Yazd > Pasargadae > Shiraz
The road west from Yazd to Shiraz follows the route taken by Marco Polo. That fact made me feel excited to be retracing part of the ancient Silk Road.
By the side of the highway we saw a number of earthen mounds with holes in the center looking as though giant moles made them. They form part of traditional irrigation systems (called Qanats) that bring water underground from the mountains to farms and towns on the plains. These systems need constant maintenance to function and many are falling into disrepair. In their time they enabled Iranians to thrive: “ Wherever there is water there is life.”
In what seemed the middle of nowhere (actually the site of ancient Pasargadae) we came upon a massive stone structure, the tomb of Cyrus the Great (559-530 BCE) the founder of the first Persian Empire. Its simple, massive beauty and dignified appearance are remarkable. Amir told us that the tomb is the symbol of the Iranian nation and called it “Iran’s birth certificate”.
Later on the bus we watched a DVD of a recitation of the events of Ashura, a narrative in song of the death of the third Imam. It was a dramatic and passionate performance. It was startling to see hundreds of men weeping. The camera zoomed in on a man who was sobbing and wiping away his tears. It was Mr. Ahmadinejad.
Entering Shiraz I noticed many portraits of Martyrs on the buildings and on the tops of walls. Martyrdom is one of the most important elements in understanding Iranian culture. Martyrs are guaranteed admission to heaven. There are portraits (paintings and photographs) of martyrs all over Iran. Most are of casualties of the Iran-Iraq War.