Tanks filled, vehicles loaded we head to Persepolis: our present destination. The highway runs smooth along the desert among climbing and descending altitudes which helps only to lower the temperature down to 32° C (at a 2500 mt height) just to feel it rise again at 1600! We can’t deny it is really hot but being dry you don’t feel it that much.

After nearly 320 km we reach Pasargadae, the capital of ancient Persia, which has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is surrounded by a chain of deserted hills with a few green wisps scattered here and there. Cyrus, the Great Mausoleum, lies here. It is 11 mt height, its greatness and majesty are incredible! It is a six-step platform leading to the actual tomb chamber (3 meters long), and a low, narrow door leads to it. There is no definite proof of the authenticity of the tomb with that of Cyrus the Great, but several historians say that this was Alexander the Great’s belief, therefore … we agree with him 😉

Within the mausoleum, there seems to be an inscription bearing a quotation from Ciro: ” O man, whoever thou art, from wheresoever thou cometh, for I know you shall come, I am Cyrus, who founded the Persian Empire. Grudge me not, therefore, this little earth that covers my body. ” As if praising himself for the achievements of a lifetime, but at the same time acknowledging that he had reached the end of his days with nothing else but a “handful of soil” over his body. This is, after all, every man’s destiny.

We keep on following our travel plan and, at nearly ten kilometers from Persepolis we take a detour which leads us to the tombs of the Kings. From a distance, the excavated rocks slightly resemble the ones of the Bamiyan Buddhas. We head to the center of the archaeological site to watch closely the mastery of architecture dating thousands of years. Four are the tombs of the Achaemenid Kings which are known as the “four Persian Crosses” due to the shape of their façade: inside layed the sarcophagus of a king.

Moreover, there is a square-based building on the site which was thought to be for a long time a fire temple, but recent research suggests that it was the headquarters of the State Treasury. As a matter of fact, we like to believe in the first hypothesis, surely more mystical and fascinating.

Finally, we get to Persepolis, whose charm needs no explanations. It was founded by Dario the Great around 500 BC; it was the ancient capital of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. The Gate of all Nations gives majesty to the same entrance, mythological figures of bulls with eagle wings and bearded men heads whose task was keeping away evil.

The bas-relief of the staircase of the Apadana leading to Dario’s immense palace (or what it’s left of it, of course) looks carefully taken care of and accurate as if it had just been carved. One can easily and immediately imagine, at the view of the whole compound, the splendor of a past life, with men dressed up in tunics walking around (overacting) between giant columns and very elegant women sparkling in precious jewels.

One can imagine decorated streets with finely engraved sculptures and fabulous palaces, while the millennial Zoroastrian fire already burned night and day in the heart of what is still considered today one of the most enlightened civilizations of the ancient world. This ancient city does not fail to convey a deep and misty sense of lost civilization which deserves to be appraised, at least once in a lifetime.

At evening time, we reach the city of Shiraz to which we will be dedicating the full day tomorrow.