Trans Eurasia travel

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About 10km west of Hamadan, in the Alvand Hills, is Ganjnameh (literally Book of Treasures). High up on the rock face, looking north, are two large panels carrying Achaemenid inscriptions recording the victories and lineage of Darius the Great and his son, Xerxes, and giving thanks to the Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda. Both are written in three languages, Old Persian, Neo-Elamite and Neo-Babylonian, and are practically identical in wording to one another, differing only in the name and genealogy of each ruler.

The site is in a rural mountain valley at Hamadan's westernmost extremity, some 8km from the centre. From the parking area, the carvings are a very obvious two-minute stroll passing a row of tatty teahouses, souvenir stalls and snack bars. Just beyond is a 9m-high waterfall that becomes a popular ice-climbing spot when frozen in winter. At weekends the site can get crowded and messy with rubbish but several long-distance paths lead directly up the peaceful fore-slopes of Mt Alvand making for relatively convenient yet bracing hikes.

The inscription, which has been carved in granite, is composed of two sections. One (on the left) ordered by Darius the Great (521-485 BC) and the other (on the right) ordered by Xerxes the Great (485-65 BC). Both sections, which have been carved in three ancient languages of Old Persian, Neo-Babylonian and Neo-Elamite, start with praise of God (Ahura Mazda) and describe the lineage and deeds of the mentioned kings.

The later generations who could not read the Cuneiform alphabets of the ancient Persian assumed that they contained the guide to an uncovered treasury; hence they called it Ganjnameh. The name literally means "treasure epistle", but it has also been called Jangnameh (Persian: جنگنامه‎) whose literal translation is "war epistle".

The translation of the text on the right plate, attributed to Xerxes, is:

"The Great God [is] Ahuramazda, greatest of all the gods, who created the earth and the sky and the people; who made Xerxes king, and outstanding king as outstanding ruler among innumerable rulers; I [am] the great king Xerxes, king of kings, king of lands with numerous inhabitants, king of this vast kingdom with far-away territories, son of the Achaemenid monarch Darius."

Today two new carved tablets have been placed in the site's parking lot with Persian explanation and its English translation.

A narrow lane continues 4km to the Tank Dare ski slopes (Thu & Fri winter) and in summer a road winds on very attractively right across Mt Alvand's lower slopes to Oshtoran near Tuyserkan).

Shared taxis take about 20 minutes departing from Shariati St near the Esther and Mordecai Tomb. They are fairly frequent at weekends, but midweek you will probably have to charter. Finding a ride back can take a while.