Over a distance of about 300 kilometers, the road from Shiraz to Bandar-e Boushehr leaves the Iranian plateau to reach the plains of the Persian Gulf. One of the most spectacular courses in Iran, it crosses the Zagros mountain range that runs along the Iraqi border and down the Persian Gulf. Many tourists use it for the beauty of its landscapes, the always cheerful meetings with the shepherds and their herds, the visit of the historical sites that it crosses, the observation of a rural lifestyle still very close to nature Not to mention the small kebabi on the roadside, some of which serve as delicious meat kebabs and lamb liver.

 

Tangeh Tchogan - The bas-relief of Bahram I and Ahura Mazda

 


The Sasanian heritage



At the exit of Shiraz, the road winds down to join the archaeological site of Bishapur. Before arriving there, a detour of a few kilometers via the road of Kazeroun allows to discover the lake Parishan, natural habitat of many varieties of fish and important stage of the migratory birds. Herons, flamingos, geese, ducks, egrets and pelicans inhabit the waters and surrounding areas during the winter.

 

 

Shapur cave, the colossal statue of Shapur I

 

 

Bishapour, the former capital of the Sasanian king Shapour I (241-272), famous for defeating the Roman Empire, was founded in 266 AD. The enclosure housing the ruins of the royal city has meager vestiges, cupolas, ceilings and columns that have disappeared over the centuries. Only a few carved stone walls allow to guess the past greatness. The most beautiful ornaments are preserved in the museum of the city of Bishapur, the National Museum of Iran in Tehran, which has, among other things, a beautiful mosaic of the palace, or at the Louvre Museum in Paris, which preserves the mosaic of La Joueuse This pavement, which decorated the ground of the iwan of the royal palace, was discovered during the excavations carried out by the French Georges Salles and Roman Ghirshman from 1935 to 1941. The visitor consoles himself admiring the remains of a protome [1] of a stone bull as well as those of a temple that rose near the palace, sometimes interpreted as a sanctuary of Anahita, goddess of water and fertility. The staircase that leads from the palace to the temple is however very well preserved. Only a part of these ruins has been discovered, it remains to discover important parts. After crossing a bridge that crosses the road, we enter the gorge Tchogan (Tangeh Tchogan) to discover, on two banks, six monumental bas-reliefs carved into the rock, depicting the deeds of the Sassanid kings, that the nomads who took this route imagined themselves to be the characters of the Shahnameh, the epic of kings, real or legendary, of Persia antique. These sculptures illustrate the triumph of Shapur for the empire of Rome, with the death of the emperor Gordian III and the capture of Valerian, Bahram II (276-293) receiving the submission of his vassals, the Bedouins of Arabia, with their horses and their camels, the enthronement of Bahram I (273-276) on horseback and a majestic representation of Shapour II (310-379). These Sassanid bas-reliefs echo those of Naghsh- e Rostam and Raqsh-e Radjab near Persepolis.

 

A view of the ruins of Bishapur Palace

 

There are always some young people from the nearby village of Sasan to offer visitors to take them to the cave of Mudan, which is reached after a steep climb of just under an hour. Located 5 km east of the city of Bishapur, on the heights overlooking the Shapour valley beyond the Tchogan gorge, it houses a spectacular statue of Shapour I, seven meters tall with a shoulder width of two meters. Carved in a natural pillar of the cave, it is one of the few examples of Sassanid sculpture in the round. Discovery lying on the ground, feet and arms broken, it was restored in 1957 under the leadership of the military authorities of Shiraz; the missing parts have been replaced by concrete. It now stands at the entrance to the cave, which is not its original location. This cavity is supposed to be the tomb of the king but no trace of burial has ever been identified. It opens on a first room high of thirteen meters. On the walls have been engraved tablets, bearing inscriptions now disappeared. At the end of the hall, several corridors are sinking into the mountain, there are reservoirs and other rooms.

 


Persistent nomadic practices



The inhabitants of this region of Fars are, for the most part, from nomad families, sedentary from the reign of Reza shah Pahlavi. The Zagros had recently been visited by the nomadic tribes, Qashqa'i, Mamassani, Lori, Khamseh, Boyer Ahmad and Bakhtiyari, who have retained their unique culture and lifestyle, thus constituting part of the cultural heritage. from this region. Although most of them are now settled in villages and hamlets, some still use portions of this road between Shiraz and Boushehr for their seasonal transhumance, leading their herds to high pasture in early summer enjoying water abundantly supplied by the Shapour Roud close to their course.
We traveled this road in the two weeks preceding Norouz, accompanied by our friend Mr. Parizad, excellent French-speaking guide of Shiraz, and observed that these populations have kept some practices of this nomadic life of yesteryear. Like many sources and rivers of Iran at this time of year, those along the road from Bishapur are invested by entire families to wash rugs and blankets, as is the custom of the New Year, Iran issue of this ancestral pastoral life. Men, women and children do not hesitate to dive in to rinse all the carpets in the household, after they have been energetically leached and brushed on the banks. This activity, which offers the beauty of its colorful scenes, allowed us to easily get in touch with the local population, enlivened by this recreational ritual. We also visited, in the villages crossed, domestic workshops of gabbehs, woven on the floor of the courtyard by the hostess, sacrificing there also to the nomadic tradition of weaving family. The order of a room unique color and patterns will always be appreciated.

From Bishapur, the road to Boushehr makes another descent to the plain covered with palm groves that extend as far as the eye can see. We were able to take a stroll through the old neighborhoods of Bandar-e Boushehr before sunset. An additional day on the spot was however necessary for a visit of the fishing port and a glimpse of some historical buildings of the seaside, like that of the old museum of anthropology, of the British consulate closed in 1951, of which it does not the skeleton remains, some traditional Qajjar houses, some of which are being restored, and the Armenian church.