Travel To Khuzestan (Travel Guide)
Where is Khuzestan?
Written by: Vahid Takro
Edited by: Elizabeth
Published Date: October 2018
Photos taken by: Vahid Takro
7. Shush Castle
8. Dez River
I had traveled to Khuzestan in my childhood, but this time I went to Khuzestan to travel to the ancient history and civilization of Iran. As you may know, Khuzestan is a part of the country of Elam, which means that it has a very ancient history. Shosh, the capital of the Elamites, which was also the capital of the Achaemenids, was the city where I spent most of the time.
The name Khuzestan means “The Land of the Khuzi”, and refers to the original inhabitants of this province, the “Susian” people (Old Persian “Huza”, Middle Persian “Khuzi” or “Husa”), The ancient Persian dialects dating back 2,500 years ago have been used the name of the Elam, as the word “Khor”. Historically, Khuzestan is the oldest region of the Iranian plateau, with its human habitat up to 2700 BC and the formation of the Elamite civilization in the third millennium BC.
In ancient times, Khuzestan, especially during the Achaemenid period was divided into two regions: the northern and northeastern parts of Anshan, which encompassed rich lands and mountains and forests, and the southern part with a warm and humid climate and fertile plains. The southern plains have a warm and humid climate and fertile plains and lush green lakes that are prone to a small continent. The southern parts, called Elam, is a reminder of the ancient civilizations of Khuzestan, and were strongly influenced by the culture of the “Mesopotamia”, and encompassed a wide geographical area, which is the borderline between Lorestan and Khuzestan and the shores of today’s Persian Gulf. In 558 BC, the kingdom of Cyrus the Great (Cyrus II) began in Anshan (Fars) and Khuzestan, and the Achaemenid capital was transferred to Susa.
So if Khuzestan or Susa had a tongue to speak, they could tell the whole history of Iran. But in this trip I have tried to start my writings from the Elamites to reach the Achaemenids.
But in the background, I have put in the experiences and information that I have gained in today’s Khuzestan. For example, Dezful Airport, Dez Dam and Sugar Land of Haft Tappeh.
Early in the morning, I left Tehran on a plane to Dezful airport. This airport was built at the time of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (1941-1979) and was constructed by Italian architects for military use. Eleven years ago this airport was reused as a passenger airport by Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad. For over half a century, nothing had been built or rebuilt at this airport. Even on arrival at the airport, the flight tower appeared as if there was a battle there yesterday. The way we went from the airstrip to the terminal was so long, the pavement was so damaged and old, that even if you closed your eyes, you would again notice the oddity of this war airport.
After leaving the terminal, while waiting for the driver to accompany me to the city of Susa, I saw a very sad scene of taxi drivers: they had made a table for themselves and began to find passengers. In fact, there was an external office without any facilities. It made me feel so sorry to see them.
Iran, the cradle of the civilization of the world, which its fertile soil has always led it to war and conquer, and the beautiful and glorious point of it, Khuzestan, has witnessed many ups and downs in history for more than 5000 years. Khuzestan is full of mystery, and it’s a fascinating book. In fact, exploring the civilization of Elam and the Achaemenid Empire was what I was waiting for, although I had seen Khuzestan in my childhood, but the pleasure of traveling is in knowledge.
The Elamites called their country as “haltamti” which means “the land of God.” Archaeologists today see Lurs as the survivors of the same civilization with the same culture and behavior. In fact, the true name of this country is haltamti, the name of Elam is given to them by neighbors, just like we say Hungary, but they call their country as “Magyarország“, so the correct name of the countries is the one they use and pronounce, not the name we have chosen for them and pronounce it. And it’s the same about Elamite, name of this land is either Haltamti or Helmathi, not the Hebrew name of Elam, which was chosen solely by their enemies and brought into Jewish books, which is not scientific at all.
Until about 1100 to 770 BC, the unification of Elam and Babylon took place against Assyria. As long as 639 BC, Elam was defeated by the Assyrian Empire and disappeared from the world forever. And eventually the king of Assyria plundered the Shush.
