09 May 2017

Impressions and Images of Iran: The Alamut Valley

During Ashura, I went up to the Alamut Valley. The whole city of Qazvin was more or less closed, and so I arranged for a car to take my up to the valley to go hiking. By 8 AM I was ready, waiting for my ride in front of the hotel, and we spent the whole day outdoors.

It was an interesting and eye-opening day for me. I learned a lot about northern Iran's geography, as well as saw firsthand religious customs in villages and cities. I will write more about Ashura in a later post, but I will talk about it in bits and pieces here as well.

My guide drove me through mountain roads, and sometimes we would come across blockades due to religious processions, and we have to do a detour so that we could go further. Anyway, as we slowly climbed up, I saw signs written on the roads and they turned out to be religious signs, reminding motorists to do their religious duties.

The car slowly gained in elevation, and I also felt it too temperature-wise. It became cooler and cooler. The roads were winding, and we navigated plenty of switchbacks, and soon enough, we saw clouds below us. The valley was slowly appearing in front of us.

I never knew there were canyons here. We got off the car, hiked some of it, looked at immense rocks jutting out of the surface. The geography here is not flat, and it is a very strategic place to make a fortress. Hence there are quite a few ancient fortresses here dotting the surface, and collectively they are known as the Castles of the Assassins.

Calling these structures "castles" make one evoke a very sturdy and majestic architectural feature, but since these structures were built in the 12th century, nowadays they are reduced to crumbling viewpoints. In fact, I found it more interesting to hike and explore their geographic locations rather than the fortresses themselves. The pictures you see above show the paths and the scenes I saw while going up Alamut Castle near the village of Gazor Khan.

Anyway, after this hike, we went down and together with my guide, we had a modest late lunch in the village. After that, we went back home to Qazvin.

That said, there's another reason why I enjoyed this day a lot. It was because of my guide. He happened to be an ex-Muslim atheist, and given that it was Ashura, he provided me a very interesting perspective in religion in Iran. To be honest, it was my conversations with him that day that made the day very interesting and informative for me. Stay tuned as I expand on that next time.


  1. Wow, look like you found the right guide. Can't wait to read about his perspective/yours. I'd love to know how he shared this as well, since I'm sure many people in this region of the world don't want to admit they don't believe or believe in another religion.

    1. Zhu,

      You're exactly right. Iran still belongs to the set of countries where apostasy is punishable by death. So people who don't believe aren't quite vocal here.