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Ruins

Open season on sultans
Photo essay: Zell-e Sultan's fortress

By Abbas Soltani
November 15, 2003
The Iranian

I wanted to supply you with a fresh batch of photos I took in Iran last June. These are remains of Zell-e Sultan's fortress in Ghamishlou which is a mountainous region about 60 kms outside of Isfahan.

As you may already know, Zell-e Sultan was Naseredin Shah's son and governor of Isfahan and had expected to take over the throne from his father. He built the fortress where he would spend his time hunting ibex, deer, gazelle and mouflons. The fortress was handed down to his siblings. The last persons I know of would have been Sarem-e Doleh and his sons. After 1980, they all fled the country and went to Europe. 

So, why my interest in the fortress? My great-grandfather was the "kelid dar" or custodian of the fortress and this task was taken up by my grandfather after his death. My grandfather passed away a few years after the revolution but my family (on my mother's side) continued to live in the fortress. My parents' wedding was at the fortress. I have a lot of childhood memories and it had been my dream to go back and visit where I had played as a child with my cousins.

Immediately after the revolution, the fortress was raided and much of the antiques taken away. Items considered morally corrupt and symbols of royalty were destroyed. In about 1990, the Ghamishlou was confiscated by Pasdaran revolutionary guards and the last members of my family were forced out. The fortress was turned into a base camp where new recruits and volunteers were trained.

During this time a lot of damage was inflicted and the fortress fell on hard times. Later on, it was partially renovated and repaired for the filming of Shir-e Sangi (The Stone Lion). After filming was over, treasure hunters set upon the fortress and using metal detectors they pretty much ruined it beyond repair, unless someone is willing to spend a lot of money to fix it. I am not sure if they ever managed to find anything there.

Finally, the fortress was given the Wildlife Preservation Society and they use parts of it as their offices from where they guarded the region against poachers. I was in contact with the wildlife officials and they were kind enough to take me there for a tour of the fortress. Later on, they took me for a ride in the area where I saw wild herds, including ibex, gazelle and mouflouns.

I was very impressed by their numbers and was told that at peak seasons, you can find herds of up to 700 animals. I took a number of photos but they are not very good as it was mating season and they were very camera shy and my lenses were not that strong.

I am not going to bother with captions on the photos as they speak volumes but it is easy to imagine what the place would have been like at its peak >>> See photos

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