(For more information on civilizations, click here . )
In a tablet unearthed in 1854 by Henry Austin Layard, Ashurbanipal (king of Assyria) boasts of the destruction he had wrought:
Susa Ziggurat is the “Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat”.
Religion was very important in the life of the Elamites. They considered all the good happenings to be divine gifts. Elam was a polytheist country, they worshiped different gods in their different states. The hierarchy of the gods was like this: female gods, then male gods, were at the top of the gods. When Susa (Shush) became the capital of the Elamites, “Inshushinak”, the god of Susas, was at the top of the gods. About 1250 BC (about 3200 years ago), Untash-Napirisha (the great king of Elamite) built the city of “Dur-Untash” near the Dez River between Susa and today’s Shushtar and built a Ziggurat in the middle of it.
Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat:
One of the ancient arts left by the Elam civilization is the “Chogha Zanbil” ziggurat near Shoush (Khuzestan province). This huge ziggurat was made of millions of bricks. This place was the first religious site in Iran and also is considered to be the best preserved example of the stepped pyramidal monument by UNESCO. In 1979, Chogha Zanbil became the first Iranian site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
In a few sentences, the king summarizes the principles of making this ziggurat:
How was Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat found?
In 1890, a well-known geologist Jacques de Morgan reported that there are oil mines in the Chugha Zanbil area. It seems that Iran’s oil company was founded following the same report. After fifty years, engineers who were busy with petroleum activities in Chogha Zanbil found a brick on which there were writings. They sent the brick for archaeologists exploring in Susa, and thereafter, a chain of explorations took place in Chogha Zanbil, which led to the discovery of the Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat and some other important antiquities. For many centuries, this place was buried under the soil in the form of an overturned basket until it was excavated by the Frenchman Roman Ghirshman during the second Pahlavi time. The excavation of this symmetrical convex building located in the heart of the plain made the world more knowledgable of the ancient Persian history.
If you remember my recent article (The Historic Recurrence Of The World and Iran), After the failure of the Elamites, the Babylonians and the Assyrians still fought together. The Elamite civilization was in fact a backbone for the people of Medes, which, after its destruction, the people of the Medes weakened and the Assyrians repeatedly attacked them. Eventually, the various Medes’ tribes set up a meeting in Hegmataneh (today’s Hamadan) and selected Deioces from among them as a ruler.
In 612 BC, and after the death of Ashurbanipal (king of Assyria), the grandson of Deioces, Cyaxares, who could get the kingdom of Medes after his grandfather, became united with the king of Babylon (Nabopolassar), they rushed to Assyria and defeated them after many long wars. After the war, in the same wreckage of Assyria, Cyaxares and the king of Babylon, in order to maintain this alliance, decided to give the daughter of Cyaxares, Amitis, to the son of the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar II, to marry. Eventually, the Median and Babylonian armies went to the Nineveh (the capital of Assyria) to make a bloody war, and destroyed it. The Assyrian empire, whose name shook everyone to fear for over 500 years, collapsed forever and their territory was divided between the Babylonians and the Medes.
After Nebuchadnezzar II had taken the throne of Babylon after his father, he greedily decided to expand the country, and eventually ordered an attack on Phoenicia (Lebanon and Palestine of today) and drove Jerusalem to blood and soil. He Destroyed the temple of Solomon and brought many Jews to Babylon as slaves. Daniel, the prophets of Israel (7th century BC), was one of those captured Jews.
After the Persian victory over Babylon, Daniel was chosen as one of the top officials of the Empire, made by Darius the Mede. The king decided to dominate the entire empire, but at the court they decided to kill Daniel. They used Daniel’s religious beliefs against him because they could not find any bad things about him. The courts were ordered from the king, according to which no god could be worshiped for 30 days. Daniel continued to do his daily Jewish prayers three times a day to Jerusalem, and so they threw him into the lion’s nest. Darius, of course, was opposed to this, but Daniel was safely out of the nest and his enemies were thrown and killed in the nest.
