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Today was to be devoted to a day trip to a small village about 35Ks out from Zanjan, and thankfully Dariush had offered to drive me to the taxi stand. It was miles away and I would have never found it otherwise. I had come to see a UNESCO site, the Oljeitu Mausoleum, also known locally as the Gonbad-e Soltaniyeh. It had been built around the year 1300 by a Mongol sultan, trying to do his bit for Islam by repatriating the remains of Ali, son-in-law of Mohammed. Subsequently though, Sultan Oljeitu converted to Sunni Islam and so the deal was dead, he ended up using it as his own mausoleum upon his death in 1317. A sign on the way into the village declares it to be the largest brick dome in the world, and indeed one of the largest domes of any type. Thankfully I was blessed with clear skies again and the tomb could be seen from miles away across the flat plain, trully dwarfing the rest of the village. Apart from the guy to sell me the ticket and the odd workman, I had the place all to myself. It was a shame that so much of the tilework had been lost but it was still well impressive and must have been sensational in its prime. It was one of the few remnants of the Mongol Empire who normally were better at destroying such wonders. Every hidden corner had once been exxquisitely tiled and even the brickwork and ceilings were formulated into complex geometric patterns. It was a pity that so much of it was also obscured by scaffolding but you could still climb the spiral staircases out onto the high verandah and get great views of the plain backed by snowy ridges. A bus conveniently materialised just when I needed it and I was back in Zanjan for 1. Dariush was not to be found and after our time together I couldnt leave him just like that, he eventually saw me off at half 3 to Bijar. After setting off the old boy driving asked for more money which I could only presume was the inflated tourist rip off. There was more great scenery changing from snowy ridges to desert hills, and a sign saying "Welcome to Kurdistan" in both Arabic script and English was most unexpected considering the cultural suppression I had just heard about. Bijar was low key and unexciting, a junction town where I got an immediate taxi connection to Takab. The young Kurdish boys sharing also shared their English with me, again "I love you" was the sum total. Stunning desert hills shone in the twilight. One boy also gifted me an Iranian postage stamp sporting a guy in Kurdish traditional dress, a nice touch. Fortunately it was the first day I had treated myself to some sweeties (beer withdrawal syndrome!) and so that sealed the ice breaker. I found the one cheap joint in town only to find it not so cheap but still a real dive. The beds were knocked together in rudimentary fashion, the bedclothes shabby and very dirty, then the young pizza faced boy on the desk stank the room out with benzene and stole my pillow for good measure. And not even a key for the door. Half way through the night I was overcome with fumes and so sought refuge in a trip to the toilet to find the stink was even more penetrating out in the corridoor. Man, its the service that counts!

Posted by andyhay 00:00 Archived in Iran

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