The two mountain ranges of Sala and Sofeh shelter the city of Esfahan which nestles in a verdant plain irrigated by the silver ribbon of the River Zayande-Rood winding its way through the district. The plain itself is fairly well developed. Clearly the city of Esfahan, described by Fitzgerald as “Half the World” because of its wonderfully varied history and culture, has been built up over many centuries and there are now signs that the smaller towns and villages are themselves becoming suburbs of Esfahan rather than remaining individual settlements.
Driving into Esfahan from Sede, however, you are suddenly faced with a rocky outcrop which appears from nowhere. There is no gradual build up to this 13th Century citadel, and it rises from the plain with a suddenness that takes you by surprise. This bastion includes the remains of a Sasanid Koh-Ateshgah Fire Temple right at the top, and once seen from the road below, the urge to climb the dusty, rocky mountain to sit in the Zorastranian temple becomes an irresistible challenge. I recommend an early start to ensure that you make the most of the cooler conditions and there are fewer people around to interrupt the peace, quiet and photography. The dry heat in October however does not sap your energy nearly as much as the humid damp that we experience in the UK and I found the climb, which rises to 1600m above sea level, much more comfortable than I anticipated.
The religious philosophy of Zorastranianism still exists today and some of its best known beliefs are those of living by the very humanitarian values of “Good thoughts, good words and good deeds”. Out of the three, I am perhaps best at the good deeds, whilst the good thoughts and good words sometimes need more work!
The views from the top of Koh-Ateshgah make the sometimes tricky and earthy scramble well worth the effort and there are plenty of flat rocks along the way where you can admire the ever-widening views, drink some water, enjoy the cooling breeze and catch your breath. It takes surprisingly little time to reach the top, whereas the trip down I found much more hazardous and time consuming. Mountain goats get my respect.
Altogether, a couple of hours well worth spending at this historic monument and all for 65p for the both of us. This must be the bargain of the day.