The Tomb of Daniel is the traditional burial place of the biblical prophet Daniel. Various locations have been named for the site, but the tomb in Susa, Iran (Persia), is the most widely accepted, it being first mentioned by Benjamin of Tudela, who visited Asia between 1160 and 1163.
Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System, is an island city from the Sassanid era with a complex irrigation system. Parts of the irrigation system are said to originally date to the time of Darius the Great, an Achaemenian king of Iran (Father of Persia). It partly consists of a pair of primary diversion canals in the Karun river, one of which is still in use today. It delivers water to the Shushtar city via a route of supplying tunnels. The area includes Salasel Castel, which is the axis for operation of the hydraulic system. It also consists of a tower for water level measurement, along with bridges, dams, mills, and basins.
This beautiful and strange system has also attracted the attention of many famous travel writers throughout history, for example: Famous French archaeologist Jane Dieulafoy has been named this place as the largest industrial complex before the Industrial Revolution. It was registered on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 2009 and is Iran’s 10th cultural heritage site to be registered on the United Nations’ list. And has been referred to as “a masterpiece of creative genius” by UNESCO.
Now, consider how civilized Iranians used the water of their country, in the future I will write how non-Iranian kings are using Iran’s waters today.
I was so excited when I set off the road to Shusa while I was passing through dust and rain in the middle of Shoushtar city. I was thinking about what Apadana Palace of Shusa, looks like, the place which I had read thousands of stories about. As you read in “The Historic Recurrence of the World and Iran”, 6,000 years ago Elamites chose Susa as their capital, further to that in 640 BC, Ashurbanipal attacked this thriving city and destroyed it.
In 539 BC, Cyrus the Great released the Babylonian Jews after the conquest of Babylon, and some of them returned to Canaan and the rest came to Iran with their prophet Daniel and stayed in Susa. Daniel who in his childhood was captured by Nebuchadnezzar II with the other Jews, after being released from the prison, became close to the king of Iran because of his wisdom and dream interpretation, and after several years finally died in Susa.
In 520 BC, Darius the Great ordered to build a palace and a magnificent city on the ruins of Susa. Darius, by inviting architects and artists from different countries under the Iranian Empire, built one of the most beautiful cities in the world. One of those luxurious palaces was the Apadana Palace of Shusa.
In the excavations of the Apadana Palace of Susa, there was an inscription from Darius the Great, in which it says:
After the death of Darius the beautiful palaces of Susa, besides the Persepolis, were burned by Alexander the Great. After this and the Arab invasion, then the Mongols, the city of Susa broke out and the ruins of Darius’s palace was buried under the soil.
Plunder of Antiquities
For hundreds of years, the whole world had forgotten the memories of those days, except for the Jews who recorded and remembered the name of Shushan (Susa) and its glorious palaces in their holy book “Torah”.
The first man who knew the ruins of Shusha was a Persian Jew named Benjamin bin Jinha who came to Susa in 1965 to visit the grave of Daniel the prophet. After many studies, he discovered that the ancient hills of Susa are the ruins of Shushan’s palace (Susa), which is described in the Torah.
Susan’s treasures were buried for thousands of years in the bosom of the best trustee of history, until the Qajar anti-Iranian and non-Iranian kings sold the cost of digging out of the ancient regions of the country to foreigners in order to provide their expensive expeditions and trips abroad. Foreigners, who were eager for this lucrative deal, began to plunder the ancient antiquities of Iran.
In 1880, a group of French archaeologists, led by Marcel-Auguste Dieulafoy, went to the ruins of ancient Susa and arrived at the Apadana Palace of Darius while exploring the area. The so-called Western civilized archaeologists built a castle next to the Apadana Palace, and over the years they studied and explored, and plundered and took away whatever their ancestor, Alexander, could not destroy. They cut the columns with a special saw and filled hundreds of huge boxes with glazed colored bricks.
