The Zayanderud and it’s Many Bridges

DSC01900The Zayanderud (Zayandeh River) is the largest river in the central plateau of Iran. It crosses directly through the city of Isfahan. In 2010, the river dried out completely after several years of draught. Today the river flows with water once again, however the city continues to close and open the dam throughout the year depending on water shortages throughout the districts. The water that forms the river originates from the inside of the Zagros Mountains and flows 400 kilometers. The 400 km of river is spanned by may historical bridges that were built in the Safavid era. The Zayanderud is the reason for the prosperity of the central Iranian provinces of Isfahan and Yazd. Two of the most famous bridges on the Zayanderud are the Siosepol (33 Bridge) and Pol-e Khaju (Khaju Bridge).
DSC01901 Women wearing head-to-toe hijab are having kayaking practice on the Zayanderud. They are padding upstream while simultaneously passing a volleyball back and forth. It is great to see that despite the suppression of women from participating in sports, they continue to do so.

Khaju Bridge:

The Khaju bridg was built by the Safavid king, Shah Abbas II, around 1650. The bridge serves both as a pedestrian bridge and as a dam. Furthermore, the bridge has multiple rooms on the inside which used to serve as meeting rooms and now serve as tea houses and restaurants. In the center of the structure, a pavilion exists which Shah Abbas would have once sat, today there are remnants of a stone seat.




The Khaju bridge has 24 arches. The pass way of the bridge is made of bricks and stones with 21 larger and 26 smaller inlet and outlet channels.






Siosepol, which means 33 Bridge in Persian, is one of the eleven bridges of Isfahan and the longest bridge on the Zayandeh River. It was constructed during the Safavid period in 1632. It is one of the most famous examples of Safavid bridge design. It is named 33 Bridge because of its 33 arches. The Architectural design of the bridge is a double-check arch bridge, which means for each large arch on the bottom there are two smaller arches on the top.


The bridge was constructed specifically to serve as a pedestrian bridge and still serves the same purpose today.


Swan Paddle Boats 🙂

One of the best parts about the Zayandeh River are the swan paddle boats that I have always loved to ride since I was a child. The river and its paddle boats bring back memories from when I was around five years old. No matter how old I get, I will never get tired of them. Now that I’m older, the older cousins take the younger cousins out on the river so they can make the same memories :).

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 Siosepol (33 Bridge) at night:

At night, every single one of the arches of the Siosepol lights up and it’s a truly beautiful site.



Naqsh-e Rustam

Naqsh-e Rustam is an ancient “graveyard” about 12 km from Persepolis. PSA: we arrived here a couple of minutes after 6 PM and unfortunately the gates were closed so I had to view the tombs from behind the gates and managed to snap some quick photos.

The oldest site at Naqsh-e Rustam dates back to 1000 BC. At the site, there are four Achaemenid tombs that belonged to Achaemenid kings. The tombs are carved out of the rock in the mountainside at a considerable height above ground. The tombs are known as the “Persian crosses” and the entrance to each tomb is at the center of each cross. In the chamber within the tomb, the king was buried in a sarcophagus.

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One of the tombs is explicitly identified as belonging to Darius I the Great. The other three are believed to be those of Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I, and Darius II. The tombs were looted following the conquest of the Achaemenid Empire by Alexander the Great.




DSC01060(Panoramic view of Persepolis)

Persepolis is one of the oldest and most famous historical sites that stands in Iran and is definitely one of the most impressive.

 During the Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BC) over 2000 years ago, Persepolis was the capital city of the Persian Empire. In Persian, Persepolis is called “Takhte Jamsheed” (the throne of Jamsheed) and is literally translated to “city of Persians.” The historically famous ancient ruins display Achaemenid style of architecture. It is believed that Cyrus the Great (“Koorosh” in Persian) chose the site for the city, but it was Darius (“Daryoosh”) who was responsible for building the palaces.

Darius ordered the construction of the Apadana Palace and the council hall (the Tripylon) and its surroundings. It was during the reign of Darius’s son Xerxes the Great (“Khashayar”) that the buildings were completed. The buildings at Persepolis include mainly military headquarters, treasuries, and reception halls.

The city of Persepolis was destroyed by Alexander the Great after he invaded Persia in 330 BC in revenge for the Persian king Xerxes destroying the Greek city of Athens.

If you want to visit Persepolis, you have to do a day trip and visit Pasargad and Naghshe Rostam (post to come) all in one day. Persepolis is also located about 2.5 hours away from Shiraz and only about 43 km from Pasargad.


The “Persepolitan” stairway is a grand staircase that leads up to the main palace. The staircase is double sided and built symmetrically on the western side of the Great Wall.

