claim. The City, like neighbouring Choqa Zanbil, was then lost to time, before British and then French Archaeologists came to discover its secrets in the middle of the 19th Century. Now the town is home to 52,000 people, living under the rule of the Islamic Republic of Iran, if only the ground could talk, I'm sure it would have quite a few fascinating stories to tell!

The bus driver from Ahvaz was a really nice guy, and when we arrived into Shush all the passengers got off at the terminal, but he told us to stay on and took us to the entrance of Shush Museum.

As we were only spending half a day in the town we had our large backpacks with us, which aren't conducive with walking around. Luckily the man in the Museum said we could leave them at the front desk with him and collect them later.

It was approaching 16.00 so we decided to leave the Museum for later and go and see the Ancient City of Shush, whilst the light was still good. The 4000 Rial ($0.40) entry fee granted us access to three key areas and lots of other little interesting places. Iran's tourist attractions are arguably the best value i have ever been to, as the most expensive ticket for any government site is only 5000 Rial ($0.50). Compare this with most other countries, who charge far higher fees for far less interesting sites.

Chateau de Morgan was the obvious first choice to look around, as it dominated the skyline and was also closest to the ticket booth.
The French Archaeological Service built the Castle between 1897-1912, to prevent its workers from been attacked by the Arab and Lurish tribesmen that lived in the region. The location was chosen as it was the highest point in the City and had once been home to an Elamite Acropolis. We wandered up by the side of the Castle for nice views of The Tomb of Daniel and then circumnavigated the building. At the West side of the castle, we took a short detour to look at a crumbling watch tower and spotted plenty of pieces of pottery and also a desert fox.

From the Castle we walked to the Palace of Darius, which dates back to 521 BC, but at first glance there appeared to be little of interest remaining there. That was until we got past some crumbling small walls and came to the Apadana.
Here we saw the bases of many pillars that had once stood 22m high and also carved bulls heads, which had once sat at the top of them. Whilst not as moving as Persepolis, it was still pretty breathtaking to think that such places existed 2500 years ago!

Back at the Museum we spent 30 minutes looking at the impressive collection of artifacts on display. There were three masks that had been discovered at nearby Haft Tappeh, dating back 3000 years to the Elamites, a Hercules statue wrestling a lion, lots of pottery and a bulls head from the Apadana. From here we went to the Tomb of Danial for a quick look and then called Saaed, a couchsurfer who lives in Shush.

When Saeed came to meet us, we went back to look inside the Tomb of Danial, which was in the spot where Danial's bones had once been kept.
Danial is a name more associated with Judaism than Islam, but he seems to be revered by both groups, showing the ties that the two religions have. The present tomb dates back to 1871 and its design is unique to the Khuzestan province, with a large honeycomb spire protruding into the sky. Outside families sat around having picnics, whilst Inside people prayed and touched the zarih grate, which protects the grave.

It was now 18.30 and as our bus was not due to leave until 21.30, Saeed kindly invited us back to his home for Dinner. Saeed's wife Mariam, two children Ali and Isra and brother Ahmad were all at home and a little later his father also turned up. After eating a delicious meal of fish, potatoes, eggs and bread, Julia was taken off by the women and i was taken by the men.
Saeed and his family are all Arabs and he asked if i minded wearing their clothes for some photos and i was only too happy to oblige. Once i was dressed up like Laurence of Arabia, i was taken downstairs to see Julia, who was sat with about 20 women, all part of Saeed's extended family. It was great fun although i must admit that it all felt a little surreal!

The time had come to leave and although Saeed said it was no problem to stay, we already had our bus tickets and thought it was best to head on to Kermanshah. Earlier in the evening, we had found out that our bus had actually been broken down and then canceled, but that we could get on another bus that was passing through and use the same ticket. When we got to the restaurant where the buses stopped, Saeed found the driver and attempted to organise getting us a seat.
For some reason the driver said we couldn't get on the bus without buying a new ticket and then we would only get a 50% refund of our old tickets if we took them back to Ahvaz! This was ludicrous and we obviously didn't want to pay another 70,000 ($7) each, for absolutely nothing. After several telephone calls to the bus company, they told us that we would have to get on the bus the following morning at 09.30, as it now wasn't possible to get on the night bus. It was very lucky that Saeed was there with us to sort this out and he also let us go back to his house to sleep for the night.

The following day we woke at 07.40 and ate breakfast with Saeed and his family and then we caught a taxi to meet the bus. I was relieved that the driver was aware of the situation this time and we boarded with our old tickets.
The journey took 7 hours, but the Volvo bus was comfortable with the exception of a baby sat behind that burst into sporadic screaming fits.

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photo by: whitelion