Jane Dieulafoy, who had come to Iran with her husband, published a memoir called “At Susa, the Ancient Capital of the Kings of Persia”. She wrote in a part of her book: “The discovery of the cattle sculpture (the capitals of Apadana palace) has made my husband happy, but at the same time he is very sad and worried. Because the cow’s body, which is cut from a marble piece, weighs over 12,000 kilos. We do not yet estimate the weight of the pillar and we do not know how we will succeed in getting these heavy pieces to the beach. It’s really impossible to shake such a huge mass.”
Unfortunately, Ms. Jane Dieulafoy did not succeed in abandoning her selfishness and eventually broke one of Iran’s most beautiful artworks. “At last I couldn’t control my anger, I took a sledgehammer and attacked the rocky animal, I stabbed it brutally, and capital broke up as a result of the blows of the slaughter like fruit.”
The French predator group quickly brought all of our country’s unparalleled artworks to the Persian Gulf Coast and moved them to France with a French warship. Today, if you go to Susa, you will see only a few pillars and broken sculptures, and nothing more!
And now we have to go so far to see the art of Iranian ancestors’ civilization, as far as the Louvre Museum!
This tragedy did not end here. The French government, who was so excited about seeing all this precious ancient art, promptly made a contract with Naser-al-Din Shah of Qajar and promised that if any antique golds were were found in the excavations, the anti-Iranian Shah of Iran would get paid as much as the equivalent to the weight of the gold.
After this shameful contract, Frenchman Jacques de Morgan came to Susa (Shush) and continued to work. For his convenience, he built a castle for the residence of French archaeologists. At the same time, Iran was still managed by an anti-Iranian and non-Iranian government, and as a result foreigners who knew the value of Iranian antiquities seized the opportunity.
In this excavation, he succeeded to discover the famous Code of Hammurabi, in addition to dozens of sculptures and valuable statues. So France promised the Iranian government to return the Hammurabi tablet after repair and restoration in France, but they did not give back this precious stone plate and only made a copy of it and gave it to the National Museum of Iran. The original version of this sculpture, like many other treasures of Iran, is still kept in Louvre Museum.
Today, Apadana Palace has a few pieces of remains, broken columns and broken pieces that are very unprotected and innocent at the side of the unplanned plain. Ancient art that is under the feet of visitors which can easily be touched by them.
Regrettably, I was visiting this place, looking at the small pieces of rocks that were beneath a ceiling. If you have experienced the mountains you know that when you move a stone after a long time, underneath many beasts such as ants and beetles come out. I moved a small piece of a stone that was left, and underneath it was full of beautiful, ladybird beetles. What is the Khuzestan land really about, where the world brought so many governments here to capture it?
Under the French castle is the Apadana Museum, which has a very small and little pieces of Achaemenid period, and also a replica of some antiquities that are now in the Louvre Museum. Isn’t it ridiculous? The original antiquities are in French museum and their replica in its place. There are some precious artefacts in the left and right side on the way to the exit door that are also without any protection.
Although antiquities of Iranian ancestors are now in the Louvre museum, today Iranians believe that Louvre Museum will provide more security for these antiquities, than if they were in Iran today.
A gentleman who seemed to be a noble and genuine Aryan was one of the guards of this place. I said, “What a bliss!, is an honor to protect one of the most well-known places in the world for centuries in history, it’s an honor to guide and translate the beautiful ancient artifacts of our ancestors.” The man was very amazed and disturbed, as if he was waiting for an Iranian like himself to unbosom. I wanted to record his voice in order to put on the blog, I asked him, but he was scared to be fired from his job.
He said, “We are very unhappy here, the remains are destroying every day, we repeatedly requested and wrote letters to governments and asked for protection, but they did not respond to the letters, we wrote that the antiquities are being destroyed, but I think that they are laughing at the letters, they like if our ancient art is destroyed. If you steal them, this is good news for them. Our rights are also very insignificant and do not cover living expenses, but we are only protecting our ancestors’ arts only because of love.”