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“The Gate of all Nations” consisted of a great hall with its entrance on the western wall. A pair of bulls with the heads of bearded men, Lamassus, stand by the western threshold. Another pair, with wings and a Persian head (Gopat-Shah), stands by the eastern entrance, to reflect the Empire’s power.


Achaemenid griffin at Persepolis.


 Engravings of people bringing gifts for the king.


 Engravings at Apanada hall depicting Persian soldiers wearing the rectangular hats and Median soldiers wearing the circular hats. Medians, or Medes, were ancient Iranian people who lived in North-west Iran who spoke the Median language.

DSC01099 DSC01107Persian and Median noblemen in friendly conversation, bringing gifts for the king.


DSC01110An engraving on the Bas-relief of Persepolis on the grand staircase depicting the Zoroastrian tradition of Nowruz (new year): a bull (symbolizing the moon), fighting a lion (symbolizing the sun) which represents the beginning of Spring.DSC01081About a 15 minute hike up into the mountains from Persepolis’s main palace ruins lies the tombs of the kings of Persia during the time of the Achaemenid. 2 or 3 of these tombs within the mountain exist, and it is believed that kings such as Xerxes and Darius are buried within these mountains. I took the panoramic views of Persepolis from the top of the mountain.




One of the most impressive features of Persepolis are the tall columns that have stood the test of time and war. One would wonder what sort of technology existed in 500 BC that allowed for the creation of these gigantic stone columns. 15 of the pillars are still intact today. You can tell how tall the pillars are by comparing them to the people at the bottom of the photo.

Pasargad (Tomb of Cyrus the Great)

Pasargad was the capital city of the Archaemenid Empire built by the Emperor Cyrus the Great (~559 BC), and is also the location of Cyrus’s tomb which is a very significant archaeological landmark in Iran. Pasargad is close to the ancient landmark of Persepolis (43 km away) and also naghshe Rostam (post of both to come). We visited all three places in one day since they are about a 2.5 hour drive from Shiraz; it was a whole day of events!

The tomb of Cyrus the Great is the most important landmark in the ancient city of Pasargad. Today it is guarded by at least 5 on-site guards, a glass fence, and security cameras. The entrance into the grave is from the back side of the monument. The tomb has six broad steps leading to the sepulcher; the chamber measures 3.17 m long by 2.11 m wide by 2.11 m high and has a low and narrow entrance.

Today in Iran, Cyrus the Great still serves as a hero by a lot of citizens and is looked up to by some as a prophet like figure. He was a strong defender of human rights and was a very kind person as well as a strong leader.

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Cyrus has been a personal hero to many people, including: Thomas Jefferson, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and David Ben-Gurion.[84]

In scope and extent his achievements ranked far above that of the Macedonian king,
Alexander who was to demolish the empire in the 320s but fail to provide
any stable alternative.

—Charles Freeman in ‘The Greek Achievement'[85]

The achievements of Cyrus the Great throughout antiquity are reflected in the way he is remembered today. His own nation, the Iranians, have regarded him as “The Father”, the very title that had been used during the time of Cyrus himself, by the many nations that he conquered, as according to Xenophon:[86]

And those who were subject to him, he treated with esteem and regard, as if they were his own children, while his subjects themselves respected Cyrus as their “Father” … What other man but ‘Cyrus’, after having overturned an empire, ever died with the title of “The Father” from the people whom he had brought under his power? For it is plain fact that this is a name for one that bestows, rather than for one that takes away!

The Babylonians regarded him as “The Liberator”.

The Book of Ezra narrates a story of the first return of exiles in the first year of Cyrus; for this, Cyrus is addressed in the Jewish Tanakh as the “Lord’s Messiah”. Glorified by Ezra, and by Isaiah, Cyrus is the one to whom “the LORD, the God of Heaven” has given “all the Kingdoms of the earth”.

Camel Riding!


A few days ago on a trip to Persepolis and Cyrus the Great’s tomb (posts to come), we saw some camels parked on the side of the road and of course we had to ride them! Up until a hundred years ago, Persian nomads in Iran used camels as a means of transportation across the country as well as horses and donkeys. Camels are still frequently used in Iran but most of them are used as tourist attractions.

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Nasir al-Mulk

Nasir al-Mulk is a famous historic mosque in the center of Shiraz, located near the Shah Cheragh shrine. It was constructed in the Qajar Dynasty in 1876 by lord Mirza Hasan Ali Nasir al Mulk. The mosque is known for its extensive use in colored glass in its façade. The construction of the mosque uses other traditional structural elements as well such as “panj kasehi” (five concaves).

These days, the mosque is more of a tourist attraction than a place for prayer. Like all mosques in Iran, you must remove your shoes before entering and the floor is lined with Persian rugs from wall to wall. We found out that underneath the rugs is actually a beautiful marble floor as well.

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