Iran Life – Rayen Citadel

Our itinerary included the once magnificent Bam Citadel – but it didn’t seem right somehow. Much of Bam, along with its citadel and thousands of its inhabitants was destroyed in an horrendous earthquake at 5.26am on 26th December 2003 . The quake was only 6.6 on the Richter Scale but was shallow at just 10 kms depth – the devastation was immense and the loss of life almost incomprehensible at 26,271 dead and more than 30.000 injured.

wikicommons Bam view

General view of Bam (WikiCommons)

Bam citadel and city are constructed of adobe – the largest mud brick fortress on Earth – they have stood against natural disasters for in excess of two thousand years – yet such was the scale of this catastrophe that the authorities even considered moving the capital city from Tehran which is also subject to earthquakes. The Bam disaster marked a turning point in building and earthquake planning in Iran, and a turning point for us – even though the citadel at Bam has had a lot of restoration, to spend time gawking as a tourist just didn’t seem right. So, we decided to visit the Citadel at Rayen instead.


Citadel of Rayen

The Arg-e Rāyen lies in Kerman Province at the base of Mt Hezar which, at 4420 mts, forms an impressive backdrop. The age of the citadel is unknown, it had been inhabited for at least a thousand years until it was abandoned about 150 years ago. Gentle, considerate restoration began in 1996 and the site has since attained UNESCO Heritage status – it is well deserved!

Parts have been restored to full functionality, especially the Governor’s houses, which clearly show the splendour and grandeur that once existed here. Adobe walls at least three metres thick protected the inhabitants from external threats. Great towers provide views over the surrounding countryside and the present day town where many still live in houses of a style that is unchanged over hundreds of years.

Describing the sheer scale of the place is difficult – the intricacy of the adobe brickwork domes and arches is amazing, the durability of straw and mud astonishing and the glow of the place in the sunlight is enchanting. It really is a vision from another world. It may not be quite as grand as Bam but it has been spared the destructive power of the moving earth and it is, in its way, just as impressive.

Picking out a few photos from the masses taken was never going to be easy – here is a feeling for this amazing place:

Reyan citadel Iran

the alleyway to the main gate

Reyan citadel iran

massive timbers above the gate

Reyan citadel Iran

part of the old bazaar and restored walls

Reyan citadel Iran

once grand two story homes

Reyan citadel Iran

J and guide Feraidoon underneath the arches

Reyan castle Iran

some of the restored houses

Rayen castle Iran

surveying the Governor’s house

Rayen castle Iran

old and restored

Rayen caitadel Iran

and more restored

Reyan castle Iran

trying to convey the scale of this place

rayen castle Iran

’nuff said!

Reyan Iran

J surrounded (as usual) by excited students

Rayen Iran

typical Rayen street and houses – durable, eye-pleasing adobe

I have not found it easy to convey the sheer size and majesty of Rayen Citadel, it is an amazing place. The balance between restoration and preservation can be a very fine line indeed – Rayen has succeeded wonderfully in this regard. It is well deserving of its UNESCO Heritage recognition and should be on your itinerary when you get around to visiting the ancient lands of Persia.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü


Tripping In Amasra

‘Amasra. Oh! you must see Amasra.’ ‘Amasra is beautiful!’ Amasra is this; Amasra is that! So, today we went to Amasra; it was a very interesting day out.

The drive over the mountains from Safranbolu is a real delight that should be sampled at a gentle pace, if for no other reason than much of the road has not been improved – yet! The scenery is so different from what we are used to in SW Turkey; here the woods are mostly mixed with coniferous and deciduous trees vying with each other for space and colour. There was one long section in particular that was just splendid with the road covered by a tunnel of cınar (Oriental Plane), dappled by the greens and yellows and browns of Autumn. Sugar loaf hay ricks were scattered all over the place and ‘Heidi’ houses clung to the steep hillsides.

The drop down to Amasra gives great views but few safe places to stop and admire them as you ride the switchback into town. With its two harbours either side of a narrow peninsular and a narrow bridge to an island that is home to more of the town as well as the castle, the setting is beautiful as well as unique. We were there late in the season so there were few tourists about and although the town gives the impression of making few concessions to tourism the shaded pedestrian area near the centre gives the lie to that with the streets lined with small shops all selling the same ghastly tat from China.

Lunch was a delight taken at a small harbourside restaurant. Coming from Muğla we struggle to find fresh hamsi (sardines) so that was our choice and what arrived at table was a great plateful together with a huge and imaginatively presented salad; all for just TL10 a head! Cheap at twice the price!

Later we wandered the island part of town and J managed to sneak in some ‘Brownie Points’ as we trekked to the lighthouse at the highest point – just like the castle at Afyon, it was worth the effort for the all-round view as well as our constitutions.

