I wasn’t prepared for the shocking views at Naqsh-e Rustam and I’m glad I wasn’t. I stood there, mouth open and oblivious to our tour’s guide’s explanations, starring at what must be the world’s most stunning graveyard.
Persian kings were buried over many centuries, in tombs carved into the side of the rocky mountain and decorated with giant stone reliefs, dozens of meters above ground.
The scale is so huge the tourists walking the field below appear like tiny ants.
The kings buried here include Darius I (c. 522-486 BCE), Xerxes I (c. 486-465 BCE), Artaxerxes I (c. 465-424 BC), and Darius II (c. 423-404 BC) respectively. All the tombs were looted following the conquest of the Achaemenid Empire by Alexander the Great.
There is also Ka’ba-ye Zartosht (meaning the “Cube of Zoroaster”), a 5th century BCE Achaemenid square tower. The structure is a copy of a sister building at Pasargadae, the “Prison of Solomon”. No one is sure what it was used for; perhaps as a library of religious (Zoroastrian) texts.
Naqsh-e Rustam, also known by its Greek name Necropolis, is 12 km from Persepolis and about 68 km northeast Shiraz.