Persepolis and Priorities

Darius' palace used to be accessible

I just returned from Iran. In Tehran, I met a man who told me that he had recently visited Persepolis, and had been a bit disappointed. There were weeds everywhere, the site looked neglected, and there was no path to the rock tombs, he complained. I was surprised to hear this – and not because the third complaint was a bit unfair. (Persepolis is an archaeological site and the construction of a path, even on a rock, might damage what’s still in the ground.) Yet, before I left Holland, I had already read this news article, so the man’s complaint seemed corroborated. Wondering what to expect, I traveled south.

And indeed, the site appears to be a bit neglected. Many sites are fenced off: the palace of Darius, the palace of Xerxes, the Tripylon – all inaccessible. The small restaurant on the edge of the southern terrace (inaccessible since at least 2004) was closed, which is something of a disaster, considering the fact that Persepolis is a very large complex and even a superficial visit takes several hours. When I take a group around, we stay in a nearby hotel and return next day.

The bookshops and souvenir shops were also closed, but I can live with that, although I would have liked to buy a postcard or two. The site also looked a bit dirty, as if the cleaners were on strike. But as long as the site is not damaged, I can live with that too. It will no doubt be temporarily.

All this will of course be hailed with joy by those people who only like to read articles about sorrow & misery in the Islamic Republic. To be fair and balanced, I add that there are now finally fences at the rock tombs, that closing the palace of Darius is due to restoration works, and that the subsite at Istakhr has been made more accessible. As usual, it’s all about priorities.

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