On the way to Takht-e Soleyman
We set of from Tehran about 6.00 am, we arrived at 9.30 am visited Soltaniyeh and at 11.30 am we set off from Soltaniyeh. Another 100 kilometer on the lovely clear 4 lane Tehran-Tabriz highway and we were at the doorsteps of the city of zanjan with a long history. Had we continued the 4 lane highway it would have taken us to the start of takht-e soleyman road, but as we were not sure of the directions and as we were also short of petrol, we decided to go through the city of zanjan which was clearly sign posted.
So we took the Zanjan exit from the free way and entered a boulevard on the city’s eastern edge running westwards. We filled our tank and continued west until we reached the start of Bijar free way
The main route from Zanjan to Takht-e Soleyman goes from zanjan to Bijar (130km) and from Bijar to Takab (another100 km) and then from Takab to Takht-e Soleyman (+40km) in all about 300 km asphalted road with heavy traffic.
The second shorter route goes directly to Takht-e Soleyman (130 km) but we were under the impression that part of this shorter road was not paved and the road was not safe as far as it went up and down many steep mountains
At the start of the Bijar free way we enquired from taxi drivers as to the best route to Takht-e Soleyman, the verdict was, take the shorter route starting just past the police station, we were told that this route was all asphalted and in excellent condition, one driver said I have traveled it more than 500 times it is just perfect don’t waste your time on the main route. Just to double check the directions we stopped at the police station a few kilometers further and asked the same question again, they recommended we take the longer route – Bijar to Takab – They said this is the official recommendation as the shorter route is little too steep at parts?
Next to the police station a large sign at the start of the shorter route read Takht-e Soleyman, and we decided to take the shorter route, we did not regret our decision.
We started on the shorter route at 12.45. The planes on both sides of the road were much drier than Abhar – Zanjan road, and the road was just in excellent condition, magnificently sign posted to our surprise, Event the smallest bends was sign posted, and most of all no traffic.
From zanjan to Takht-e Soleyman the road clime up over several ridges (about 4) and descended into desolate plains. The terrain at this time of the year was absolutely dry and the villages mostly very small and much poorer than what we had seen else ware, but in spite of all this dissoluteness the area had a peculiar charm.
The first 22 km up to Gholi Kandi the plane was barren but the road was good, after Gholi Kandi we climbed a steep mountain, not very high, and entered a large dry barren valley with no sign of life. In the distance we could see another ridge.
Near the next ridge and near the village of Bogh-da Kandy we passed through the only small green pasture on the route.
Usually one never notices such a pasture, but here it stood out from the lifeless surrounding valley like a piece of emerald.
We passed a petrol station and went over the next ridge, a steep climb followed by another valley on the other side, the isolated, small, mud village of Ghara-ei. It would be interesting to stop for a while and talk to the people who live here just to get a glimpse of what they think and how they manage in such isolated place only a few kilometers from relatively modern city.
We passed a small charming shrine with a small green dome standing out against the red hill side with few dry threes next to it; the scene had a surrealistic flavor to it.
We passed the river Ghezel Ozan, it still had little water flowing in it and in the distance we could see someone fishing with a rod. We passed the village of Ebrahim Abad and lone factory in the middle of nowhere, quite surprised to see a factory there, but later we learned that the few factories in this area are all associated with Angoran mining complex past the village of Dandy
It is interesting up to note that the names of the most locations in this are in Turkish with very few Farsi names
In the distance, some 40 kilometers a way, I could see a series of tooth like ridges with one peak standing out like a finger.
I thought to myself, perhaps that is Takh-te Bel-ghase, the highest peak in the rejoin at 3300 meters to the east of Takhte Soleyman, on top of which, overlooking Takht-e Soleyman, is a Sassanid structure, well as I found out later I was wrong.
We pass the small village of Ibrahim Abad (it must be a new village the name is not in Turkish and not on our map) and then the village of Ghareh dagh only 5 kilometers to Dandy. On both sides the Plaines are covered by the golden remains of vegetation that in spring gives this place a lush green look dotted with red poppies, we passed an ore processing factory before town of dandy.
After 90 kilometers of excellent road we arrived at the brick town of Dandy, it looks like a small desert type town devoid of any colors situated in large desert type plain, but it was different from other mud villages that we saw on the way. It had some futures of a modern town, straight asphalted streets, a recreation park with water pond and few threes with greeting signs for any would be visitor, most probably running water and a clinic, electricity and phone is available on all villages on this route
Another ridge, another desolate plane, with a small isolated village in the middle, The nearer we got to the villages the more desolate and dry it looked, but its dissoluteness had a powerful magical charm, assort of stopping power that brought many taught to one’s mind
Although the facilities of life are few here, perhaps the scarcity gives them the capacity to appreciate the niceties of modern life, such as a school, hospital satellite that is when they can afford the journey to Zanjan. Perhaps they are in some ways much happier in these desolate places than in the middle of some smoggy modern city with high rate of suicide. Here they live simply and die once, in the city they live a complex life, – from worrying about children’s education to earning a living – and die couple of hundred times in their life time.