We drove home the long way round by heading West towards Zonguldak before turning South and up a long climb through a river valley that leads, literally, into the arse-end of Karabük. I’ll come to that in a minute, first I want to comment on the railway that climbs up the same valley – sometimes on the same side as the road, sometimes clinging to the vertical rock face the other side of the valley and sometimes disappearing for miles into tunnels before reappearing. What a feat of engineering, and what a sight it must have been when steam engines, often in fours, hauled the huge lines of coal-laden trucks up to the steel works at Karabük, 1300mts above sea level.

Anyway, back to Karabük and its arse-end. As we arrived at the edge of town the diversions began and then continued into the centre. Road works were everywhere and as is often the case the diversion signs soon disappeared, never to return. It was chaos – bedlam – road rage and stupidity all rolled into one great mess! We got drawn into the gyrations and once in could find no way out. Eventually J nobbled four Zabita guys to get help – go across here one said and around there – but that’s against the traffic flow in a single lane – no problem said he, no police – and he was right, it worked like a dream and after 45 minutes of frustration we were back on track in about 3 – ‘Burası Türkiye!’ ‘This is Turkey!’



harbour art gallery


Seeing Is Believing!

Yesterday was not a good day for things techno; I’ve forgotten my cable links between GPS and computer and the built-in card reader on this machine has decided to lead an independent life! I wasn’t prepared to go out to the car and get my other machine, even for you lot, loyal as you have been to posts past, so it had to be good old Google images to the rescue. Anyway, knowing you can sniff out a bulls*#^ter a mile away, I thought it best to make the effort and put up a few of my own from yesterday. (see below)

Today we continued our usual habit of wandering along windy country and mountain roads enjoying the fantastic vistas that are central Anatolia. Where are we tonight? Safranbolu. We’re in a charming restored konak that now pretends to be a ‘butik otel’. I say pretends because it is just like living in it as it was a hundred years ago – except for the toilet, which I will come to later. We are here to visit out Turkish ‘son’ and his wife who are currently working near here. He suggested this hotel, being one of the best in town, and the management seem to think that, with three laptops, we are special, undercover hotel inspectors for Lonely Planet and have offered us a huge discount on their usual rate! We’ll be here for a few days before wandering off to rummage around the area and further afield.

Anyway, back to the toilet! I don’t know about you but I need to feel at ease and comfortable when . . you know! Damn it! A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’m just going to pop in there with the camera – back shortly.

I mean, look at this; how can one relax with ones knees jammed into the wall tiles? If I wasn’t getting this place for a fraction of the normal rate I’d be demanding a rebate for the stress factor!

A & J

Afyon Kara Hisar (Opium Black Castle) in the first rays of the rising sun
zoomed a bit
Afyon side street
on top of the heap with all those helpful students
. . and she was only wearing sandals!
another of those interminable pictures of old houses

Health & Fitness

‘You’re ‘avin’ a larf!’ I said, ‘With respect!’ (it pays to hedge one’s bets). In my opinion, for what that is worth, J is taking things a bit far with our exercise regimen. There we were, miles from home after a leisurely start and a leisurely drive; in the middle of nowhere;  bombing along on some of the finest, smoothest, vehicle-free duel-carriageway roads you could wish for, when she insisted I pull over onto a farm track that had once been the original main road. “Come on, then’ she said, getting out of the car, ‘we’re going for our daily walk.’ I can’t begin to imagine what all those people on the road thought at the sight of us two pounding, first one way, and then the other – I couldn’t possibly tell you what I thought, either! Health and fitness? Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat is what I call it!

Anyway, duty done we set off again for our overnight stopping place here in Afyonkarahisar (Black Opium Castle). Because the roads have improved so much since we last came through we were here in really good time which was great because we’d be able to wander and explore at a nice, unhurried pace. Right? Wrong!

We started by ambling around the back streets of the old part of town which is a delight to the senses with beautiful old buildings (many are restored and lived in)
and food shops of every description. As I walked and photographed, J remarked that we were on Kale Street – ‘Ummm!’ I mumbled. This was followed by ‘Be a shame to come here and not go up to the top.’ My blood froze as I stopped and looked up. I mean, have you seen that thing? Afyon is already 1030mts above sea level – isn’t it enough that we drove here without climbing up there!

So it was that we set off up the 550 odd, erratically spaced steps that lead, eventually, to the point where you have to scramble the last few hundred metres to the inevitable giant flagpole complete with giant flag. We were passed by hoards of polite and helpful students heading for the summit who would look at me with great concern, gently take my elbow and offer help. What kept me going was the occasional ‘How’s it going, old man?’ from J. Bastard! Got me to the top though!

Was it worth it? Wellllll! Of course it was!

Coming down was much like going up – Jeez, my knees are sore! J says that if we lived here and ‘did’ the castle three times a week we’d be bloody fit. If we lived here I’d be pleading insanity!

This is a really nice town; it bustles with life and activity and I reckon the shops outshine anything I’ve seen anywhere in Mugla (sorry, no Turkish characters on this machine).  Another highlight was finding a wonderful delicatessen which means we’ll have to come back this way to stock up on some really naughty goodies.

A&J (who are not in Okcular)

ps apologies these are not my pics – problem transferring them to computer; should get it sorted soon.