Iran

Posted by Ellen

Fisheye view inside the mid-eighteenth-century Vakil mosque in Shiraz, Iran. The 48 columns seen here are all monoliths, with spiral carvings and lotus-leaf capitals.

Posted by Ellen

Schoolgirls in Tehran take a history lesson at the National Museum of Iran.

Posted by Ellen

 

The capital city of Iran sprawls up against the Alborz Mountains, which separate the Iranian plateau from the Caspian basin. Tehran has grown so huge--population 13 million--that smog usually hides the city from the mountains and vice versa. But every now and then, a snowstorm comes along and cleans the air.

Posted by Ellen

In 1958, road construction along this hillside in Bistoun, Iran uncovered a two-thousand-year-old carving of a a recumbent Hercules, in the nude. The Greek inscription on the tablet behind Hercules's shoulder helped date the sculpture to approximately 150 B.C.

There is a lion lying here alongside the hero, difficult to make out in this photo, except for the tail at upper left. Hercules is actually resting one arm on the lion's head. His weaponry--club and quiver--are leaned against the lion's rump. Hard to say what the man is drinking, but he's clearly been eating well.

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In 2004, Iranian-Canadian photographer Sam Javanrouh went back to Tehran, his hometown, for a photo shoot. Here, he shows us Tehran's Eskan towers framing a glimpse of the Alborz Mountains. "Brings back so many memories," says Javanrouh.

Posted by Ellen

Our Mongol Rally teams--"just call us Mongoleers"--have been making good progress on the drive from England to Mongolia, except for the guy who got threatened with arrest at the Ukrainian border and decided to retreat to Prague.

Those who took the northern route through Russia are now deep into Siberia, approaching Irkutsk or partying there. Except for those who had car trouble or who had to detour around Belarus, which closed its border this year to Mongoleers, without notice, they've been making good time.

The teams taking a more direct route, through Kazakhstan, report pleasant people--not even a little like Borat--but extreme heat and frequent police stops. The police want USD, it seems--U.S. dollars. We're told that 20 USD is the going rate per car per stop, but fast talkers can sometimes make 20 USD cover a whole convoy of Mongoleers.

Those attempting a more southerly route, through Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekhistan, and other countries unknown to Americans report astonishing sights, including a marble city ("slippery when wet"). They like the people and the food but say the roads are narrow and winding and confusing and slow.

The southern route through Iran proved open this year, contrary to predictions, and Mongoleers there report excellent highways and no problems.

Where are our folks? Well the boys from Detroit are pretty much worthless--as of a couple days ago, they were still in Germany. They had a lot of friends to visit along the route.

Captain Subprime and his Spanish buddies? They're spending the night at the Uzbekh border, waiting for the guards to show up in the morning and let them into the country.

And Yippo, our Dutch couple? They have crossed Iran without incident and are now in Turkmenistan, eating lunch.