After small town of Dandy we passed the Angoran ore processing complex, a cable car, running for about 10 to 15 kilometers along the road, bring the ore from the quarries somewhere up the mountain to the processing plant
From the distance we could see the dust rising from the quarry
The cable followed the length of the valley and then it climbed a steep mountain
The road followed the cable, or did the cable follow the road,
It was just like some science fiction film seeing the cable car climber the hill to perhaps some aliens at work at the top in the middle of nowhere
We were about to finish climbing our last ridge and then we descended in to the valley or rather the basin of Takht-e Soleyman, Time was 2.40 pm, we also passed from eastern Azerbaijan into western Azerbaijan,
The scene gradually became greener; we passed the pictures village of Gharavol Khaneh (guard house) and passed the Agh-bolagh (white fountain) river
Takht-e Soleyman – settling in
We descended in to the Takht-e Soleyman basin at 3.00 pm and suddenly there she was the magnificent ancient structure of the Sassanid era, the holiest of the holy Zoroastrian places of worship perhaps ever. Takht-e Soleyman ( Takht means flat, flat piece of land here) and Soleyman refers to king Solomon) or the old Sassanid Zoroastrian fire temple of Azar Gushnasp ( in old Pahlavi Adur / Author Gushnasp, or Ganzak) lies about 200 meters to the north of the main road and with its 13 meter high wall cannot be missed.
I never expected the place to be so intact, with the outer stone wall (repaired at parts) still standing and a quite a lot of the internal structures, and the magnificent lake that I had read a lot about, I was just speechless
Takht-e Soleyman is located in a large bowel shape plane (basin) where it is surrounded on all sides by a range of mountains highest of which is Takht-e Belghas at 3300 meters just out of the right side of the picture with a Sassanid structure of disputed functionality on top.
A major place of interest is 100 meter high volcano shaped hill, called Zendan-e Soleyman (the prison of Solomon) about 3 – 4 km west of Takht-e Soleyman to the far left of the picture, which has been a place of worship from 800BC to 600BC, 1500 years older than Takht-e Soleyman, Which is basically a lake, like that in the middle of Takht-e Soleyman, whose sides have risen 100 meters due to sedimentation from water over flow through the ages
Basically most of the area (8KM by 8KM) surrounding Takht-e Soleyman contains prehistoric and historic structures yet to be excavated
The map shows the main areas of interest around immediate vicinity of Takht-e Soleyman site within an approximate radius of 5 km. it is also interesting to note that in the area between Takht-e Soleyman and city of Takab there are also number of unexcavated sites some of which go back to about 4000 BC and some fascinating geological structures similar to Takht-e Soleyman or Zendan Soleyman
There are two Tumulus (manmade earth hill usually used for burial). The Tumulus belong to somewhere around 1000 BC but currently no precise date can be given for their construction
There are few dead water lakes behind Zendan-e Soleyman (Solomon’s prison) with hot water springs and To the south of the road there is also a modern hot water springs facility
There are two other major points of interest around Takht-e Soleyman. One is Takht-e Belghas (the wife of King Solomon) which is a Sassanid structure at top of the highest peak to the north of Takht-e Soleyman with its axis in alignment with the axis of Takht-e Soleyman platform. And there is Tavileh Soleyman (the stables of king Solomon) on top of the ridge to the north of Takht-e Soleyman with no structure. This is a the place that provided stones for building of Takhte Soleyman
About 2 kilometers to the west of Takht-e Soleyman, situated between Takht-e Soleyman and Zendan Soleyman, lies The little charming village of Nosrat Abad, built in 18 century, and named after its builder – now days many just refer to it as Nou Kandy (meaning new (Nou) village).
After taking several pictures from top of hill overlooking Takht-e Soleyman, we drove off to the village of Nosrat Abad (Nosrat Abad Olya).
The village is built on a small hill and with the threes turning red and yellow in the autumn it looked very pictures.
The village had about two small grocery shops and a small café which sold sandwiches when open (we never saw it open). We could not get any fresh meat or bread or eggs (as it was late 4 pm, apparently these items were sold in the morning) but there was sufficient supplies of other items such as rice, canned food, potato, butter, milk, soft drinks etc. for us to make dinner and breakfast later.
We expected an old name to be associated with the village so I asked the villagers if Nosrat Abad was a new name, but as far as they could remember (which usually is not very far ) this was the only name they could remember for the village and they could not remember any other.
We drove in to the village on the village’s only earth road and we stopped at the middle of village trying to find a place to rent for the night – The tourists normally go to hotel at Takab (45 km) or sleep the night at Zanjan (130 km)
One would have thought that in tourist location like Takht-e Soleyman, like many other places in Iran, the villagers would rent rooms to the tourist to complement their earnings, but interestingly enough it was not their custom to rent rooms to tourists?
The villagers were mainly of Kurdish (Sunni) and Turkish (Shia) stock living as far as they remembered quite happily together, and every child spook at lest kurdi and Turkish. One of our groups was from Myaneh, about 100 kilometers from zanjan and spoke Turkish with a local Myaneh accent. In our dealings with the locales this was a great asset (not that it was needed). As soon as he spoke the locals would lighted up and they would treat us as one of their own.
There was a wedding at full flight in the middle of the village and one of the villagers was filming the event. We were told that the cameraman may be able to provide us with a place to stay at night. His name was karim and he was very businesslike and polite. After he finished filming he took us to a very pleasant fully furnished modern flat in a house just outside the village main living area.
We rented one of the three apartments for 7$ per head for one night with minimum of formalities and we were given the key to the house in exchange for a driving license, karim gave us his mobile phone number to call him should we need anything.
The flat consisted of one very large room with sofa, color TV, running hot water, carpeted wall to wall, open kitchen and utensil’s for 8 people and a room, shower, and lots of bead stuff.