I was very sad, I didn’t know what to say, I asked the man: “Do you have something for sale?” He introduced a book which I was very pleased to read later, the price of the book was 10,000 Tomans, half a euro, now when I think I ask myself why I did not help him more, my tears shed and my heart pours to Apadana Palace. 🙁
I got into the car with a sad face and broken heart, to go and rest, to be ready for tomorrow to go to the beautiful river of Dez. In the middle of the way, I thought that our enemies were able to destroy our arts, can they destroy our beautiful sky? Can they destroy the river and our beautiful mountains?
The next day, passing through the history of ancient Iran, I went to the river. The Dez River in Iran is similar to the Danube River in Europe, a beautiful and strange river that has been flowing for thousands of years. This is one of the blessings that always takes foreigners to occupy this area. The Dez River in Iran is similar to the Danube River in Europe, a beautiful and strange river that has been flowing for thousands of years. This is one of the blessings that always takes foreigners to occupy this area. Dez is a river that originates from the middle Zagros Mountains (Lorestan), and then flows to the south of Iran. This river affects three important points in history:
1. Dez Lake 2. Dez Dam 3. Dez River after Dam
I visited all three points, but my curiosity in my trip to Khuzestan was more about the third point, after the river flows into the lake behind the dam, and where it falls back after the dam? It was a question that had already come to my mind when looking at the Google satellite from the lake, why is the width of the river so high before arriving to “Haft Tappeh” area, and it becomes so low after the area?! Where does all this water go? I’ll write about it later.
To reach this lake, you should cross the beautiful nature through the “Lake Road” and “Pamenar Village”. Along the road was a gas pipeline from the beginning of the lake to the end of the road, built by Pahlavi. After the defeat of Pahlavi, the enemies repeatedly tried to use the content of the pipe, but the Muslim people of Pamenar village did not allow them to use it. Enemies asked for help from the UK, The British responded with a smile: “If the people of that region are Muslims, it’s very simple… build some Imamzadeh shrines in the area and tell them that these Imams have just been discovered. So, after a rainy night, tell them that Imamzadeh is so sad that you don’t let us to exploit this pipe.”
As a result, the enemies took this path and received a positive answer. They simply misused the religion of the people of Pamenar. One of the villagers told me this story.
(In this section, if the judgment is incorrect, I apologize to the reader of this post because I’m just quoting what I’ve been hearing.)
The river ran somewhere in the northeast and parts of the northern part of the city of Dezful, behind the dam, and forms the lake of Dez. This lake is located behind the Dez dam and the mountains of the beautiful Dezful area. The area of the lake is slightly different in dry and wet conditions, and in general it is about 6,000 hectares. The depth of the lake is also 50 meters deep in the deepest place. The Dez Lake has some small islands, with trees and mussels and almonds on them. Boatmen will take you to the island if you pay them some little money. But because of the rainy weather I preferred to stay there and look at the beautiful lake. Small animals such as foxes and rabbits live on these islands alongside birds such as eagles and sea birds. In the insecure parts of these areas, the leopard has also been seen.
I can not write about this beautiful lake, because you should hear the sound of nature from its own tongue … It’s interesting that at this hot spot of Iran, it rains every moment …
The waters of the river remain behind a Dam after the lake, and the dam after making electricity and other things, and the Dam leaves the water to the other side with a very smart division. To see this strange dam, I reached a road in the mountains, right in the heart of the Andimeshk mountains, there is a huge and permanent dam called “Dez Dam”. I think Dez Dam was the largest, most beautiful, and also the most solid dam I’ve ever seen in my life. I had heard a lot about Dez Dam, one of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s greatest achievements in Iran, and now I had a chance to visit it completely.
Dez Dam was built between 1959 and 1963 under the rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, with contacting an Italian consortium and is owned by the Khuzestan Water & Power Authority. The dam is 203 metres (666 ft) high, making it one of the highest in the country, and has a reservoir capacity of 3,340,000,000 m3 (2,710,000 acre⋅ft). At the time of construction the Dez Dam was Iran’s biggest development project. The primary purpose of the dam is hydroelectric power production and irrigation. It has an associated 520 MW power station and its reservoir helps irrigate up to 80,500 ha (199,000 acres) of farmland. US$42 million of the cost to construct the dam came from the World Bank. The dam with a height of 203 meters during its construction was known as one of the highest dams in the world (the sixth dam of the world at that time), and now it’s the world’s fifth largest dam between built dams and others which are under construction.
The systems used inside the dam were very advanced and weird, it was also possible to guess that no system has been changed yet or has not been updated! This dam makes so much power and electricity in Iran, even this system provides electricity to Tehran!
Saddam Hussein: We should destroy the Dam to cut off Tehran’s power
Saddam Hussein tried hard at the time of the war to destroy the dam, two rockets fired by air foes into the dam, but his little brain did not know that this dam was for the time of the Persian kings, and we Iranians created the strongest things at that time. As a result, his missiles changed only the color of two points after collision with the dam. 🙂
Dear compatriot, who helped me with guidance and explanations, knew the dam completely. He said that many workers were killed during the construction of this dam, and also his own brother.
Passing through the mountains that were carved, I reached the road that could lead me to a point where I could see the dam and the lake together.
In this case, if a misjudgment is made, I apologize to the reader of this post, because I just wrote what I’ve seen, if you have more information, your comment will save readers of this text from misleading them.
As I wrote before, the reason for my trip to this area was my curiosity about the river. I wanted to know why the river is full of water before and after the dam, but after passing through the “Haft Tappeh” area it is much less? Where does all this water go? It gets dry or does anyone drink it until morning?
With thousands of questions in mind, I followed the Dez River to the Haft Tappeh area. From the plains and the many hills, I saw the places which were seen before me only by Darius the Great. Heat was weakening my body. But this great curiosity and worry about one of my country’s resources still left me tireless. I thought to myself when they say that Iran does not have water, then where is the water of Dez river going to? The Dez River was sometimes watery and deep and sometimes waterless and low, but eventually the amount of water did not differ before arriving to Haft Tappeh area!
When I arrived at the Haft Tappeh area, I faced a huge system! The task of the system was to smash (steal) the water of the Dez river and pour it into a new, ugly concrete river. As a result, I followed the man-made river to see why it had cut off the Dez river. Where does the beautiful water of Dez go?
As I was following this long new river, I faced a huge sugarcane farmland where the water was pouring into. The water first splashed in large nylon and then split between the fields. All parts of the nylon has large holes that the water was ejecting and wasting. It was here that I found the answers to some of my questions. So the Dez River water drops into sugar cane fields. Now I had some questions about sugarcane. I was very curious, so I found people to explain it to me.
If you remember, at the time of Pahlavi (50 years ago), the Frenchman Roman Ghirshman, discovered and excavated Chogha Zanbil. There are still plenty of resources available to explore. But what do humans do today with those areas?
Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Agro-Industry Company is located in the ancient Haft Tapeh area and is based on the antiquities of the Elam civilization. The company is located near the historic city of Shush and the Chogha Zanbil Ziggurat, 45 km far from Andimeshk road to Ahvaz in Khuzestan province. Residential complexes are built for employees in this area. Irrigation of cane fields is carried out using Faro surface irrigation or stacking method and semi-mechanized method of valves. Part of the required water is supplied through a dosing and part-way irrigation network through direct pumping of water through several pumping stations from the Dez River. The drainage of these lands, the first drainage system in Iran, is carried out through clay tinctures. (Wikipedia)
The soil of this region was so beautiful and fertile, if you believe or not, I had never seen such a land anywhere in the world. I met a gentleman who said that everything grows fast in this area. And it really was. I visited some fruit fields, the fruits had the best quality I’ve ever seen! He said that here are many fruits grown and harvested, but where are they exported? White and non-standard sugar canes are no longer used outside of Iran. Who is the owner of these sugar canes and what is he doing with all those sugars? This was the last question that remained in my mind, and I returned home with a land gift from the lands of our ancestors, a small potato which now is dried in my hands …